Thursday, October 25, 2018

Beast Brain


I was texting with my BFF and she sent me a link about Monkey Brain.   Ironically a monk was explaining how to tame monkey brain. Which is basically just a million thoughts running through your head. So many thoughts that you can't complete one because you are already thinking of the next. Monkey brain is very similar to the conversations I have with my mom.  She will be talking about an obituary and somehow seamlessly transition to a discussion about sweet potato fries.

The Monkey brain texting thread arose from an email, text and a conversation where three people gave me extraordinary compliments.   They went out of their way, to tell me something that I did right. Or something that I said that made them feel loved, or even someone saying I was incredible.  
And I didn't believe any of them.  I do believe my mind races itself into knots,  but not with a cute little monkey.  Mine is a doubt beast and a really scary creature.  She doesn't scurry about, she stops and slams and makes herself known.

This beast is pretty intelligent too.  She took each of the compliments and created a pretty convincing case as to why they were false.   One: I did something right at work.  The beast's response is that it was just a fluke and I happened to do the right thing at the right time and somebody just happened to notice. Two: I made a friend feel special and loved.  Well, I was just being nice.  If they feel that way, maybe they are just having a bad day and my niceties came at a perfect moment.  And three,  I'm incredible. The beast reminded me that person may just be saying that because they don't see the real me, only what I write so they feel like they know me, but they really don't... Oh, and the other day someone called me beautiful, and the beast immediately thought they needed to get their eyes checked.

When Don and I were first married we had his parents visit our new grown-up house and I made strawberry shortcake.  Or I made what I thought was strawberry shortcake.   I was so proud of it, but they all giggled because it wasn't what they had thought was the right way to make strawberry shortcake.  Don said something like, his mom could teach me the right way to make it. The beast whispered in my ear that, I will never cook or bake like his mom. If I suck at strawberry fricking shortcake I could assume I suck at pretty much everything else, so what is the point of even trying.  I may also mention that this was about twenty years ago and I have never forgotten it.  And even more, I believed it as if it were carved in stone somewhere on a testament slab or something. That I,  Noelle cannot and will never be, able to cook or bake anything edible.  Anything that his parents may have said about how our house was decorated, or how happy they were to have me as a daughter-in-law was completely disregarded and not believed because the doubt beast is just so loud.

I wrote a great article that was shared more than anything I had ever written.  People loved it, I got emails from all over the world thanking me,  even today, I still get messages about it. Letters explaining how this article changed their life. In one case a woman told me it saved hers.  Which is amazing and I do believe it, however, that same article was posted on a well-known site and as I was riding this wave of self-achievement, a tiny little comment caught my eye.  It said " Good article, but she is a terrible writer."   This person must have been talking to my beast because they knew exactly what to say to drop a pin into my bubble and burst it into pieces. Now whenever I think about it this article, that is all I see.

So today, for whatever reason it occurred to me, that I have to tame this annoying beast. Because she is not only hurting me but now the people who love me.  And I may not protect myself, but if anyone threatens my family, well, game on.    When I compliment a loved one, I mean it. When they do same thing, I brush it off.

How I tame this beast of doubt seems impossible.   I have tried and tried over the course of my entire life. So I decided to try a new tactic.  What if I follow this beast. Follow it and find out where her home is. Find out where she nestles and originates her hunger to make me feel bad.  It might be a scary place.  I might discover something that makes me feel uncomfortable. But the truth is, I'm tired.  I'm tired of trying to tame this constant chatter of doubt.  It is not welcome anymore.
I want a truce, and I want to try and work things out.

I had my first opportunity when I was sitting in a meeting and I tried to say something and was talked over.  The beast whispered in my ear, "stop trying, you don't have anything interested to say."  But I do. So a little while later I tried again.  Granted, I had to raise my hand and practically wave it around, but I said what I needed to and by God, they heard me. I followed the beast's thought. You don't have anything interesting to say.  Ouch. I wouldn't say that to anyone that I love.  But I do recall a time that I felt that way and it was way back in elementary school. Not those words exactly, but a teacher told me I was wrong when I tried to explain why I wanted to have a polar bear as a pet.   The class laughed.  My seven-year-old heart broke.  (btw, my parent's got me a subscription to a world wildlife foundation magazine after that.) Which is rock start parenting in my opinion.
But even so, decades later that teacher is dead, but her words are very much alive in my head.
This doubt beast is persistent, but not unbeatable. It will be a work in process. I plan on writing out these doubts and find out where they originated because once I do, I can acknowledge them, face them and let them go.

I remember my mom saying "You are what you eat." and laughing that she was a Twinkie.   But I think the same thing could is true that  "You are what you think."   Be mindful of what you think about yourself, be kind.

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