Inhale Nurturing, Exhale Anxiety…

Let me preface by saying, I’ve never been good at taking tests. Timed tests are even worse…

A little over a year ago, I was studying to become a certified linux system administrator… I had studied on my own for several months and then I attended two very intensive classes (4-days each). I was then to take a hands-on exam to become certified. I felt confident, I knew my stuff, I was stronger in some areas than in others, but I thought I could make it through the exam. I had a small fear of failing, but I kept telling myself, ‘you know this stuff, you’ve practiced, you’ll be fine…’

Then I found myself sitting at a computer, staring at a login prompt, without a password, and the clock was ticking. All of a sudden, a wave of doubt flooded over me. As I stared at the computer screen, I started to feel dizzy, nauseous, and I struggled to not fall out of my chair. I kept the tears in check. Thoughts swam through my head, ‘you’ve failed before you’ve even started’…

I kept thinking, ‘If only I could reboot the system, I think I know what to do, but I’m not allowed to reboot the system!’… in the background I could hear the other test takers happily typing away… how did they get past this barrier? I reread and reread the instructions through the haze and blur of my nausea… after about 30 minutes had passed and the dizziness subsided, I reread the instructions one more time… ‘Oh shit, you can’t reinstall, it doesn’t say you can’t reboot! Bloody-hell!’ I rebooted the computer, tried out my theory and it worked. Then I was on my way to the next task on the test…

I managed to waste 30 precious minutes freaking out. Thirty minutes that I needed later to pass the test. The rest of the test I was full of doubt, and I kept making stupid mistakes that took far longer to accomplish my tasks than it should have. I am my own worst enemy.

I didn’t get the certification I came there to get, but I did get the certification one-step down. But in order to get the certification I sought, I would have to take this test again. ‘Yea, I got a certification’, should have been my victory cry, but instead I felt like a failure.

The past year has flown by, and I’ve managed to make excuse after excuse to not study and retake that test… I became acutely aware of those anxious feelings again yesterday. I’ve been putting off reinstalling my system to the new fedora 12… I’ve been hanging on to my fedora 10 setup. I spent the better part of the morning making sure that I had backed up my system, which is stressful to say the least, no way to get that stuff back after I start the install. As I started the install, all those feelings that I had during the test started to flood over me. Tears came to my eyes… I didn’t remember everything I need to know… How much swap space should I have?… twice the RAM… How much RAM do I have?… Crap, how do I find that out?… How big should my home partition be?… on and on… lots of doubt, lots of not remembering things that used to be basic knowledge to me.

I returned to previous questions on the installation to see what the system was currently set at… what the hell? I have a partition 250G in size? What’s on that? I canceled the install and rebooted the system… I had a partition I had completely forgotten about with 233G of data… I almost lost it all! While I had the computer up and running, I googled how to find out information about my system… then I called my ‘taste-tester’ (a computer guru and my mentor) at work, and asked some of the questions I didn’t know the answers to, basically ‘what do you set your partitions to when you install’…

After I got off the phone, I went about the house making sure that the data I had on my forgotten partition was not elsewhere, because it was going to take a looong time to transfer 233G. I managed to whittle it down to 146G. I plugged my external hard drive into my monitor, which has USB connectors on it, and started the backup. After about 58G had been backed up, I decided to take ‘little-bit’ for a walk, I locked my computer and turned off the monitor and went outside… Did you see it?… I turned off my monitor! Basically I killed my external hard drive! Well, injured it severely, my ‘taste-tester’ says he can fix it. I don’t have the slightest clue where to begin to fix it. So, I still haven’t reinstalled my computer…

I decided that I should do some yoga to calm my nerves. I found on YogaToday’s blog a short session, called Engaging Muladhara, the Root Chakra“…these exercises balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain and bring about harmony between acceptance and itโ€™s โ€œshadow side,โ€ resentment…” Sounds like something I need. During the yoga session, there was a part where we were sitting in siddhasana (comfortable seat) and we were rotating the upper torso around in a big circle… as we moved forward we inhale and think of something we want to take more of into our lives, as we move back we exhale and think of letting things go that no longer serve us… so I inhaled nurturing, and exhaled anxiety… Later in the practice, near the end, we did a meditation on ‘what we already have in our life’… my first thoughts went to the unconditional love I receive from my ‘taste-tester’ and ‘little-bit’, tears started to stream down my face, but it was ok… I just kept thinking about the things I could do… I’m nurturing, I’m giving, I’m loved, I’m a great cook, I am smart, I am capable, I can do it… I let these positive thoughts fill me and take over, I let the tears stream, I let the positive voice be louder than the negative self-talk… I felt so much better.

Afterwords, in the afterglow of yoga, I started to ask myself why I have so much confidence in the kitchen. I’m just not afraid in there. I realized that it was several things, first and foremost, practice builds confidence. But also a few other key things, I don’t punish myself for making mistakes – if what ever I cook is clearly a mistake, we throw it away, we don’t go by the philosophy of ‘eat your mistakes’, another important thing is that my ‘taste-tester’ doesn’t judge the item before tasting it… I know I’m lucky in that respect, but it has helped tremendously… these things give me the freedom to be adventurous and creative without fear in the kitchen… I am going to try to apply these same principles in my computer skills. I have clearly let my practice go by the wayside for over a year, that in itself has made me less confident. I will need to work on not listening to negative self-talk and promote positive self-talk in all aspects of my life. Perhaps this will help me deal better with my fear of test taking as well.

I realized that had I not had data on my system, I might not have been so fearful of reinstalling… I need to practice more on systems that I can’t ‘hurt’. I also came to realize that even though it sucked that I messed up my external hard drive, I did not loose any data.

So really, if you think about it, I burnt the fries or combined flavors that didn’t go so well together… the only thing you can do is toss it out, learn from your mistakes, and move on.


4 thoughts on “Inhale Nurturing, Exhale Anxiety…

  1. I don’t know where I came across this statement, but I think it applies: If you are making no mistakes, then you are not doing anything significant.

    I also remember a statement like this: The greatest mistake is to be afraid of making one.

    Expect mistakes and as in your last line above, “learn from your mistakes, and move on.”

    –reboot the system!

  2. Great post, Nic.. And I read your email this morning…it was lovely! I think that finding the balance of sharing info vs. sharing recipes….that’s where the sweet spot of blogging for traffic is. Blogging from the heart may be entirely different ๐Ÿ™‚ As is life and learning from it, accepting, growing, you’re doing it…step by step, that’s all that matters!

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