B: Alright, so if you’ve been listening and following along, we have talked quite a bit about girls in literature that show up in different ways than the framework of our society expects them to. And one of those is the fantastic Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. We talked a lot about her as a young girl, with that underappreciated and not-quite-understood skill of having “First Sight,” which is seeing things as they are and see what’s actually there. “The emperor has no clothes” versus Second Sight, which is what you expect to see and almost confirmation bias, which we all know to be very popular, right?
A: Because it’s a rare gift to be able to see anything outside of your cultural filter, right?
B: Yup. So there’s a lot that we unpacked with that, because we don’t often give children the credit that they deserve when they have that ability, and when they’re truth tellers, and when they’re confident in the skills that they have and who they are, and they’re really forward with that and they will tell you, and they won’t take any nonsense, and they won’t take any inauthenticity.
We’re not really honoring of that in children in general, but especially not young girls. I think, a lot of times, that’s because we have our own insecurities around that as adults. And [in the series] Tiffany grows up, and we get to see how she turns out as an adult with these strengths and weaknesses and support and lack of support and how that shows up as an adult. And there’s just so much to unpack here.
The Benefits and Blindspots of “Living in Your Head”
A: So I think my favorite thing about Tiffany moving into her older self is that when she’s younger, we start to see the very beginnings of her having what’s called Second Thoughts, which is like Terry Pratchett’s clever play on words about the concept of stepping outside of yourself and observing your own thought patterns objectively. Which is something that it sounds like a unicorn ability, right? The ability to have First Sight and see things really the way they really are, and to step outside of yourself and observe your own thoughts of objectively. To be able to say, “Oh wow, I’m reacting very defensively there. I wonder what that’s about.” That’s not a talent that a lot of people possess. So it kind of sounds a bit like a Mary Sue quality, right?
So, have you found in your own life, Brannan, that having First Sight and Second Thoughts have made you exceptionally popular with other people? There? Is this real. Do people love those traits in you? [laughter]
B: Is it endearing to others? Uh, there’s this little, I think it’s just a meme, but I need it on a sticker, and it’s for INTPs, if you do Myers-Briggs (probably people listening will), because we kind of like to navel gaze a little bit.
It’s this little cartoon character and all of his guts and organs are laying out in front in this kind of adorable way, and he’s like: “Hm, something interesting has happened here” and I need it in my life.
Because I don’t really feel very present in my body. I don’t feel sensations. I have a lot of tattoos and my husband’s like, “it’s really not fair because I think that you don’t have sensation in your extremities, because you don’t experience pain for, like, long hours. And um, I’m just really not very present in my own body and there’s a lot of drawbacks to that. And then there’s positives to that.
Like being in labor. I remember hitting transition with really my second and third and fourth [children]. And in Transition your mind kind of goes a little bit primal and you kind of lose—
A: It’s an altered state of consciousness.
B: Yeah. It’s different, and one of the markers of being in that transition point in labor is saying, “I can’t.” You just decide: I’m not having a baby. This is not coming on. Right. I’m done. We’re finished here. Put everything away. We’re going home. No babies happening.
And so I would get to that stage and I would become—I’m a really internal processor, but again, you kind of shadow function in those positions—and I would verbally talk myself through labor and I would get to transition and go, “I can’t do this. Oh, thank God it’s transition!”
A: Because you heard yourself say the words “I can’t do it” when you were hovering outside of yourself.
B: Totally outside of myself, and so I would… There was like this duality happening where like I knew that the things that I was seeing and feeling were Transition, and a good sign, but I was still feeling them and they were still happening.
And how that translates in everyday life is: you just look like a space cadet.
Like, yeah, it looks like you don’t care. It looks like you don’t know. It looks like you don’t feel, it looks like you have no empathy and you are told, “Do better! Do this better! Why aren’t you feeling? Why aren’t you thinking, why aren’t you feeling, why aren’t you reacting, why aren’t you responding? Um, you know, do you not hear me? Do you not see me?
It’s really difficult to find those connections with people because they’re expecting those connections to show up in certain ways. Right? So if you’re telling the truth or if you are being disconnected from a situation, you’re either going to get one of two reactions. My experience is either people are going to be frustrated with you because you’re shut down, right? Or they’re going to shut down. Or they’re going to see that “shut down” as neutrality and just spill their guts to you like you’re a therapist, and that’s not a fun experience. Yeah.
A: You don’t like it when people start weeping all over you? [teasing]
B: Not really. I’m not really the one for that. I like, yeah, kind of pat from a distance. Um, but yeah, there’s people trying to read you based on their expectations, which again is that Second Sight where [they’re] trying to make the world fit within [their] framework. I’ve always felt like an observer to my own body, rather than being present and connected in experience,
A: Which [gathering thoughts babble] puts you in a position of being able to remain objective even about your own thoughts and feelings. Like you can observe your own biases a little bit more easily. That doesn’t mean everybody who has that quality does so all the time. But [generally] you have the ability to do so and access it more easily than other people without somebody having a pointed out to you, right? Because you’re a little bit more detached from your own emotional experience, but even sometimes a little bit detached from your thought patterns. That’s a big part of me too. Like it’s something that I probably developed more in adolescence, and it doesn’t come quite as naturally to me as it does for you probably, but it’s a big part of my personality in life.
I love the analogy—I can’t remember who said it; maybe you can just google it if you’re curious [it was Eckhart Tolle]—but it’s the concept of having a watcher in your head or taking the position of a watcher. You kind of pull yourself out of your body and out of your mind, and observe yourself. It’s a form of ego detachment. You step out of your body, and you step out of your own mind. And you say, “How am I thinking about this?” And you can observe your own thought patterns and observe your own emotions about [a subject]. Um, and then become present again and say, “Okay, well I found something corrupt there in that thought pattern. I’m going to correct it.” So now, I am in alignment with truth again, right? I’m in the right place again.
But unfortunately, objectivity also has this drawback, if you spend a lot of time in that watcher position:
You could be getting attacked by fire ants and not necessarily notice, because you’re not present in your body.
B: Or you know, sit recording podcasts for five hours and not have had a proper meal.
A: Subsisting on gummy bears and chewing gum and half glasses of wine and coffee.
B: So I know there’s a whole host of ridiculous body things that I know we share, but I have found very recently that I struggle to feel basic body cues like hunger [when I’m experiencing] strong emotions like anxiety, thinking really hard about something, or [feeling] excitement. If I’m really excited about something, I just won’t notice that I’m hungry until that feeling subsides. And then I’m like, “oh, hey, I’m a human.” I’m like suddenly shaking and have a headache, and I will not have felt it all day long.
And that can happen if I get in the flow of working or if there’s something that I’m anticipating; it doesn’t matter. Right. I don’t even notice it.
A: Right. Exactly. Like if you’re going to go all Myers-Briggs dork—which, you know, I love to do on a regular basis—like, if you’re really super locked into that particular process of thinking, and being really inward and observing your own thought code and thought patterns, it gives you the amazing ability to focus for very long periods of time on a single thing. (Which is, I mean obviously there are probably neurological developmental things in children that could mimic that. Which definitely you should check into; like if you ever think there’s something wrong with your kid [such as seizures, etc] or something’s not quite matching or jiving or something, you know, attend to that; pay attention.)
But I knew for kids like [Tiffany], you could spend like literal hours doing the same thing, and maybe in the meantime your blood sugar is falling and falling and falling and falling, but meanwhile your brain is getting so much energy from the internal world and focusing on that problem that you’re solving that you don’t necessarily notice until it’s reached critical mass: way too late.
And they turn around and slug [their] sister or pitch a flying fit, and it always seems very out of the blue and out of character. Because your kid is super docile, quiet-in-the-corner, and then just like these happy, shiny rage fits come out, and you’re like, “What’s going on with you? This came from nowhere. I don’t know what’s going on!” But yeah, we tend to lose touch with the things that are important, sometimes.
Helping Kids to Honor Their Physical Needs
B: Yeah. We have like I have one kid who we’re always having to be like, “You need to eat protein. It’s time.” And then I have another one who will just cry about how hard it is to be human and “why do we have to eat so many times?” and “why does it take so long to go poop?
A: “I could be doing so many interesting things right now!” [laughter]
B: To be fair, she can’t read yet. So if she could read then maybe she could like can time better.
A: You were talking about this earlier; our favorite bathroom situation as children would be to have just like stacks of interesting reading material. I used to read, like, if there was no book, I would describe the shampoo bottle. Grab like, I don’t know, the laundry detergent that’s underneath the cabinet and just memorize the ingredients.
B: My two oldest. So this is really interesting; my kids who are more intuitive and more “in their heads”, I cannot get them out of the bathroom and, before they were big too big to do it, they would sit cross-legged on the toilet and just read. I would go in there and they would just be sitting cross-legged on the toilet. Like it was the living room rug, reading and reading and reading and reading. My more body-aware, physical child is in and out, no interest in that.
So, um, yeah, there’s just those spaces where we can take time to just do nothing but feed our brains. You can get completely lost in that, totally lost in that. But the problem is, it is lost. Like, unfortunately, we are human and we do have a body and a brain.
A: …as much as we wish were robots…
B: Or jellyfish?
A: …floating through the universe, unencumbered…
B: Yes. Ugh, as much as we wish we were that, we’re not. And there does come a point where you have to develop that skill [of tuning into the present], and we have to help our kids do that.
So Tiffany didn’t have that growing up. Apparently, she wasn’t. Or maybe she didn’t listen to it. She was not in check with her body and she grew up to do amazing things.
A: Well, and she’s extremely active in her community. Like she’s not completely disengaged from the physical world but she is disengaged from her own body.
So. I feel like the external world validates and values extroversion and the ability to check things off a checklist so much, we get praised for that and we can get so much affirmation and validation (“Yes, you’re a good what you do, you are super competent!”) that we’re like, “okay, this is who I am.” Our identity starts to grow around busyness and being useful in our community, especially if that’s a point of insecurity for us. Because for me—I don’t know if this was your experience—but when I was a kid, I was so detached and so kind of dreamy and not particularly practically helpful to the people around me, that I got kind of a complex about it because I got feedback like:
“Your head is always in the clouds! You’re not any earthly good!” I was actually told in exactly those words, “you’re not any earthly good.” And like, I had spent so much time thinking that I got a lot of negative feedback for being a “space cadet”, right? And for being detached.
So I doubled down on, “Well, I’m going to be a really useful engine. I’m going to be helpful to the people around me! I’m going to do the pragmatic stuff that nobody notices and nobody’s capable of doing, and I’m going to double down, and I’m really just going to engage and be really good at a lot of stuff!” Right? And so we take on so much responsibility as a way of self-validating. Like, okay, well, if I’m not good at that, “well, I’ll show you. I am good at that! And I have things to bring to the world that are of use and value,” right?
B: I mean the reason we are so into this genre and this literary concept of the witch is that she’s almost always competent in multiple things and interested in multiple things. She has a lot on her plate because there’s a is a natural draw to be involved in multiple things, and we want to try things out and experiment and we want to have our hands in all kinds of things. We don’t want to sit down and become experts in one thing for the rest of our lives.
When you have that kind child, and you’re raising that kind of adult who’s into a lot of different things, if we don’t help them become body aware and pace themselves and take their time, it’s really easy [for them] to spread [themselves] out, way too thin, way too fast. It happens without even realizing it, because there’s not a great concept of time. There’s not a great concept of spatial awareness and what’s happening in your body and what’s happening in your home.
And you can just look up one day and realize that you’re like living in three inches of grime because you haven’t looked up, literally have not seen that your fortress of solitude is full of trash. You haven’t noticed just any of it.
We have this literary shorthand of the witch from old, old concepts—we went all the way back to Artemis in our last conversation, all the way up to Hermione. And more recent books coming out are diving back into it, immersing in it, because this is a fascinating human, right? t’s interesting to see someone [like that], and there’s a lot that society puts on them, and a lot that we can learn from them.
But at the end of the day there are real life human children and adults who fit this and relate to it. And um, there’s a lot that they need help with. (We need help with.)
A: Absolutely. Well, and I think that when you’re the sort of person…like I consider myself to be, on the masculine-feminine spectrum, I am kind of more androgynous in the middle, right? Not as a personal identity [necessarily], but just in traditionally accepted traits. Right?
So my ambitions tend to fall in line with more traditionally masculine ambitions. Agency’s very important to me, and seeing what I can change in the world and what can I accomplish in the world. And I’m not saying that those are things that belong to boys—that’s total bull crap; these things belong to humans.
But yeah, the added layer on top of that is I’m trying to [attend to] that because that’s my inner drive, but also I’m absolutely aware of the feminine expectations of my life, of myself as being a person who is capable of doing emotional labor, who is a caregiver, who is aware of the needs of my community. And that is on my radar somewhat naturally. But there’s this extra added layer of, “Okay, but I have to do this and this too.”
And you run yourself absolutely ragged trying to say, “Okay, I’m gonna follow my own lights internally. This is the drive that I have inside of myself that’s burning.” Right?
On the other hand, because I was raised to be aware of the needs around me (which is not a bad thing by the way), I am also hyper-aware of everything that needs to be done around me in a way that someone who has not been raised to be empathetic probably wouldn’t be.
So I can’t walk by a thing that I know is going to cause communal trauma down the road or cause communal distress or whatever—and that could be something as simple as someone who’s left a hot iron on, right? I can’t walk by that and not unplug it. I’m going to take care of the thing. And that’s kind of a dumb example; that’s basic. But you know what I’m saying; if I see something and I can tell that it’s going to cause difficulty for the entire community.
I think that’s the position that “the witch” often occupies; it’s the person who can look at things objectively and see them for what they are, and call even themselves out on their [own] bullshit, but also is pragmatic and wants to set everyone else up for success. That is a large load. That’s a lot to carry for any one person.
B: And this isn’t an uncommon theme. We see it with women who are entrepreneurs. And even if you’re just, you know, stay at home mom or if you choose not to have children. It’s even worse when you get to the point of being nonbinary and gender nonconforming or transgender: anytime we start to upset the expectations of the binary, we don’t “fit”. People don’t know what to do. They don’t know what to do with you because of that Second Sight. They have expectations of where you should fit, right? And they don’t know how to, how to put you into that box.
Obviously our first societal responsibility is to burn the whole thing down.
We have the ability, especially if you do fit in one of those boxes—if we have like cisgender males listening, or, you know, we’re both white women—when we have those positions of power within the structure, we have some strength to be able to knock it down and to elevate other voices. So that’s our first responsibility.
Our second responsibility is empowering our children—empowering our female children, and empowering our gender nonconforming children, and our transgender children—to be strong in themselves and to feel supported by us. To feel that strength and to be able to connect to their body even if their body doesn’t match what they have been told it’s supposed to.
A: Yes! So they’re not doing the thing of hovering above themselves and being like, “well, what am I?” You have to be able to draw your affirmation for yourself from your existence in the world as a human creature, as a physical creature, as an animal that’s walking the earth, right? You have to be able to affirm your presence to yourself because nobody else is gonna do it for you.
We would like to think that other people would, but unfortunately sometimes if someone doesn’t conform to the mold that people already have for you, they’re not going to look at you and say, “Oh, look, a lovely young lady you are.” In the same way that witches often found themselves either celebrated or at the center of a bonfire, people are super mercurial in their responses to people will are atypical somehow.
You’re either celebrated or everybody’s coming after you with a pitchfork. Because people don’t know what to do with the outsider, which is maybe starting to touch on another podcast topic. But it’s good. Like, it’s good to think about.
B: I think we had to go this direction though because it’s more than “just set some alarms on your phone and make sure you eat food.” There’s like a deeper level to the reason that we have to be connected to our body. And I’m gonna promise you if you’re not, um, this type of personality and you’re raising someone who is, you cannot understand how difficult it is to actually do that.
And the other component is, if we don’t have a reason, if you don’t give us a clear reason that we should or should not do something, we’re going to experiment the hell right around that.
If there’s not a reason, I am not spending my time on it; my brain could be doing other things. So it’s really a lot of intensive work to be like, “No, your body is part of you!”
Once again, I love the advice I got when my kids were littler. I’d asked like, “When do I need to get them evaluated for things? Like when do you do that?” And one of our mutual friends said, “It’s when you need help. If you get to a point where you can’t help them anymore, then get help. There’s no baseline for that.”
So talking to that point: this is body awareness that can step into gender dysphoria and bigger things. Get your kid help.
The younger you can support them in that way, the better they are growing up as an adult. And that’s really what the whole point of these conversations, is supporting our kids no matter where they fall around boxes and expectations and lines and all of that, and helping them feel supported and understood even if you can’t directly empathize.
A: Right! Exactly! Because the end result is to not have them turn out looking like somebody else. The end result is to have them to be the most empowered, whole version of themselves that they can be.
I…I tend to disagree a little bit with the, the cult of like…Okay, I love radical self-acceptance. And I think sometimes it doesn’t necessarily always do people favors if you tell someone, “You’re wonderful just the way that you are!” with the expectation that you never have to grow or work on anything.
Like, no; you need to learn how to take care of yourself. You have to eat and you have to able to sleep. Or if you have an anger management problem, that’s the thing you gotta work on. It’s not easy, but I believe in you, and I believe in your ability to do this hard thing, right?
“You can do that, and I’m going to help you, and I’ll be here to support you.”
And while you’re doing that for little kids, I think it’s good to be extra to extend some extra grace to people who are not particularly body-aware, even for longer [age-wise] than you think you might have to.
You should probably greet them at the door with protein, for longer than you think you should have to. You might have to remind them to go to the bathroom. And it was really super good for me to banish all thoughts from my head of: “Yeah, but they should be doing this at this age” or, “Yeah, but her sister did it or her brother did—” or “by this age, I was like—” You just have to scrub that.
Cause if you’ve raised one kid, you’ve raised one kid.
So whatever the kids need is at the time, that’s just their need. And then you can graaaadually start handing off [responsibilities]. One of my friends [hi Allison!] gave me this line for raising children and I’m forever grateful for it. Like once they hit like 11 or 12, with hormones, you notice almost toddler regression stuff. When hormones for adolescence start hitting, you have to walk back your expectations of what they’re capable of doing for themselves and assessing for themselves, because hormones just take everything and shake it up and throw it in the blender. So you have to be able to revisit and say: “Well what are their needs right now?” And that might change on down the road, but what are their needs right now?
B: So we’ve talked some in the other episodes about the way emotions almost feel like an intrusion and your hormones and that stage, you know, are amplified so many more times. And so it feels like this constant intrusion, and awareness of your body gets so much worse.There’s a lot of not caring and then that turns into social repercussions, and there’s over-caring to overcompensate and it’s just a mess. It’s a minefield. You were very happy in your brain, and okay with having to deal with your body, but now your body’s completely on the fritz.
A: Ten years old is just like a perfect age, right? You kind of have a little bit of mind mastery and your hormones haven’t driven up and beaten you up and stolen your lunch money yet. But to a person for whom your emotions already feel a bit like an insult, or a bit like you’re blindsided by your own feelings on a regular basis, hormones just feel violating. It’s like: “get it off me!!” because it’s the most insulting feeling.
I remember having outbursts, and I felt so betrayed by my own self.
I was like, “Why am I crying? Why did I yell at that person? Oh my God, this is so insulting.” I felt insulted all the way down to my bones that my body was acting out in ways that I didn’t give it permission for. I think the best thing that you can do for a kid like that is: if you have the ability to, explain to them the chemical process of what’s going on in their body and brain right then. And if you don’t have the ability to, find somebody who’s good at it and ask them for resources.
Because knowledge demystifies that in such a huge way. [They] feel like: “maybe I’m not losing my mind and maybe I don’t hate my feelings. Maybe someday I can learn how to trust my emotions and feelings as they come up again, even if they feel like a wild tiger right now.”
B: And in addition, too, we’re always going to give you links to the books that we talk about. We’re going to include resources, especially resources for LGB+ kids and trans kids who are dealing with this on an even greater scale. We’ve got your back.
So. Tiffany is a multitasker, and she has not developed this skill.
A: She has not, and the funny thing is, she’s so smart and so good at taking care of other people, she thinks she has. [laughter]
I think both you and I… drawing back to our personal lives… I think both you and I have some good working basic knowledge of nutrition. We have good working basic knowledge of natural health…
B: … it feels like something that your brain has ‘checked off’ because: “I know the thing.”
A: [laughter] We’ve intellectualized it.
B: Like when you put something in a safe place, and your brain is like: “That’s a safe place. I don’t need to remember it anymore.” It’s gone. I’m like, “yeah, I know nutrition” and BYE. Like, it’s completely that’s checked off. I [must] eat well just because I know it.
A: Yeah! It’s like during PMS, it’s really important that I have decent water intake. That’s the thing that I know. So obviously that’s the same as having actually drunk the water instead of two gallons of coffee this morning. Or if you’re able to tell other people how to do it, sometimes it feels like, “Well, I have mastery of this knowledge” [laugh]
There’s such a difference between having mastery over a body of knowledge and be able to regurgitate it to other people, or to even teach it really well to other people; to teach classes to other people, as the case may be sometimes. Versus actually applying it to your own life.
B: To work on books on it, right? You don’t know how many times I, I edit, and so often my authors will be surprised when they get to the end of a book about self-care or about nutrition or about stress, and they have spent the entire time ignoring their body, eating like crap, massively stressed. And you almost get this imposter syndrome when you realize it. Maybe I’m not an actual expert because obviously those things are synonymous. But they’re not synonymous.
And we see that with all kinds of caregivers. So our nurturer type personalities, they run into this as well because anytime you’re giving of yourself, you tend to neglect yourself, but then when you are also disconnected from your body, it can be really difficult to even notice that it’s happening.
Who Watches Out for the Witches? (Leading by Example)
So I love this passage where a kind soul…
A: …a like-minded dear friend that Tiffany Aching has just met in the book I Shall Wear Midnight. Okay quick backstory: This girl [Tiffany] has an incredible amount of responsibility on her plate. In the past 24 hours, she’s been responsible for caring for a dead body, handling the estate of this person who’s like ruling in her area, caring for a girl who’s suffered a traumatic miscarriage; like she’s handling so much more than she should be at her age, and [the townspeople] have thrown her into the dungeon at different points because she’s being accused by this man who is basically a witch hunter. Right?
And [Tiffany’s] basically saying [to her friend]: “You need to let me out of this dungeon because there are wounds that need dressing and old people that need turning. And I need to go visit them at their house and my flying broomstick and go take care of everything that’s on my list.”
She has this leather list-book of things that she has to do.
B: It’s an old-school bullet journal!
A: It is an old-school bullet journal. That’s exactly what she has. So her friend Preston is talking to her and you’re going to have to forgive me for butchering some Latin here. (I don’t claim to be a Latin scholar.) Okay. So here we go:
“Preston looked thoughtful for a moment. ‘Excuse me, Tiffany,’ he said, ‘but you don’t look well. In fact, no offense meant, you look absolutely dreadful. If you were someone else, and took look at you, you would say that you looked very ill indeed. You don’t look as if you’ve had any sleep.’
‘I had at least an hour’s worth last night and a nap the day before,’ said Tiffany.
‘Really,’ said Preston looking stern. ‘Apart from breakfast this morning, what did you last have a proper meal?’
For some reason, Tiffany’s still felt full of light inside. ([giggle] That’s a big mood)
‘I think I might’ve had a snack yesterday.’
‘Oh, really?’ said Preston. ‘Snacks and naps. That’s not how somebody is supposed to live. It’s how people die.’
He was right. She knew he was, but that only made things worse. ‘Miss Tiffany, you need a rest, a proper rest in a proper bed. What kind of witch can look after everybody if she’s not sensible enough to look after herself? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Which means who guards the guard, that does.’ Preston went on. ‘So who watches the witches? Who cares for the people who care for the people? Right now, it looks like it needs to be me.’
She gave in.” [excerpt from I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett]
So I love that passage so much. Um, I happen to be married to a person who’s a little bit more connected with their physical body than I am, and little bit more aware of basics surroundings and goings on. And I am so grateful to have people in my life who, while I’m busily running around and anticipating needs in administrating supplements and reminding people of stuff and trying to stay a step ahead, while I’m hustling my own hustles and side hustles… can step in and say, “When did you eat last?”
B: Yeah, we actually just restructured our home—and you had similar as well—we’re kind of moving through and so terribly in-our-thiries. All the big things happening!
A: We are the adultier adults right now.
B: I don’t know. I don’t believe it. But we restructured our lives because I’m also married to a person who notices body things. And so after years spent being frustrated with me doing the hustles and the side hustles while trying to be homeschool mom, stay-at-home-mom and all of that with tiny children, and him going to work and trying to people all day and not really caring to…
He’d come home and be frustrated with the house, and I’d be like, “What are you talking about with the house? I don’t see anything.”
We were so outside of our roles and outside of our comfort zones—and not just comfort, but just where our brains thrive.
A: Just miles away from your wheelhouse.
B: And when we realized that and went, “So, we don’t have to actually live this way, we can restructure it.” I don’t know, I mean I do know why it takes us so long to figure these things out, and I have to admit a level of privilege to be able to say that. But we’re down to one income in the way that many families go down to an income.
But instead of me being the one to [stay at home] and, you know, by default, we looked at our strengths and we looked at our interests and we looked at all of the big picture and decided that didn’t ever make sense.
A: It was somebody else’s rulebook.
B: Yeah! So we went with what made sense, and now I do the hustle. I do the work. And he will bring me food and I’m like, “I don’t want to eat food.”
And he’s like, “But you have to eat food, you have to eat this thing.”
A: EAT THE FOOD TINA!
B: And I’ll eat like half of it. And he’s like, “That’s not enough food. You know, that’s not enough.” And we’ll kind of like argue a little bit, but it’s really… Having that person now as an adult, right, is massively important.
And we have to be that person in our children’s lives because there’s already a level of just immaturity and childlike, um, expectations. But then when you throw on the other layer of not being [body aware], you just have to be really proactive and work with them on it. It’s a thing I’m working on. I’m trying to eat food like the people do, but it’s always going to be a challenge because that is an thing outside of my wheelhouse.
My brain is not inclined to think that way, in the same way that other people are not inclined to want to look at data and spreadsheets and not want to do puzzles.
It’s just a different way that your brain works. And absolutely to be that person in our children’s lives with really clear explanations of why, what your body’s doing, and if you want to keep working on that project you’re working on, you need to feed your brain, your brain eats fat. “Here’s some sweet potato fries. Go nuts, kid.” That kind of thing is so invaluable and it feels like something that is kind of simple and basic, but it’s a massive important life skill that we have to impart to our kids.
A: Absolutely. Because the whole point is: Everybody has massive strengths that they’re never going to have to reach for; it’s the thing that comes easily to them. And everyone has blind spots that have to be covered. Especially as [kids] get older, the nice thing about it is: there’s not an answer. That’s actually a great thing.
Teaching Kids and Teens to Prioritize For Wholeness
There are so many ways that you can help solve and help teach. Like: my oldest daughter shares my tendency to sit around and starve to death until she gets hangry and then lashes out irrationally at people. Um, so her workaround, the solution that we came up with for her, is that she actually loves to cook and she’s really good at it. She is an awesome baker. (Holy Crap. Like, oh my pants are in so much trouble because she makes such good bread.)
But she discovered that she really loves it. She loves being creative with it. It’s something that kind of fuels her creative passion. And so if she’s super hungry, she’ll just go in the kitchen. Making new recipes is a big deal for her. That doesn’t work for my second born, but she can come up with her own out-of-the-box solutions that totally work for her, you know? The nice thing about it is that you can say, “What are you going to do about that? This is a problem. So what do you think you can do?”
I’ve honestly never asked an older kid that, who has low body awareness—usually if you have low body awareness, you tend to be pretty intuitive—I’ve never asked an intuitive child: “Can you think of a creative solution for that?” and have them not come back to me at some point in the next week with some kind of solution. Every single time, they come up with some kind of solution.
And that’s what we’re going for in the first place. We’re not just going for just this one time, landing food in their stomach, right? We’re going for, “Oh, I have the autonomy and agency to creatively think about my blind spots and try to cover them.”
So when [something] changes and that solution stops working, they will be able to draw from the experience of having gone back and brainstormed, and they can do that again. Which is kind of a lifelong thing, because I have to revisit that myself every six months or so.
B: It is, and it gives them those reserves to draw on, which was the the part in the passage you just read. Where he’s like, “Who takes care of [witches]?” Like how can you serve others if you’re not taking care of yourself.
A: “Put your oxygen mask on.”
B: “Put your oxygen mask on first”, “you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm”. Witches are often the one taking care of other people, but I think that is almost because of the currency that women have often been able to trade in for so long. And so the point was often that they were busy and entrepreneurial and out and moving and have to do things and “This needs to be met and I can do it. So why would I wait for anybody else?”
I’m not going to teach anybody to do it. I’m just going to do it—just constantly in motion, mentally or physically. So this is a trap that people who are nurturing tend to fall in. Um, but then it doesn’t always have to look like that. It’s not always caring for someone else, because now we have more currency available to us.
We can trade in our “to do” list. We can trade in the way that we get pings of affirmation from our children. We can trade in pings of affirmation from our teachers. We can trade in, I mean… I’m sure that there are some that are good at sports and also mind-driven. Um, I’m not that person, but you know….
A: [laugh] Such people exist in the world.
B: You look at our high school schedules for our high schoolers now, and if you’re in band, that might be your passion, but they’re going to work you to the bone hours and hours and hours outside of school, on top of school. [Ash’s post-note: as I work on this transcript, I’m currently waiting for my teen to text me to pick her up from late musical rehearsal…her twelfth hour of school today]
And because you want to learn, you’re going to be achieving more and trying to study more. And we can get caught up and spread [ourselves] out thin. And if you don’t have reserves to draw from, those things are going to get shut down. And when those things shut down, then you lose the things that are intellectually stimulating. You’re not fulfilled anymore.
It’s just this massive spiral that has to start with taking care of yourself.
B: Cause that’s a recipe for a situational depression.
A: It is. And what made me think of that was you talking about your daughter, um, creatively cooking. I remember realizing this when I had a bunch of small children and was trying to do early schooling. They were all really together for a while—four, two, and a newborn, which is my least favorite time in life—and I was also working full time from home and I had done a blog that I was trying to run for for a while about a vegetarian pregnancy, so I was cooking a lot.
And I realized at some point that when I wasn’t doing a creative endeavor, I had just been working the spreadsheets and I had been working the diapers and I had been working, you know, the admin side of blogging and all of those kinds of things. I couldn’t think of what to make for dinner anymore. I had nothing to go off of, and it almost became a creative endeavor in itself. It would either be either I had nothing left for it if I was doing other creative work (if I was writing instead of doing admin stuff that I couldn’t cook), and if I was cooking creatively then I couldn’t write anymore.
A: Because you only have so much bandwidth in any given day…
B: ….you only have so much, and part of teaching our kids to take care of their bodies and teaching them to be aware and teaching them to pace themselves as is reminding them that [body awareness] is what gives you the space to do what you want to do. And the fantastic part about that is you don’t have to do it all at once.
It’s okay because high school is such a limited time, and elementary schools is a limited time. It’s okay to not do everything. It’s okay to not have the perfect application. It’s okay to not have everything done and all the grades perfect, and extracurriculars because you have literally your entire life.
If you want to wait until you’re 25 to learn how to play the frickin’ trombone, wait, if that gives you some mental space to be able to enjoy high school.
A: Wow. Yeah, absolutely. The way that I was raised, it was definitely put to the younger people in our community that if you have the ability to do something, you almost have the responsibility to do it.
B: You don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
A: And I think I accidentally passed that idea, “don’t pass up any really cool responsibility” —I think even without saying it, I accidentally pass it on to my daughters [via my own overachieving]. And the other day I was sitting down with my 12-year-old and she was just crying, like, I am so tired all the time. And I said, “Well, let’s sit and write down what you’re involved in, and let’s knock two things off the list. How about that?”
So she ended up knocking off something that was really precious to her off the list, and I had to really just smoosh down that big, “oh no, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened. What a loss!” Because maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s the natural ending to [the interest]. Right. And she was fine.
She was fine with it. She was like, “I think this is complete.” And I thought, what a great thing to be able to look at something and say: “that was really good and now it’s complete and I can let it go. I don’t have to keep doing it. “Yeah, kind of huge. Your. Your life is like a your life as a creative story that you’re writing, right?
Your life is creative story and you get to be the author of it. You get to evolve it and shape it.
And it doesn’t have to look a certain way out of a sense of nostalgia or duty or responsibility.
B: And it can be a series. You can change, and [the story is] absolutely what you want now and what you’re doing now. It can be very different in five and 10 years and that’s totally fine.
And that’s the message. Some of us live it and some of us have to remind ourselves of it, and then other times you’re raising a child who was doing that when you would rather [them] be, you know, in the mastery. And you want [them] to do one thing forever, but it’s important to honor and acknowledge everybody’s role that they have to play in the life that they want to live.
And that, at the end of the day, is the big win; when we can raise kids who grow up to create the life that they want to live and be supported and honored in that…God. I got chills. Because that’s the dream.
Ah, this is fantastic. Can’t end it on any better note? It’s so hopeful. And I should probably eat food before you hear my stomach growl.
A: [laugh] Gotta practice what we preach here a little bit.
B: A little bit. We do try it. Until next time!
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