"The Flinch"



After reading the very quick read "The Flinch", I decided to knock a few things off of what I call my 'Flinch List' every day. It really just follows the advice most people have heard of 'every day, do something that scares you.' Not scare in the "I'm going to go taunt a bear" kind of thing. That should scare you. There's a reason that scares you - because taunting bears will get you hurt. But some things scare us that aren't life-threatening, and in fact are probably very good ideas. They're just usually very uncomfortable ideas.

Here's an example. Taking the route to work that requires me to walk across a large highway (even though there is a crosswalk and walk sign) doesn't scare me exactly, at least not the way a bear would. But it does make me flinch a little inside. So I skip it. In fact taking any other route than my "normal" route gives me a little flinch response inside. I am very much a creature of habit. I like my routines. Last week I took the highway-crossing route (and obviously lived to tell the tale.)  It was fantastic - much shorter than my other route and I got to see some of the new buildings that have just been finished around campus. It's a stupid thing - but it's one less flinch.

Tango was a huge flinch, when I remember how I started that journey a little over three years ago. It was not only one big flinch - "start to learn tango" - but a flinch response I had to face every time I went to a class, entered a milonga, or went to a practica. Every single time. Even now, every time I go to a workshop, new milonga, or to a different city to dance - there it is again. The flinch. I feel it. Recognize and acknowledge it. Then I walk right through it. Sometimes it sucks. Most of the time it's more than worth it.

Making my first video Skype call, to someone I had never met on the other side of the world, was a flinch.
Calling my dad for help with my car a couple of weeks ago was a flinch.
Every time I enter a room to train or speak, I flinch.
Every time I dance with someone new, I flinch.
Getting rid of possessions I was keeping only because I felt guilty about who gave them to me/how much they cost/how much I should like them - made me flinch.

My trip to Buenos Aires is one really big flinch. Every once in awhile I think it might be easier to face the bear. Actually, that's because the trip is made of so many smaller flinches I'll have to face, that it's almost overwhelming.

The TSA-grope flinch.
The "I don't speak the language" flinch.
The "no one will dance with me" flinch.
The "I have to figure out how much to pay the taxi driver in pesos" flinch.

Contrary to what must be a very popular belief - telling me not to worry about it does not decrease the flinch one little bit. Ultimately the only thing that gets rid of the flinch response, is facing it - doing the deed. Or, referring to my favorite Pema Chodron quote, leaning into the sharp points. Getting uncomfortable.

The author of The Flinch, Julien Smith, says if there's a flinch response (and it isn't in response to something dangerous) there's something to learn. There's something that needs doing. Listening to my gut instinct can be the right thing to do - but when there's no actual danger, it's time to take a look at what I'm really afraid of.

By the way, updating this blog after so long, was a flinch.

I don't know why. It just was.

That's why I knew I had to write about it.

If you're interested in reading the Flinch and don't want to get it through Amazon (for free), you can read it in .pdf form for free here.

6 comments:

Frances R said...

Dear Mari, you are one brave person.
Taxicabs in Buenos Aires have meters. You will see the exact amount to pay in pesos, and they do not expect the tip.
When you take a taxi from the airport, you pay at the counter, in dollars or pesos.
When is your trip? I am going in the fall.
If you have questions or need any help, don't hesitate.

David said...

"The Flinch" topic makes for a lovely posting with good ideas.

I would, however, sort of put Texas highway crosswalks in the "trained bear" category, but one you have to be mighty cautious about. I almost always assert my rights to use crosswalks, but I'm also highly alert to the possibility of inattentive, incompetent, and even malicious behavior by drivers. So I always think about an "out", while assertively walking into the guarded area so that drivers have a better idea what behavior to expect from me.

Now, how on earth did California - an otherwise not particularly friendly place for biking and walking - develop the strong presumption and attention by drivers to stop for pedestrians?

A clearly recognized and assessed flinch can make for a good training tool. When I started out downhill skiing late in life I easily recognized that I had a strong side and a weak side, and that I would "flinch" from stopping or turning to the week side. So I decided, aha, the flinch is my trainer telling me that's the side I want to use no matter what. So if I felt a flinch, on either side, I made that the side I used. In sort time I could no longer remember which was my weak side.

Buen viaje!

Ghost said...

Something I've been wondering about the TSA grope - if you wear something along the lines of Daisy Duke short shorts, and one of those bra tops that women exercise in, does that prevent you being groped?

Put a light skirt and top in your carry on luggage and change in women's toilets immediately afterwards?

PS Totally agree with the lyrics post o)

Terpsichoral said...

Reading this post, Mari, gave me a greater understanding of a discussion we recently had about whether or not dancing tango makes a person "vulnerable". I don't have any of the flinches you mention (or any others) in relation to tango -- so perhaps that's why dancing doesn't make me feel vulnerable. Of course, I have my own 'flinches' too -- though completely different from yours.

I also must second David's point about crosswalks. The one thing that should make you cautious, very cautious, when you get to Buenos Aires is crossing the road. Don't assume it's safe just because there's a crossing, a green man, etc. Always use The Green Cross Code and be more careful than you would be in the US.

Mari Johnson said...

Wow - I didn't mean to take so long answering comments! Where did the time go???

Frances R - several people have reassured me that not only will have a pretty straight forward time with taxis, but that they have also gotten some of the most useful (or at least colorful) tango information from taxi drivers lol) My trip is 9/24-10/3 - I still feel like I'm not ready.

David - thank you for your comments. I am very cautious about crosswalks lol. And you're so right, 'the flinch' is an excellent learning tool. Unpleasant - but very useful.

Ghost - I'm afraid I won't be able to test out your theory lol, but I'll let you know how it goes. ;-)

Terpsi - since we continued this conversation on facebook, I'll think I'll update the original post with that comment.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Very good post. Yes, we must scare ourselves...so important. Be safe, do the planning, jump in!