I would tolerate many things as a child, but I would not tolerate being reckoned a liar or a hypocrite. Once a thing was said or a decision taken, I clung to that. To do otherwise, in my childish logic, would define me as a liar. Lying was the most immoral of acts; the most grievous of mortal sins. In other words, I did not learn, as a child, that it was okay to not know, to be unsure, or to change my mind. This ingrained in me a lifelong habit of tenaciously manifesting what I had said or “proclaimed”—to myself and others. I made decisions quickly and once a decision had been reached, what little internal dialogue I allowed myself ceased altogether. There was no space whatsoever to change my mind. The very concept of changing my mind did not exist for me. At all. Literally. I carried this habit of clinging to decisions that were painful and dangerous to myself and others into adulthood. Once a course of action had been determined, there were no backsies. I felt committed wholly and with dogged persistence to follow through with that which had been decided. I allowed myself zero room for error and held doubt at bay with a dogmatic certitude. I am not sure I can account fully for all of the wreckage this has caused in my own life and the lives of the people around me.
I know now that this particularly rigid structure of mind was inherited. I know now that in my mother’s mind, with which I was enmeshed for so very long, binary logic was applied to every aspect of life, and applied equally to both mundane and Godly affairs. Once a determination had been made, there was no going back for her. It was truth and there was no hope that the truth, once determined, could be tampered with. This is how I learned to be-in-the-world. My mom used to say, frequently: You made your bed; now sleep in it. The bed I made was a painful and confusing place. But I did not understand until recently that I could do otherwise but stay in that bed.
However, unlike my mother, my psyche never fully accepted binary systems. For me there has been a dissonance at what feels like a cellular level: I lived and accepted a binary world while my heart/mind clung to a different, more complex, and more compassionate reality. It makes me sad sometimes that it has taken me decades to realize this, and that I had to experience so much confusion and paralyzing anxiety on my journey. It is also discouraging, at times, to understand that the work to maintain my sanity—spiritually and psychically—will last as long as I live. But I also feel lucky because I did, in fact, begin awakening to the complexity of being fully human. My psyche is healing.
I like to think that as a result of this healing process, when it comes to decisions that involve strong emotions or powerful thoughts, I can and almost certainly should remake my bed. I can and should remake my bed as many times as I want to until it feels like a comfortable and safe place. From this place, I think I might be able to make sane decisions.
There is a saying, ascribed to sources as far ranging as Anonymous, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Margaret Thatcher, and a man named Frank Outlaw, who was at one time the president of the Bi-Lo supermarket chain:
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
Now I can see how, for most of my life, the thought that I could neither change my mind nor remake my bed solidified into words, actions, and habits. These actions and habits included decisions, and I felt morally obligated and duty-bound to follow through on those decisions: No backsies!
I sometimes feel as if intervention came just in time. Like I was this close to having this particular habit solidify into character, and then, destiny.
Now, my destiny is less certain. And I know this: I can remake my bed anytime . . . and as many times as I need or want.