May 9, 2019

The Great Big Dread Obstacle

I simply could not press the button.

It was by and large a trivial matter. Here at Vega Mala Consulting, we had installed an integration for our database to sync it with our email list, and after much trial and tribulation, we had determined the sync simply wasn’t working. All I had to do was press “uninstall.”

But I couldn’t do it. I had run into the Great Big Dread Obstacle to Moving Forward.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s something relatively achievable and totally within your realm of ability – responding to an email, editing a document, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or, say, clicking “uninstall.”

It’s something you could do, you should do, in fact you just really have to do it, and you just…can’t. In fact, a great deal of your time might be spent doing anything other than the thing.

In my case, I exported our email list for backup. I exported our database list for backup. I read help forums about uninstalling syncs. I wrote an email to the database support desk to confirm that what they had written on the help forums was true. I opened up The Washington Post because reading the news was suddenly very important. I drafted a long email to Vega titled “Please send uninstalling courage” explaining everything I had done to prepare and what I thought would happen and acknowledging I just needed someone to tell me everything would be alright when I inevitably torched all of our systems with a single click.

But even as I was writing that email, I knew nothing Vega said was going to make it okay for me to press that button.

I lamented to my partner, Iimay, who was quietly eating her breakfast, with database integrations the furthest thing from her mind, that I had run into a Great Big Dread Obstacle. She said, “Do you want me to press it for you?” I began my detailed explanation of all that I thought might happen, and she said, “Yep! Sounds like you thought this through,” and then SHE CLICKED UNINSTALL.

For a brief period, my brain disconnected from my body. I think I may have ascended to an alternate time space continuum. Iimay sat calmly while I switched between pacing and huddling on the floor and laughing…I think I was laughing, or possibly crying. It’s a little hazy. Once I could breathe again, I said, “Wow, you are so brave.”

“Nope!” Iimay replied. “I’ve just been trained to not think about consequences.”

And I was like, ohhhhhhhh. It’s not necessarily that she doesn’t think about consequences, but she just wasn’t that worried about them. She trusted that whatever the consequences were, she could handle it.

The Great Big Dread Obstacle is not actually about our ability to do the thing. It’s about our belief in our ability to handle what’s to come afterwards, and our deep fear that we will not measure up.

  • If I respond to that email, I might have to see that person I haven’t seen in a while and feel guilty about ghosting on.
  • If I edit that document, they might realize I don’t have much to contribute.
  • If I schedule that appointment, I might find out I have something really wrong with me.
  • If I click uninstall, I might break our database and our email list and I don’t have the first clue how to fix either of those.
  • If I..(fill in the blank with your own Great Big Dread Obstacle).

The Great Big Dread Obstacle has good intentions. It is a survival strategy set up to protect us from the unknown – but surely terrible! – aftermath of certain actions.

But how many times has the terrible thing happened? How often have we found ourselves to truly be adrift, alone, insufficient, or incapable? How many times have we really not measured up?

And how many times has the Great Big Dread Obstacle actually kept us from making connections, learning a skill, taking care of ourselves, discovering something new about ourselves, or being vulnerable?

I see you, Great Big Dread Obstacle. Thank you for trying to protect me. And thank you for the reminder that, while beyond the dread is all the supposed hard stuff, the hardest part is trusting and believing in my own capabilities. In the end, all I can do is muddle through whatever comes (and maybe enlist some help, especially when it comes to clicking buttons).



  1. Allison H

    Excellent post! Thank you.

    • vegamala

      I agree! Thanks! My stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

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