When I was a very young adult, I often boldly, and no doubt loudly, proclaimed that as soon as people figured out what was “wrong with them,” the onus was on them to fix it and move on because they had recognized it. If they still had hangups after that, then it was really their own fault, and they couldn’t blame anything on anyone else.
What a moron I was.
I took my mom to California to visit Quinn and his girlfriend this past weekend, and she and I had a lot of morning time to talk. The two-hour time difference coupled with the fact that she and I are early risers anyway meant we were up for hours before they were.
If you read this blog on social media, you know she reads this blog and almost always responds, which is fair since so much of what I am lamenting and writing about stems from her and the way she raised me. Or more importantly, the way I internalized many of the ways she raised me.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about that lately because she made a comment recently that my brothers and I feel absolutely free to rip in to her for all the mistakes she made when we were growing up and rarely acknowledge anything good that was done.
So let me be crystal clear right here: my mother was and continues to be astonishing. She created a home filled with laughter, music, good food, safety, high moral expectations, kindness, tenacity, education, spirituality, love and more. Many of my friends looked upon my mom as their surrogate mother; she sat up many nights with various young women, helping to guide them through whatever travail they were facing. I know this because since I started my blog, a number of them have reached out to tell me some story or another about their time with her more than 25 years ago.
Did she also create an environment, for me in particular, that was the flip side of that coin? You bet. She pretty regularly told me I was a “big girl,” attempted to tamper down my volatile personality, pulled the emotional rug right out from under me and developed in me a fear of success, something I have only started to uncover for myself, thanks to spin class and this blog.
But, to go back to my sage 20-year old’s advice, “Now I’ve named it, so get over it.”
Just get over it.
Another really great thing I did when I was young was completely dismiss the concept of self help books. It’s not lost on me that I also thought blogging was absolutely stupid, but that’s another story (I’m also sorry, Dr. Amy Rupiper-Taggart, that I refused to do the blogging assignments in graduate school and happily took a B to avoid doing them. Another area where the Universe, and now likely you, are laughing every time I sit down at the computer).
At any rate, I am re-reading You are a Badass by Jen Sincero for maybe the sixth or seventh time, but for the first time since I started blogging in earnest. I have discovered that there are a few books that resonate differently for me each time I read them. It’s these books that are dog eared and have notes and highlights scattered in the margins and between the chapters, showing the various “ah ha” moments that hit me during one reading or another.
Last night, I got all the way to Chapter 1 (don’t judge me—the introduction is long…ish). Titled, “My Subconscious Made Me Do It,” I read this chapter in a completely new way, having a new revelatory moment about myself.
According to my good friend Jen, we are born with a highly underdeveloped conscious mind (the frontal lobe for you science-y types) that doesn’t fully develop until around puberty. This takes in all the information around us, every moment of every day, and processes it.
We are also born with a sub-conscious mind; this is the set, non-analytical portion of our brain that has no ability to discern between fact and fiction, good and bad. It just is. So when, for example, my mom told me that “no one in our family can really dance,” I didn’t question it, I simply believed her, and consequently, I have never been comfortable dancing in front of others…because, as you know, we don’t dance. And it’s not even for religious reasons, it’s simply because we don’t. Like, I guess we physically can’t dance.
Sincero writes, “Our conscious mind thinks it’s in control, but it isn’t. Our subconscious mind doesn’t think about anything, but is in control. This is why so many of us stumble through life doing everything we know in our conscious minds to do, yet remain mystified by what’s keeping us from creating the excellent lives we want” (24).
So, let’s go back to my oh-so-wise younger, super-opinionated-with-no-real-substance-to-back-it-up self’s admonition to basically just get over it now that I’ve acknowledged it. Now that I know what’s keeping me back—my subconscious belief that I am not actually good enough to pursue anything big despite the fact that my conscious mind is telling me that I have achieved a number of very successful things and am capable of achieving much, much more—can’t I just let it go and start succeeding up the wazoo?
I don’t know.
So there’s my current rub. Because, despite how stupid I actually was when I was younger, I still don’t absolutely discount that basic premise that once you recognize a pattern or can see where the root of an emotional hang up is, you should be able to start to unravel it. There is truth to naming the problem and looking at it straight on.
I guess it’s the timeline of the unraveling that I was incorrect about. What I meant back then was the equivalent of a simple “Well, that’s taken care of” kind of hand shuffling as if to clean the sugar crystals off your fingers after eating a doughnut. Unfortunately, the “truths” that have lingered long in my subconscious brain aren’t as easily whisked away.
But I am looking at them, and I’m thinking about them, and, most importantly, I am working on unraveling them. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that yes, they were comments told to me by someone whose opinion carried the most weight, so they are deeply rooted “truths” in my subconscious brain.
But I also thought (and maybe still do just a teeny tiny bit) that my dolls came to life when I was asleep, and that Santa Claus was real and all kinds of other “truths” that we are told when we are little, and those haven’t ruined my life, so maybe there’s still hope.
There’s absolutely still hope.