The truth about my fear of driving.

#RealTalk vol 17

Hi! You’re reading #RealTalk - A midlife anti-crisis featuring a collection of motivational essays and intentional living insights.

I was on a bit of a hiatus during my cross-country road trip from WA to FL so expect #RealTalk - the Digest to return next week. Thanks for your patience as I get myself settled into my new surroundings. New to the party? It’s great to have you here.

Today’s post is a bit of a carryover and some new revelations. Read on.

When last we connected, I made light of my fears to drive across the country with my brother and cat, Mr. Skimps. I aimed to introduce you to “Lizzy” for a glimpse into how I’ve learned to defeat negative self-talk. Lizzy is my embodiment of fear and self-doubt, a visual aid that I can cuss out or lock in a closet when I feel overwhelmed. The truth is, talking about Lizzy was also my attempt to lighten the heaviness of why driving scares me. 

In high school, I found that I could make folks laugh in uncomfortable situations, and since then, humor has become my go-to deflection method. Making people laugh is my trick to avoid being the focus of ridicule. Who judges the clown who makes fun of himself? Rarely does anyone care to look beyond the jokes and self-deprecation. 

Sometimes jokes are just smoke and mirrors.

My driving fears started a few years ago after landing a gig as a producer for a daytime talk show. I loved most aspects of my job. I enjoyed booking talent for the entertainment segments, the logistics of keeping the show on schedule, and the benefit of eating great food in the kitchen segments. Still, among other things, the hours were long and stressful. Days at the studio started at roughly 7 a.m. or earlier if I had to do an off-location bit before going in and ended at 6 or 7 p.m. Within a few short months, I went from excited about going to work to dreading it. 

I respected my executive producer, but I hated her ideas about what made “good TV.” Sure, she had three decades of talk show and reality TV experience, but I wanted our show to have integrity and heaps of feel-good experiences. Instead, there were too many occasions where the show focused on gritty or shocking celebrity crap. Plus, there was a bunch of back-biting, passive-aggressive behavior, and underhanded prejudice happening behind the scenes - all the makings to drive my highly sensitive introverted self to the brink of exhaustion and overwhelm. 

Our show aired at 4 p.m. however, we recorded at 10 a.m., so I was able to take a break for a couple of hours in the afternoon, the time I used to run errands or take a much-needed nap. One afternoon while driving back to the studio, I had the worst experience. 

Approaching a stoplight, I got a kind of gray haze in my vision, I could see, but things were fuzzy. To not totally freak out, I figured I should apply more pressure to the brakes, which seemed the obvious thing to do, right? The problem was at that moment I couldn’t remember which pedal was the brake and which was the gas. Naturally, this is where I started to freak out. 

In a panic I lifted both feet, I didn’t know what else to do. Thankfully there wasn’t a car in front, behind me, or the adjacent intersection.

Because I was already slowing down, my car drifted out of traffic and stopped with a gentle bump at the curb. I was safe. I hadn’t hit anyone but the thought that I could have hit someone, hurt someone, a child even - it was that vision that broke me down. I became hysterical, sobbing at the life I could have ruined. I laid my head against the steering wheel and just cried. 

It took a few minutes before I could get myself together. I was a snotty mess, but my vision cleared, and I was able to get back in traffic and drive to work. 

Could I shake it off and get back to work? Yeah, no. 

In all of the time I’d worked with the show’s EP, she was a hard-ass, but upon seeing me when I got back to the studio, she immediately sent me home. I must have looked far worse than I thought because she had sympathy and fear in her eyes. 

I made it home without incident and then stayed in bed for a week before going to see a doctor. I felt weary and depleted, and too afraid to drive again or leave my apartment. As I look back, it's a good thing I didn't have the chance to try to shake off what happened. Not taking the time to rest could have made things worse. 

It was my doctor who suggested my job was the cause of a panic attack. Oddly I didn’t make the connection. I genuinely believed that I was going crazy or suffering from a brain tumor. 

Even with therapy, fear of driving paralyzed me; in fact, I sold my car and Ubered for years before I got the courage to drive again. I kept that painful little nugget of truth to myself for a very long time. 

The panic attack compounded by poor night vision terrifies me; this fear isn’t Lizzy feeding me negative self-talk, my driving fear is muscle memory I grapple with every time I drive.

Fear, real or imagined, still feels like a lousy ride you don’t want to take.

My very patient therapist helped me to understand how exhaustion and my attempt to work in a job that ran counter to my sensibilities was the root cause of my anxiety. She helped me to make sense of everything that led up to the day I lost my senses while driving because short of a brain tumor, I blamed myself. I carried guilt for working myself so hard and guilt for a crime I hadn’t even committed. 

Now, practically every time I drive, I remind myself that I haven’t hurt anyone and that any awful thing I could imagine isn’t real. 

Some days I drive without giving that terrible day any thought, and yet other days, the days when my heart races as I start the engine, I tell myself, “You’re okay. You’re safe. Your fear isn’t real. Get out of your head.”

My secret is out and look, nobody died.

I told my brother about my panic attack during our cross-country drive, which might explain why he did most of the driving. To his credit, he didn’t give me grief about my incident or freak out. Something else I have to remind myself of, generally speaking, folks don’t judge our mishaps, we do that to ourselves. 

There's so much atrocity and evil happening in the world, why do we burden ourselves with guilt and anxiety? I’ll go out on a limb here and say we don’t purposefully invite fear, guilt, or anxiety into our psyche. I certainly don’t. Panic attacks caused by stress can happen as a result of sensory overload exacerbated by physical, emotional, and mental depletion. 

Excessive worrying over things we can't control, failing to practice restorative self-care, and not speaking out and asking for help feed stress and anxiety.

I'm obsessive, I hyper-focus, and I'm an overachiever. I know first-hand the dangers of stress and overworking, but knowing isn't enough. Staying on the right side of healthy habits takes consistent dedication.

Also, speaking up and letting others know when you’re going through something is a strength, not a weakness. I’m still working on that one.   

Have I completely overcome my fear and anxiety? Nope, it's a constant battle. Every day I remind myself that I'm blessed and grateful, which makes it easier to manage.  

Thanks for reading! xo, Jae

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Be afraid, but do it anyway. 

#RealTalk vol 16

Hey, Jae here. For the newcomers, welcome to #RealTalk - the Digest: the ramblings of a midlife woman in crisis denial + some other bits. Well, at least that’s today’s theme anyway. To my long-time supporters, thanks for coming back! 

Today’s installment will reach you as I make my way from Seattle, WA heading to San Diego, CA → San Antonio, TX → final stop, Sarasota, FL!

The drive ahead and some other personal drama stirred up some angst for me, which, as writers do, I turned into this post. Read ahead.

Be afraid, but do it anyway. 

“My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring, still.” ― Maya Angelou

I am once again taking a cross-country road trip, this time with my brother and my cat Mr. Skimps. The original route would have taken us from WA to TX through the mountains, but my brother came up with the bright idea to go south through CA to visit my Uncle. Initially, I wasn’t thrilled about the change, but actually, I’m looking forward to taking the southernly route since I’ve already gone the other way, and I’m quite over cold temps right now.

My fear of traveling in my little Nissan Juke with half of my Earthly belongings, my brother, and my car-hating feline is profound. Why? See real-life text with my brother:

Seriously though, there’s so much that could go wrong besides bandits, a flat tire, or a Zombie Apocolypse, and yet, off we go! I’m afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway.

In most instances, when I feel afraid, I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” The answer is death; death is the worst thing that could ever happen, and I fear somebody could die on this road trip. I might kill my brother, he might kill me, or Mr. Skimps might kill us both. 

You know what, though? Fear is a bitch and a liar. I call that tramp “Lizzy.” That heff’a is full of negative self-talk, she’s the Kryptonite to joy and happiness. Lizzy be all up in my head, whispering crazy talk, telling me all the reasons why I shouldn’t do something; she points out what could go wrong or that I’m not qualified or equipped to handle certain situations. Lizzy has stuck her nose into some of my most genius ideas to piss on my confidence. Do you have a Lizzy in your life that you’d like exorcised? Here’s how I kick that wench to the curb… 

When Lizzy talks at me, telling me that I’m not good enough or that things could go wrong or some other nonsense that runs counter to my self-confidence, I let her have a say for a hot minute. I sit with my forboding naysayer and make a list of all of the things she spews at me, sometimes I write them down. Then after she’s finished, I tell her to back it up! I envision giving Lizzy a good ‘ole backhand slap, too violent? Ahem...

The point is to give space to the negativity, let it see the light of day, and let it breathe. Then I take that negativity list, crumble it up, and throw it in the trash because that’s all it is, it’s trash talk. 

After Lizzy has had her time and the trash talk list has been deposited into the proper receptacle, it’s time to start a new list of all of the things that could go right. 

For my road trip, here are all of the things Lizzy can’t touch: 

  • Quality time with my brother: Who knows when I’d ever get another chance to take a road trip with my brother. We’ve not spent a great deal of time together since we were kids. This trip will give us ample time to bond and have an adventure. 

  • New cities and time with family: I’ve heard great things about San Diego plus my Uncle is there, and I haven’t seen him in too long. I’m also looking forward to spending time with my sister-in-law, nieces, and nephew in Texas. 

  • New sights: My brother and I will have lots of beautiful scenery to explore on this trip, I’m looking forward to experiencing it with hope rather than fear. 

  • New career opportunities: I’m embarking on a new chapter in Florida with several exciting opportunities. I’m going to work with a cutting-edge AI company, mentor young ladies at a start-up non-profit while also spearheading my dream job working with a top entertainment broker. 

  • New chances: Going back to Florida is a chance for me to experience all that I left behind with greater appreciation and gratitude. I’m going back to an awesome support system, friends, beautiful weather, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. 

I am super stoked about this trip and everything ahead. Sure, Lizzy is still there, but focusing on all of the good that will come from this journey is akin to me telling Lizzy to kiss my fine brown arse. 

I’ll be honest though, there are times when I give Lizzy too much space and attention, usually when I’ve neglected to get enough sleep or failed to maintain good eating habits (more greens, less beer, and pizza). Lizzy screams loudest when I’m physically and therefore mentally at my weakest. I’ve learned that when I practice proper self-care, little Miss Thang doesn’t come around as much or scream as loud.

When fear or self-doubt creep up as negative self-talk for you, give it a name and make a visual that you can control - for me, it’s Lizzy and a mental (sometimes literal) trash list. Here’s the skinny on how to handle them:

  1. Tell your menacing little pissant to fuck off. 

  2. Throw out the trash talk list. 

  3. Make a list of the good things ahead for you.

  4. Make sure to take good care of your diet and get proper sleep.

As for this road trip, I’m still a little afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway because there are too many good things on the other side of fear. Whatever comes along this journey will be worth it. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

Stay tuned...

This Week in #RealTalk

👀Confession: Lizzy was at the helm earlier this week when I wrote about not having new posts for you. I burned all of the ends of all of my candles, which gave ample space for imposter syndrome to join the party. The sentiment of my post remains, I don’t have a plethora of stories lined up for you yet, but I don’t feel as defeated about it. 

👂Did you hear about this? I love sci-fi movies, usually the ones about aliens. When I saw this story about one of the first women to spacewalk getting mysterious goo on her glove, I’m like… In every alien movie, the goo is a sentient evil parasite that takes over your brain and eats your crew!! Obvi!!  

💡The more you know: You didn’t think I’d let a #RealTalk issue publish without a midlife mention, did you? For us mature folk experiencing joint pain, please reconsider getting corticosteroid injections. I’ve never been a fan, I don’t like long needles, and this is when fear is my friend. New research suggests that the short-term pain and inflammation relief may hasten the need for joint replacement later on. 

✨Be inspired: Brain Pickings, by Maria Popova, is a new find more me (thanks Alfonso!) In this piece she gives some thought-provoking insights on how to grow old and live a fulfilling life with reflections from Bertrand Russell: 

“The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way [like a river], will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue. And if, with the decay of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do and content in the thought that what was possible has been done.”

🗣I have news: Stay tuned for my interview with the lovely Kim Forrester on the Eudaemonia podcast coming up on 10/30. We’re talking about how to #LiveOnPurpose, wellness, and well-being.

Thanks for reading. I’ll catch you back here next week, likely on Friday 😘

xo, jae

P.S. Click HERE (and follow me) on Instagram to catch my cross-country road trip photos!

Whatever your plans are this weekend, be safe and enjoy!

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The evolution of #RealTalk.

#RealTalk vol 15

It's a busy week ahead for me. In preparation for my cross-country trip back to Florida from Washington, I had planned to get lots of content shored up for you all. Unfortunately, I’ve not had a creative rush, and I don’t have a backlog of posts at the ready. Well, I do… sort of. 

I have docs upon docs of drafts just waiting for release, but I don’t schedule content weeks in advance. Perhaps it’s silly of me but, I’m uneasy with the idea of having stories post that aren’t reflective of how I’m feeling in the present. 

The #RealTalk blog isn’t my first rodeo. In the past, I’ve had blogs where I set up a robust editorial calendar to auto-publish content. The problem was that I’d have a story publish and feel like a fraud if how I felt when I wrote the post had passed by the time it posted. I prefer to publish stories or social posts in real-time. As I said, I know that sounds silly, especially to my professional blogger folks out there who understand the value of front-loading content but, it’s my process.  

I once read an interview with Prince, where he explained that he got to a point in his career where he refused to sing songs the same as how he recorded them. He found in each new moment a choice to reflect on the past from a new perspective. Reflections take on a new dimension, depending on what angle we give focus. With that understanding, he found new ways to sing the same songs without feeling stale or like a fraud.

Gosh, if I can remember where I read that but, the sentiment struck me. Sure, I can look back at stories that I wrote and remember why I wrote them, but it’s not with the same eyes or heart space. 

And no, I’m not making excuses for being unprepared. The truth is, I don’t feel connected to any of my drafts right now. I’m not going to publish something for you before it’s ready, nor will I post anything that isn’t from my heart. 

With that said, the short of it is, until I have a story worthy of posting, I offer you a look back at some of my early stories. These are the stories that laid the foundation of #RealTalk

  • When Too Much Creativity Damages Productivity: This was my debut post after deciding to break from sharing content on several different platforms and launch on Substack. I hadn’t yet found my writing voice, but I was one step closer.  

  • How to Push Through Self-Doubt and the Fear of Failure: When I’m dealing with sensitive issues, especially fear and self-doubt, I write to myself first and then find elements that I hope can help others. This post was my first attempt to weave a personal story into a motivational article of sorts. 

  • Why I Now Live on Purpose Versus Live with Purpose: The seeds of #RealTalk were germinating when I wrote this post. I finally found that I wanted to write creative non-fiction but, I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it without writing “diary” posts. It was after publishing this post, (and after a come-to-Jesus chat with my bestie) that I finally dared to break free of writing how-to articles.  

I have so much more to share with you. I appreciate your patience and support as #RealTalk grows and evolves.

Stay tuned for #RealTalk in Real-Time the podcast and new premium rewards in Soul Sessions - motivation to help you embrace your inner badass. 

Please know the foundational elements won’t change - #RealTalk is a reflection of my truth shared as stories from my midlife journey along with insights and resources to help you #LiveOnPurpose.

With all of that ahead, there’s also a lot of moving and shuffling happening behind-the-scenes in the Hermann household, plus I have some profound professional changes coming up too. Fun times.

I'll see you back here when the dust settles a bit. As always, please let me know what content you'd like to see more (or less) of in the coming months. 

Thanks again for joining me on this journey.

Want more? Upgrade for only $5 /month. Don’t miss out on the other #RealTalk premium content brought to you by yours truly. xo, jae

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Why real talk matters.

#RealTalk vol 14

Welcome to #RealTalk - the Digest. Each Friday I offer you a micro-post followed by ‘This Week in #RealTalk’ - posts from the week, curated links of interest, good news, inspirational bits, and a groovy tune.

This week marks the first anniversary of my explant surgery - surgery to remove my 20-year-old saline breast implants. My introduction to Breast Implant Illness (BII) came after watching the film The Bleeding Edge last July. After years of trying to figure out what was making me sick, I learned how my implants were slowly killing me. 

Today, I’m still in the throes of acceptance; I’m coping and learning about midlife while sharing and hopefully helping someone out there.

As a look-back, I tried to write a reflective post. I wanted to detail lessons I’ve learned, instead, when I sat down to write, nothing flowed. It’s been a whole year, but I’ve yet to completely process all that my new normal (and not so attractive body) means to me. 

How do you process defining moments in your life? How do you push through, get over, and move on after a traumatic life experience?

Attempting to sort through my breast explant experience while sharing resources was the reason I started writing again after several years of jumbled brain poo. BII caused early-onset menopause, accelerating brain fog and confusion, robbing me of the sense to coherently string words together. Gaining back my ability and desire to write was my first indication that the #HealIsReal, as my fellow BII survivors often say.   

Most of my post-surgery days feel like a string of Facebook emoticons - 👍 (I’m cool with it.); ❤ (I love me!); 😂 (jokes on you, IDC!); 😳 (WTF??); 😞 (I’ll never wear a bathing suit again, sniff.); 😠 (I hate my Frankenboobs, and I hate the world, grrr!). 

Who knew the mighty Book of Faces’ urban hieroglyphs so accurately describe the stages of grief and denial? Mmmpff.

I don’t want to shy away from the realities of my life. Humans are hard-wired to avoid pain and to take the path of least resistance. In life, though, resistance is futile. Sepia tainted images of a “perfect” life plastered across social media can cover over the truth. Eventually, though, reality will find a way to lay bare your lessons, whether you want them or not. So, why run or hide?

I’m choosing to face my midlife experiences head-on and treat them as life chapters. Lessons to learn and value, pearls to pass along that may provide an outline or addendum to someone else’s storyline. 

This realization is where I am, the reason why #RealTalk matters, and why I’m determined to write my truth and to keep it real. What you see is what you get, sometimes what you get ain’t pretty, and that’s okay. I haven’t gotten over or through all that’s happened this past year. I don’t have a happy ending yet because my story is a work in progress.   

Real talk matters because it keeps us grounded in truth and allows space to reflect and grow. Attempting to be someone I’m not or cover over my icky bits requires more energy than keeping it real — my path of least resistance. 

It’s rare nowadays, but I get occasional well-meaning comments from friends: This too shall pass. You will overcome it. Be grateful. All things happen for a reason.

Yup, all of that. And sometimes, the answer to pushing through, getting over, or moving on after a traumatic life experience is to stop trying to do any of that and be okay with not being okay.

Writing and sharing #RealTalk is my process to find the pearls, offer some insights, and be okay. Some days, I'm better than okay and other days not so much. 

I endeavor for #RealTalk posts to be honest, uplifting, motivational, inspirational, and at the very least, entertaining. Thank you for accepting the invitation to join the journey

This Week in #RealTalk

What you missed: [NEW!] #RealTalk open discussions. As a carryover from #WhatMattersWed conversation prompts, every other Saturday we’ll dive into another topic.

The idea is for us to chat about life, living, career bits, aging, transition, and reinvention - what it means to #LiveOnPurpose.

Offer up a topic, what would you like to talk about?

😳 Bits that made my ears perk: I have a busy brain so I found this bit alarming. New research suggests we should put our brains on slow-mode to fend off aging citing excessive brain activity could be harmful. Another reason for workaholics to slow down, set boundaries, and practice self-care.  

✉️ More to read: Other research about slowing down suggests that slow walking speed in midlife may be a marker of accelerated aging. Medical News Today, found that the faster a person walks, the longer they may live. 

Okay, slow my brain while speed walking… got it! 😆

Be inspired: “If there's one thing I've discovered, it's that stifling yourself will only lead to misery. You have to have courage. Real courage to explore, to fail, and to pick yourself back up again.” ― Siobhan Vivian

🎶 Groove to this: May you have auspiciousness and causes of success, May you have the confidence to always do your best, May you take no effort in your being generous, Sharing what you can, nothing more nothing less. May you know the meaning of the word happiness, May you always lead from the beating in your chest, May you be treated like an esteemed guest, May you get to rest, may you catch your breath. And may the best of your today’s be the worst of your tomorrows, And may the road less paved be the road that you follow…Jason Mraz - Have it All 😍 

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think about today's issue. Love it? Great! Please forward to your friends 🙏

Have a great weekend!

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