There are a few things that are just hot-button issues for me. One is “The Point of Diminishing Returns.” I can do quite a lot on that topic. Another is “Self-Fulfilling Prophecies.” I’m a big believer that we build a surprising amount of our reality by what we tell ourselves. It’s not that there’s no such thing as objective reality, it’s that our subjective reality is what we pay attention to. We collect evidence to support the things we say to ourselves, and we disregard the rest.
Today at lunch, my mom mused aloud that maybe she should stop calling our house “Chaos Central” and start calling it “Malfunction Junction.” My bias is that she should stop calling it either one of those things. She’s focused on the things that are going wrong. If she stays focused on them, they’ll be most of what she sees, and it won’t feel much like a place worth being.
I’m working much too hard for that to be our story in the first two weeks. It costs both of us way too much money for us to give up this early. Are things chaotic? Yes, they are. Things are chaotic when you’re in transition. But “in transition” by definition doesn’t last forever.
She’s telling herself that there’s no storage space, when we both came from two bedroom condos much smaller than our current space. We do need to get rid of things, but she acknowledges that the things we need to get rid of are threadbare, worn-out, badly functioning things. We get to keep only the best stuff— that’s not that bad a story. We have more than we need— how many people have that as a story? She’s telling herself that everything is broken, but she has a big spacious house and bedroom where she’s been cool in the hottest part of the summer, after living in a building where you could seriously get heat-stroke at 11 p.m.. She’s telling herself that the retired electrician neighbor who can’t quite fix the fan he broke is ruining her life and telling the neighbors we don’t know outlandish tales. Who cares what people we don’t know say to other people we don’t know and may never meet? If they care enough about it, they’ll come to see themselves if we have four heads each, and we’ll get to make our own impression. You pick the evidence you consider, and she’s picking the evidence that reinforces a bad story.
All of these things sap her energy to move us in a better direction. And frankly, I can’t move us in a better direction if she won’t go. I need her to stop telling herself these things. Dead weight or active resistance to making things better is not going to help my forward momentum.
But by the same token, it sounds impossibly Pollyanna: “you have to look for the good in this situation! You simply must!”
Any thoughts about how to say this in a way she could actually hear it? I’m not saying to close her eyes to bad things, I’m asking her to make an effort to see that there are at least as many good as bad things.