I spent the first 38 years of my life in a desperate attempt to stay within my comfort zone, inside my bubble. I hated change. I liked organization and order. I liked control.

Because when life was anything but easy, organized, and controlled that meant it would come…

The heart pound.

It never failed, every time I stepped out of my comfort zone, I would get horribly nervous. I could feel my heart beating through my chest, ringing in my ears.  My heart would race, my palms would sweat.

Because I’m really body conscious, when I would feel the heart pound I would instantly launch into a series of panicky questions: “Am I okay?” “Am I having a heart attack?” “Am I in danger????”. 

And unfortunately I learned at a young age that if I fled the situation that was causing the heart pound, it would stop and all would be okay.

I hated the uncomfortable feeling of the heart pound and the feeling of impending demise that followed. So I did what most of us do with terrible feelings…I avoided them at all costs. I retreated safely in the bubble that was my life, a controlled, orderly, no change welcomed life complete with no heart pound.

For awhile I was able to do this fairly easily. If something scared me I just wouldn’t do it.

No heart pound welcomed here.  

There was just one problem. It’s fairly easy to avoid the heart pound as a child. If something scares you, call for help and get out. Easy. But as you age, the help really goes away. No one is there to save you. It becomes harder and harder to avoid change. You have more HAVE to’s than you have WANT to’s.

So, years passed and I kept getting pushed out of my comfort zone time and time again. Move away from home and start college (shove), get married (shove), start a career (shove), become financially responsible (MAJOR SHOVE), go to law school (shove), buy a home (shove).

Adulthood is the land of being shoved straight into the heart pound. 

Not a good world for a person who is anti-heart pound.

Because I had spent so much of my life avoiding the heart pound it became harder and harder for me to deal with. I had basically programmed myself that it was a terrible thing. With each change I became weaker and weaker and less willing to even try to do it.

Thus came the world of anxiety.  I am no doctor,  but in my dictionary, anxiety can be defined as the fear of the heart pound. The fear of the unknown, fear of…well just FEAR.

With the anxiety came panic attacks.  My anxiety would rear its head when I would drive places alone, was in an enclosed space, a place where I knew no one, or somewhere where I couldn’t control my environment around me. My body was literally fighting back against any attempts for me to be shoved out of the comfort zone and into the heart pound.

Get back in the comfort zone Mandi! 

A few years ago my anxiety got so bad that it started affecting my life. I wouldn’t take risks, wouldn’t drive far places alone, wouldn’t stand up for myself, wouldn’t try new things. I stayed in my bubble and made people and medication help me if I was forced to step out.

The heart pound went from a fear to something my body completely would not let me deal with.

I’m a person that notoriously wants to fix things, so I wanted so bad to get past the anxiety that was affecting everything. This lead to medications and therapy. I wanted someone to fix this…someone to give me the magic cure.

Only as the years passed I realized there was no magic cure. Medication and therapy became crutches to use, but never a cure.

What I didn’t know then, that I learned now, is that all I had to do was to embrace that heart pound…pop that bubble, live outside of the comfort zone. That was the only cure.

What a completely terrifying concept! To get past the fear of the heart pound, I had to have lot more of it? No way I could ever do that. Too scary, I wasn’t strong enough. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

But then came this lifestyle change. I ran out of excuses and a strange thing started to happen. The desire to change and the desire to meet my weight loss goals became so important to me. I wanted these changes more than anything.

There was just one problem, lots and LOTS of heart pounding, comfort zone fleeing moments stood in my way of those goals, blocking them like a large goalie over a tiny goal.

During this adventure my heart has pounded a lot, and not just because of working out. Everything was new to me. Change was everywhere. Walking on a busy track with people staring at me as I was out breath. Joining an exercise class when I knew no one in the class. Trying new activities that I wasn’t sure if I could do. Dancing around like a crazy person in Pound class. Meeting new people.

I had two choices, stay in my old unhealthy heart pound free zone, or get past it and embrace the heart pound. I could not meet the goals without living in a world full of change and heart pound.

So it was a pick your path moment. I chose try it and see what would happen. Let’s see what happens when I stare that heart pound down.

I literally thought this could potentially kill me or that I’d have a panic attack right there in Body Pump class. But I didn’t.  It was so strange. The more I started “inviting the heart pound” into my life…the more I loved life. GOOD things were beyond that heart pound. Not the 3 headed monster size death I had concocted in my brain. Beyond the heart pound, I lost 110 pounds. I made friends. I played with my kids. I had adventures.

I started to see that if I could just get through the first few awkward minutes of the heart pound and fear it would stop and happiness would enter the room.

So I did it. Over and over and over. Life beyond the heart pound was amazing. Life outside the bubble far surpassed life within it.

Now, it was not always easy for me to “invite the heart pound”. It took tons of practice. Think of your largest fear. Now imagine yourself inviting that large scary monster into your life every day.

How on earth do you get comfortable staring life’s fears in the face, day after day after day? 

Well, for me the only way I could do it was when new adventures arose I would simply say yes so fast, that I would out run my brain before it started to “talk me out of it”. By the time my brain could react to talk me out of something, I was already walking toward it.

Outrun the brain, because the brain holds the excuses. 

So I invited the heart pound more and more. Each time I beat it,  I became more confident. And more willing to try. I became stronger.

I started to crave the heart pound. I loved the feeling I would get of conquering a fear.

But I didn’t realize the true power of craving the heart pound until this past week.

This past week my family went to Chicago. I remembered when I was a kid going up in the Sears Tower. I wanted to take my kids to do that. But, the voices in my head started… “You’re going to go up high in the air…you can’t just get down easily….it’s REALLY high”. “Mandi what if you need to come down and there is a like a 2 hour line for the elevator?”. “Mandi it’s a 103 stories in the air…did you not see the huge 103 statue on the website???”

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SEE IT CANNOT POSSIBLY BE ANYLARGER? 103 STORIES!! 

I tried to shut down the voices as I drove, but because I had a 3 hour drive to get there I couldn’t really commit to it before my brain wanted to talk me out of it. So I had to listen to all my excuses.

While I was listening to my inner battle of the 103 floor climb to the heart pound, I caught a glimpse of my middle son in the rear view mirror. My Mom and other kids were so excited about going up to the Sears Tower, but he sat silent, looking down at his fingers.

I recognized his look right away….he’s having the same inner conversation with himself that I’m having about this.

“Mom, can’t we just do the aquarium today?” He said, trying to play it off cool and brave.

I saw a young me in that face, so I stopped worrying about own battle and started fighting his.

“You can do this buddy, time to embrace the fear!” 

As we drove closer and the building grew in size as we neared the city, he got more and more scared.

“Mom, I don’t think I can do that”. 

He was feeling the heart pound. And I could tell by his face he didn’t like it. 

I was starting to feel it too.But avoiding my heart pound meant that he would get a free chance to avoid his.

Circle of life moment for sure. That’s how I did it when I was younger, and look at all that happened to me?

If I don’t do it, he’ll learn to fear the heart pound. 

We were supposed to go to the Aquarium first, but I quickly changed the plans. Remember, the mouth commits before the brain can change it. I had to do this so we better get it over with, for both of us.

After all I had two brains to outrun full of excuses, mine and his. 

So we went. I think I walked much faster than normal as I walked through the line. I didn’t even stop to read the cool trivia on the walls, I just held his hand kept moving.

He held my hand so tight in the elevator going up that not only could I feel my heart pound, but I swear I could feel his.

But I kept telling myself…we have to do this. My child will not fear the heart pound.

The door opened. We stepped out.

And like air out of a balloon my son realized all his fear was nothing in comparison for the fact he was standing on top of the City.

“THIS IS SO COOL!!!!” He exclaimed.

He was SO happy.  He was so proud of himself and kept telling me “I did it!” He went right up to every single window. He was so excited.

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That right there is the face of someone who made it past the heart pound!

When it was time for us to try the insane sky deck with the glass floor, I watched him to see if he would again be faced with the heart pound. But his confidence was still high and he stepped on. He was scared, I’m sure. I mean come on who isn’t scared standing 103 stories up on a glass floor. But he had already learned that beyond the heart pound was fun!

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We were literally and figuratively on top of the world!

With his new found courage my son quickly saw the John Hancock (Chicago’s second tallest building) and wanted to go there.

Okay, the courageous dude was leading the pack! Who was I to stop him?

Wow, when you’re young the ability to crave the heart pound happens really fast. It showed me that if I would have embraced those heart pounds when I was younger, it would have been so much easier to overcome them. He just embraced it the one time and was SO ready to do it again.

The John Hancock is 94 stories up, and on the top there is an attraction called the Tilt. Tilt is a set of windows that tilts you out and down over the City. It’s almost like the feeling of someone pushing you out over a cliff.

I didn’t even need to shut down any voices, his excitement drowned out every inner voice I had.

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But as I tilted over the City, my brain finally caught up with my legs and there it was…

I felt it. The heart pound.

The sound that used to signal anxiety, panic…and stop me from doing things. It was right there in my chest.

Only after what I had experienced the past 8 months and earlier that day with my son, it finally hit me.

I absolutely love the heart pound. It’s truly life changing! 

The heart pound is not  signal that something is going to happen, its a signal that you’re just stepping out of the comfort zone and true life is about to start.

So it’s funny, all those years I stayed away from moments of a pounding heart – when I really should have been chasing those moments.

I looked over at my son tilting over the city with me and I knew he was feeling it too…

Yep, that sealed it. Heart pound chasers for life.

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R.C.

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