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  • Writer's pictureJessica Childs

The Activation Fee of Moving Forward

My morning was stink. To be fair, I am characterizing the ENTIRE morning as stink when in reality, it was just one stink moment. But that's how the mind works. It's written right into the owner's manual.

So...the moment is over, why do I sit here seething in stink-stew? It's a direction-less place where bad feelings beget more bad feelings and so on. Whole days can be swallowed in this endless multiplication. Weeks or even years! I can identify about 100 self-care moves that are sure to spin my mood. But I don't choose to do them. It's like I'm in the bottom of a barrel and I know the whole gorgeous world is out there teeming with life and possibility (and the barrel is just a construct anyway). But still I sit and seethe.

Why? Why do we sometimes resist moving forward? You can be simply transitioning away from a stink moment or you could be making a colossal transition like leaving behind an easy house with a hefty mortgage to live in a tiny mortgage-free house (with your family of four, a dog and a cat.... blog posts to come...), either way, we at times find ourselves stuck in inaction, immobilization, shame spirals or energy vortices.

Enter stage left....the concept of the activation fee: the personal cost of initiating transition : what you have to let go of to move forward. It's different for every one and unique to each situation. At times, the cost is low so you barely notice letting it go. Other times, the activation fee is more costly so you resist releasing it and miss the opportunity all together. And sometimes, you can't quite put your finger on the hold-up, but it's there keeping you in check.

Using my #currentmood as an example, the activation fee that I am grappling with is the sense of comfort I am getting from feeling like stink. Something stressful just happened and it feels like self-defense to stay with ("Why did this happen to me? GAH!") Another aspect of it is that the stink-ness is protecting me from the risk of putting myself out there and having that good day I promised myself, my kids, my clients. ("I feel like garbage now so I'm just going to take myself off the hook for the day.") Weirdly, my stink mood evens feel like I am being *good* because I clearly have things that I disapprove of and am willing to throw myself into the stink over. ("See what this does to me????") Even while I can smell the fresh air and feel the warmth calling to me from the other side, the stink can be seductive and even a hint nourishing.

So my work in this moment, my activation fee, is letting go of something that is actually giving me some benefit. I have found that it is not helpful to judge my feelings as "bad" or "misguided" or looking at them as though they are " the face of my unmet needs" with an urgency to heal them. In this moment the cost of transition is acknowledging that yes, I am getting something out of feeling this way and choosing to let go of that in service of something else, something I value more.

If it ain't worth nothing, there ain't no cost to let it go --- you would have done that already.

But it IS worth something! So don't treat it like it ain't.

Resisting paying the activation fee is responsible for washed-up dreams and unfulfilled potentials. I sat at the bottom of the chronic illness bucket, wallowing in pain and depression until I was finally willing to pay the activation fee (not trusting myself or my capacity to thrive in my circumstances, on a deep level, made me feel taken care of by others and free to avoid the risk of living my actual life). I spent decades of my life licking social and professional wounds before I paid the activation fee (letting go of my belief that I should somehow have been born knowing how to be awesome and I shouldn't have to work hard for it). Stuff constantly bubbles up and sticks around until I reckon with that fee. The list just goes on and on. Turning toward myself and bravely noticing what is truly coming up is the key to knowing what that fee is and knowing how to pay it.

What is the activation fee you are most resistant to paying?

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