'I Finally Got My Mom Out of My Head!'
A follow-up letter from a self-doubting squirrel with extremely high standards!
Ignoti Nulla Cupido (1960) by Dorothea Tanning
You responded to my letter a year ago. I wanted to thank you and give an update. :)
In the past year my relationship with my mom has improved astronomically. Two big reasons for that, I think: 1) I started a band this year (!!) and started writing songs for it, which have increased my sense of purpose and self-trust about 100 fold and thus made me much less defensive and more relaxed, despite it being an extremely intense and challenging project; 2) She came to visit me in September and saw how rich and full my life is here (including a lovely sunset gig my band put on especially for her, in a community garden). Not only have we not had any tearful fights since then, but I also experienced my visits home for the holidays to be genuinely relaxing and enjoyable this year! My mom is pretty cool, and she's deriving increasing meaning and joy from her own painting practice.
I'm still single, I'm still not totally sure what I want, and I still worry about that sometimes, but I'm far less panicky. After band practice or a gig, I feel so ALIVE and COMPLETE. It's the best thing ever. When I'm writing a song that I end up being proud of, I feel like I'm walking and trusting a path that only I can see. I'm paying attention to what's beautiful and what's honest. That's what I'm trying to strive for in my relationships, too: faith, beauty, honesty. The brief relationship I had this year was my most satisfying, ever, even though it didn't work out.
So thank you, so much. I return to your letter frequently and still take so much from it.
Get My Mom Out of My Head
Thank you so much for this inspiring update! I love that pursuing your passions has made you less defensive and more relaxed about everything.
Let this be a lesson to anyone who’s fallen into the habit of describing themselves as lazy or moody or overwhelmed by life. Start digging a little and you’ll discover that you’re secretly ambitious, wildly romantic, and anxious to overachieve on every front. Sensitive, intense, thoughtful humans want a lot from life, so much that it hurts. We want so much that we avoid knowing how much we want. And when we avoid and avoid and avoid, living in fear of our true desires, we become misaligned with our true natures — and with nature itself, for matter.
Even though we were ebullient, idealistic, and optimistic as small children, our disappointments and frustrations accumulate and we start to describe ourselves as disorganized, lazy, impatient, critical, inconsistent, demanding, and/or impossible to please. But none of those traits are actually signs that you’re a complete dirt bag with low standards. They’re signs that you’re a person who wants MORE.
If you want more, you need to honor that — in love, at work, with friends, everywhere. Instead of calling yourself unrealistic — or even self-involved, greedy, selfish, or impossible! — it’s crucial to recognize that your needs and preferences are valid and even righteous. Because the more you dare to give yourself the life that you might truly love, the more generous and full and also relaxed and happy you’re going to be.
What I love about your original letter and your follow-up is that you understood all along that you weren’t wrong to want what you wanted. Luckily your mother modeled a love of art for you and your father always reminded you to trust yourself. You’ve obviously worked hard to separate your doubts and fears from your passions and ambitions, and you’re clearly good at deriving satisfaction in the moment from doing what you love. So many people who want A LOT from life are also confused about how much they’re allowed to expect or hope for, so much so that the second you ask them about something they badly want, they start to feel stupid and ashamed.
To those people, I just want to say keep digging deeper, and keep noticing how much a core sense of yourself as a greedy, impossible human (lol sorry but yes this is what you might find!) impedes your ability to give yourself what you need to thrive.
This year, let’s make GMMOOMH our role model in pursuing exactly what we love and trusting a path that only we can see. By building our faith in our favorite people, places, and things in the moment, we will become increasingly happy, relaxed, and accepting of others. That starts with giving ourselves the right to be who we are. That means we get to love who we love and also not really like who we do not like. When we have fun, we get to say HOLY GOD, THIS IS FUN, AND I DESERVE *EVEN MORE* FUN! When we meet people we enjoy, we get to be a little bit over-the-top about making sure we see them again. And if we aren’t having enough fun or don’t have enough friends or hate our jobs or don’t seem to have time for anything at all? We get to talk about that with people who understand, have good boundaries, and want us to thrive. We also get to EXPECT MORE FROM THIS LIFE.
GMMOOMH, I’ll bet you’ve inspired your mother to paint more often, and to give herself more space to be exactly who she is. That’s something you should feel very proud of. Maybe at some point she’ll even tell you that directly. If she does, believe it!
Relationships sometimes do heal. Even old, ridiculous, messed up relationships from your deep past can reinvent themselves completely, with good boundaries, mutual respect, acceptance, and time. It’s not easy and it’s not instant, but I really want to make sure that I keep reminding everyone who reads this column that anything is possible. The more you heal your relationship with yourself, and dare to trust your own heart, the more clearly you can see that your love is built to transform the world.
This is why I’m such a zealot about trusting your deepest desires and your vision of how interesting and beautiful life could be. When you trust yourself — even in this moment, even right now, through a haze of worries and fears — you become more brilliant, more kind, more relaxed, and more full of love.
Thank you so much, GMMOOMH, for sending such a great follow-up letter. You really made my day. And if anyone else has an update, send it my way (email@example.com) and I’ll try to run more of these moving forward if readers like them.
In the meantime, keep the faith, squirrel buddies! It’s 2024 and you’re a survivor. Your disorganized, recalcitrant, dissatisfied self is also your passionate, independent, courageous, creative self. Keep prioritizing what you need and ignoring what doesn’t matter to you. Believe in your truest desires and FEED YOUR EXUBERANT SOUL.
Shifting back to subscriber-only content for a while, but thanks to everyone for reading, and remember that free one-year subscriptions are available upon request to those who are struggling financially! Send requests and advice letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.