Years ago I heard this story:
Years and years ago, there was a merchant who, with his faithful horse, would visit farms to sell anything from pots and pans to medicine . Year in and year out, he would travel around and bring the farmers the bits-and-bobs that the nearby town might not have stocked. He always followed the same route, and after so many years, he didn’t need to tell his horse where to go and which farm they would drive into next… the horse knew the way. After the merchant died, a young, poor farmboy bought the horse for visiting a pretty girl in town. To his amazement, the horse wouldn’t stay on the road but would take every farm road, following a path that wasn’t his to take anymore. Habits of years gone by was so deeply ingrained, he simply followed the path he knew, despite having a new owner and a new mission.
I often use this story to illustrate how our perceptions and deeply ingrained thought patters follow the same road over and over again. Even if we have changed. Even if our situation have changed. It is so deep inside of us that, when put on the spot, it once again becomes our ‘default.
I had such an experience this weekend:
I love my mom and generally we get on well. My dad’s death had shaken our dynamic slightly as, to a great extend, he helped he translate the world and kept her able to relate to people.
OCD, borderline Agoraphobia make her a challenge to deal with for a long period of time, however, she had been harmessing those tendencies really well and helping me in this business, where an obsession with perfection is a huge plus. This has done wonders for our ability to accept each other.
This weekend I made arrangements for her to come and visit me. I had avoided it for years and years. Probably close to 12 years, made easier by the fact that she lives a short drive from me. But this weekend she was to sleep over.
At first we worked together and it was such fun, I actually considered that we could do this often. Then night fell and I was tired from working, and all I wanted to do, was to relax a bit. It is here that things began to unravel. Critisism over what I watch, about the puppy I. The house, about this, about that, silences and sighs, and I was on a knife’s edge before 9pm.
I had been the accomplished daughter, hours ago. She was proud of me. She admired me for my grit and hard work. And suddenly I wasn’t woman anymore. I became everything I felt was wrong with me I her eyes. My house is cleaned, but did I clean here? Why am I so lazy? Why am I not disciplined enough? Why do I need to take a breather after working 16 hours the past 6 days? Sitting down while the dishwasher is unpacked? Why do I even have a dishwasher? Good women washed with their hands! Why do I want to sleep in on this Sunday?
She didn’t say those things. Her eyes, and my own internal dialogue of the past 42 years was clear enough on it. I stumbled into bed, wounded. I slept badly and the pup woke her, not me, to take her out early morning. I felt an utter failure on tooany fronts.
Then I woke to a message from my dear BM this morning and I was so happy to chat. But I was off, and He noticed. Yet, I didn’t have the words inside of me to explain any of this. We started again, and again it wouldn’t flow. And then He asked me what was wrong and where my sense of humour was this morning. And immediately my mind went on the paths it had visited for years and years.
I was failing to myself. He noticed. And it made me feel like I failed… again. Instantly my mind went back to an internal dialogue of years ago and I felt I was…….just not good enough, despite my best efforts.
So, my mom has left, I’m alone again, and recognising that much of internal hurt is due to my own thoughts. I didn’t expect these to be so strong after so many years… but I was reacting like that darn merchant’s horse.