Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 102: Mindful Motivation

(Ivy sits in a chair, watching an early-in-transition Daphne sit at her desk and use her computer. A message comes through on the screen and Daphne quickly clicks over to read it. Ivy watches as discomfort passes over Daphne’s face for a moment, but before she has time to process her feelings she’s already dashed off a reply. Ivy lets out an loud, irritated sigh.)

Mom (Me): Good morning, Ivy.

Ivy (The Companion): Huh? Oh, hi Mom.

Mom: You look annoyed.

Ivy: I’m frustrated. I’m watching our girl here confront the possibility of home ownership.

Mom: Ah, I remember those days. Our partner and I were hoping to buy a home to make our lives more stable. We gave up after finding a place we really liked, trying to put an offer in, and then learning it went under contract above the offer price. The buyer didn’t need financing — they hadn’t even toured the house.

Ivy: You just seemed so disheartened after that.

Mom: I was. I just couldn’t engage with the process any more — it felt so hopeless.

Ivy: I suppose that’s why I’m frustrated. In this memory, I just watched you get a message from our partner about a house listing and bat the subject away with barely a thought. I don’t think you engaged with it at all.

Mom (guiltily): No, I probably didn’t.

Ivy: Our partner really needs your support on this, you know. The apartment we live in is really getting to be too small with our kid getting older…

Mom: I know, I know. And I want to be there for her. I beat myself up over wishing I could support her better. I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.

(Ivy sits in silence for a moment.)

Ivy: I guess it makes me sad that supporting our partner isn’t motivation enough to take action.

Mom (sighing): It makes me sad too, Ivy.

(My words hang in the air as I turn them over in my head.)

Mom: I don’t want this to be the end of this conversation. The entire reason I brought all of you to this headspace is to work through these difficult topics, not wallow in despair over them.

Ivy: Okay, what do you suggest?

Mom: Let’s look at this phenomena more closely. Our partner needing our help isn’t enough to motivate us sometimes. Why?

Ivy: I mean… Normally it is. We love our partner.

Mom: We do, but when we feel anxiety or guilt over the task at hand, or we feel the task is pointless, we don’t engage.

Ivy (pensive): Huh… That’s true. Normally we would help our partner without a second thought. But when we *do* have second thoughts, then we don’t engage.

Mom: So what’s actually going on when we have second thoughts? What’s happening in that moment?

Ivy: We deflect. Our anxiety forms a kind of barrier around the task that we bounce off of, barely thinking about the task at all.

Mom: Exactly. We’ve been doing that as long as I can remember — especially if we’re already engaged in something, which is often. We don’t want to divert our conscious attention, so our brain comes up with a response that eliminates the distraction with the smallest amount of time and effort possible.

Ivy (disheartened): It’s a little sad to think of our partner’s needs as a distraction.

Mom (determined): It is, but we need to be realistic about how we see the situation in the moment. We feel like our partner is asking us to change our focus, and we don’t want to, especially not to something that feels draining or hopeless. So our brain bats the thought away without us having to consciously engage, thus sparing our brain from having to think about it.

Ivy: Okay, I agree that’s what’s happening. And since we know what’s going on, we can try to perceive when it happens.

Mom: Yes! We’ll start consciously noticing it. And when that happens we can try to introduce an intervention — we can slow down and think through things mindfully.

Ivy: That might be tough, especially if we’re engaged in something that we don’t want to divert our attention from.

Mom: Then we can notice that too, and ask our partner to bug us about it later.

(Ivy thinks over my proposal for a few moments.)

Ivy: I guess that’s a start, anyways. Do you think it’ll work?

Mom (shrugging): I don’t know, honestly. There’s really only one way to find out.

Ivy: I suppose that’s true. Okay, let’s give it a shot.