The tunnels in Guanajuato, Mexico were excavated in the early 19th century when the town was a thriving silver mining operation. The Guanajuato River would overflow during the rainy season and flood the mines, so the engineers built underground tunnels to divert the water overflow. Today they are part of the charm of the city, and used by vehicles to circumnavigate the city proper. Some are short and you can see to the other side, covered only by short bridges for pedestrian traffic above. Others, however, are labyrinthine networks that stretch for miles.
My husband and I had the chance to travel through them the other day when we took a taxi from our local mercado to our alleyway entrance at the top of a boulevard labelled panoramica, because of its panoramic vistas of the city. It was truly, one of the most exhilarating, exciting, and terrifying experiences I’ve ever had in the short span of 10 minutes. I likened it to being on the Matterhorn roller coaster ride in Disneyland, hurtling down chutes at a daring speed, with hairpin turns. You are inside a tunnel with no visible end, multiple spurs off of the main tunnel, and which taxis are navigating at about 70 miles an hour with very few lights other than the oncoming cars (for those tunnels that are two-way). In the back of a run-down taxi, definitely seat belted in, you pitch and shift from side-to-side like a gyrating dervish.
Traversing these tunnels for the first time brought forth all my insecurities around fear of the unknown, uncertainty as to the direction, and definite lack of control. Just for a few seconds my life flashed before my eyes. Then a strange thing happened. I relaxed and started enjoying the ride. For me it was like stepping onto a roller coaster; those first few minutes are terrifying, but then I just start belly laughing. There are pictures of me in this state — head typically flung back by gravity with my mouth open and laughing.
Laughter, according to many therapists I’ve talked to, is the body’s way of covering up pain, fear and other negative emotions. When we laugh we flood our system with endorphins that support us in adjusting to whatever it is we’re facing. Sayings like, “She laughs in the face of fear,” seem more realistic when you understand it’s your body’s tool for coping with fear, hurt or pain.
Just like navigating the tunnels of Guanajuato, those same emotions of fear, indecision, lack of direction, loss of control, etc. permeate our senses when embarking upon any type of significant life change and transition. These emotions often serve to paralyze us, preventing us from taking even the smallest actions for forward progress. When this happens, realize you do have options. Everything from stepping back to recognize what’s going on, assessing and understanding the fears blocking your efforts, relying on a support team, and laughter. Yes, you have the ability to throw back your head and just start laughing.
ACTION: What life transition are you navigating right now? How’s your body reacting to the fear, uncertainty, and potential lack of control? Is it time for you to just throw back your head and start laughing? Flood your body with endorphins and realize the tunnel will eventually open up on the other side.
Kathy Hart’s driving passion is human change and transformation. Her goal is to provide professional women in midlife (ages 40 – 65) with the support and resources needed to re-imagine and lead even more abundant, joy-filled and purpose-driven lives. If you are a woman wanting to reclaim your voice, realize a long-held dream, or just live your life to the fullest, take concrete action by contacting Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org. The choice is yours!
Services that Kathy offers:
- 1:1 coaching to support the next journey into your midlife transition
- Trusted advisor for leaders navigating work changes and requiring an expert guide
- Speaking and workshops on human change and transformation
- Small group work and team development to boost the group’s performance