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How to Make a Move When You’re Terrified

Winding stairs - Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

Watching my dog is so helpful sometimes.

This morning I watched our dog, Max, make his way EVER so slowly down the stairs. He gave a slightly anxious exhale at the top, and then—one step, by one step, by one step—he made his way down, low and tight to the wall.  Winding stairs - 
Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

Stairs are not Max’s thing. His people are his thing. Therein lies the rub for him daily. At night, his people go up, which means in the morning, they go down. And so must he, even with his slippery-floor anxiety, made worse by the longer-than-normal (I swear, we could braid it) hair that grows between his pads.

Max has gamely tried rubber booties that make his feet sweat and stink, sock booties with grippers which somehow turn grippy-side up by morning, and canvas boots that make him walk like a Clydesdale (much to our uproarious laughter). Nothing works for his daily descent except his steely determination to be with his people.

To make matters worse, Max is carrying a few more pounds (understatement) as a result of the pandemic—he’s not quiet pudgy, but definitely looking at portly. So now Max is packing some extra weight on those stairs, working a bit harder resisting the pull of gravity.

As I followed him—EVER so slowly, step by step—down the stairs this morning, I could feel his beautiful doggie brain thinking: justdontfall, justdontfall, justdontfall….stepbystep, stepbystep, stepbystep.

Isn’t that just June in a nutshell for you?


Doesn’t it feel like that’s how we move through June? And doesn’t it feel like we forget that every, single year? I know I do.

Sure there’s flowers blooming and birds chirping—maybe that’s why we get lulled into a stupor and don’t see it coming. And by “it”, I mean the onslaught—very important events, huge milestones, critical ceremonies that ask you to wear fancy shoes (remember those?), pants that fit (remember those?), and bring tickets no one thought to get. Out of the clear, blue skies like Russian MiG fighter jets in Top Gun, obligations and expectations attack in June, pelleting you with emails and Zoom invites and urgent text reminders for you-have-to-be-there moments. There are playoffs and finals, end of fiscal year reports, inane (and somehow still required) employee reviews, team celebrations, community gatherings, family reunions, proms, graduations and mid-term elections.

You see what I mean? Max on the stairs—larger-than-normal caboose behind, slippery floors, not-to-be-trusted paws—very, very, steep, must focus, danger, danger.

Moving through June makes the whites of my eyes show every year and I never see it coming. Something about gravity just sort of heats up this time of year—pulling everything into a sort of fever-pitch and whipping it into a lather.

It can be comical—but not in the moment.

In the moment it feels like you’re gonna lose it—or worse, you have lost it, and now people know. In the moment it feels like something’s wrong with you and everyone else has it all figured out—just look at their InstaSnapFace!?

My dog, Max, knows how to be with those steep stairs down into the bottom of June—with respect, caution, and extreme diligence—and he moves through them successfully every, single day. I’m going to follow Max through the rest of June.

In case you’re feeling the fever-pitch of it all over there as well, here are three pairs of my best grippy socks from my SheChanges stairwell to yours.

Know that you’re not as alone under this new moon in June as you think. We’re moving through this together, step by step.

#1 Intense AF
I probably don’t need to say much more about this one, as it speaks for itself. But I’ve heard it so much from my clients over the past few weeks, as insanely high temps have collided with insanely high demands and expectations. It’s so not like Reeses, with a happy peanut butter and chocolate accident. It’s more like Mr. Clean poured over a really stale Peep from last year’s basket…nothing quite fits, makes sense, or tastes remotely good. What helps? Naming it. Calling it. Marveling and laughing at the veritable sh*tstorm swirling around you, like that tornado movie, Twister, with Helen Hunt when the combine and cows spin by. Crazy. Mayhem. Take cover.

Need a little help get to going?
Make a playlist that takes you way back. Get your groove on. Busta move. Michael, Aretha, Run DMC, Salt ‘N’ Pepa—dig deep.

#2 Going on Instinct
THIS was an interesting theme that kept popping up, like a sleeper theme—not too obvious, but quietly there. I saw and heard many of my clients negotiating with themselves around their instincts—ideas, inspirations and hunches they wanted to act on, but felt like they were…inappropriate or not welcome. It was like they intuitively felt something was needed—for a team, family, or project—but second-guessed themselves because they were worried it was “just them” or would be a distraction from (say it with me….) being productive with time. You know what it came down to—what their instincts were telling them to do? Holding space for people to FEEL things, honoring the passage of time and the TRANSITION we’re in, and bringing our HUMANITY to center stage for a bit through story, connection and reflection. Happily, my clients opted to honor their instincts, and the payoffs were huge—like a pressure release, with smiles, tears, gratitude and grace.

Want to trust your gut more deeply?
Unplug from everything. Get in the dirt—the garden, the woods, a patch of grass. Ask: what feels right—but also crazy? That.

#3 Choosing Mindsets
What lives between your ears and always travels with you? Yup. Gray matter. Use that good s*hit to your advantage right now, and leverage the power of your mind to ride the wild and crazy of June. This was like a rotating door of a request from my clients, like a boomerang that just kept circling back to my office this week and last. Having tried it all—harder, smarter, differently, clearly, vaguely—people kept swirling around the same conclusion: I need to choose the right mindset to get through this. Yup, that. Mindsets are powerful tools to deploy in transitional times and crazy sh*tstorms because they anchor your body in prevailing winds. They give us a way to think about things that feels helpful and supportive, like one of those solid wooden walking staffs, which keeps us for reaching for the leather flog.

Want to find yours?
Start with characters from your favorite books or movies—what are their classic lines and words to live by? Go for the ones that make you laugh, like Forrest or Dory. Steer clear of gladiators.


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