The Best Advice
I have seen a lot of therapists in my time. Make of that what you will.
I’ve only had one therapist, however, who actually gave me ideas I could use.
(Unlike the myriad others who seemed to think that if I could just have an epiphany like, “Oh my god! I resent my mother yet seek to model my life after her!” I would be able to move on. For Pete’s sake, my eight-year-old could tell you she resents her mother, with almost no coaching, and for free.)
Her best idea is one I have used over and over: disappoint people.
She didn’t mean “screw people over” or “be unreliable.” She meant “don’t be so predictable,” and “don’t be afraid to be a dork.”
I have always been a dork, but it had not yet occurred to me, at my youngish age, that it was something not to be afraid of.
I was reminded of this advice listening to Will the Circle Be Unbroken while making dinner tonight, knowing that no one in the house was likely enjoying it but me.
Back when I was first experimenting with being disappointing, country music was my first step. Gradually I let it be known to my husband that I listened to the Dixie Chicks and Mary Chapin Carpenter on the country station when I was alone in the car. (You can tell I was younger then: I still had some residual belief that people care about what music you listen to.)
Over the next few years I tried several other things that sounded outrageously like things I would rather not be seen doing: scrapbooking (not bad), tap dancing (miss it like crazy), going to church (on and off), knitting (it stuck), cross-stitch (dear god, the horror), and homeschooling (why not?). None of it was “me” before I started doing it, all of it was “me” for a while, some of it stayed “me” for a long time afterwards.
“Me” was a lot more flexible than I thought – and it turned out to be true that doing all the “not me” things really freaked out people who thought they knew me. In that sense, they were disappointed—-the etymology is right on—-because I acted out of line with expectations. Sometimes I freaked out myself.
And then everyone moved on.
Turns out disappointing people is totally allowed.
When I feel ready to shake things up and surprise even myself, I like to think about how I can be disappointing—how I can do something that utterly frustrates expectations about what I would normally do or be.
It’s not listening to banjo music anymore, and it’s not playing with stickers and photos and stamps. I’m not sure what’s next for me. What’s next for you? What “not me” thing can you let yourself do just to see what happens?