Rethinking what you believe

Last week, Jessica sat cross-legged on my bed as I was folding laundry and announced, “I  believe in Santa, because he brings all those presents, but I’m not sure I believe in elves.”

For some people, this would be a bittersweet moment; their child is losing innocence, and the world is getting a little less magical. Me? I just smiled. I’ve been trying to convince Jessica for some time now that Santa is imaginary, but she’s not buying it. She kinda thinks I’m trying to steal his thunder by pretending I’m the one who delivers the goodies.

What I love about Jessica’s belief in Santa is that she holds it in the face of all evidence to the contrary, even her own mother’s claims. I would be less enchanted if it were some hideous bigotry, of course. But there are some things we have to hold on to, and should, even when other people think we’re stupid for doing it, and try to get us to change our minds. Holding on is a thing you need to be able to do if you hope to have any character, any sense of integrity.

What I love even more is that she’s capable of examining her beliefs, and holding them up to the light, and deciding if they still hold weight. Santa, yes; elves, not so much.

Listening to her, I realized it’s about time I started holding up my beliefs to the light and seeing what I learn about them.  

Ever since people started reading “For Jessica,” I have believed that I need to do something about it. Write a new memoir (possibly one that would sell to a publisher), or create a community of parents with disabled children, or something. Leverage it, as they say. Build a brand! Deliver value! I talked to all kinds of people, but nothing seemed right.

But when I held that belief up to the light, I realized I didn’t have to do anything about “For Jessica.” It was already doing what it needed to do. I don’t have to figure out how to score from it; that was never the purpose of the work. I don’t need to figure out how to follow it up, or write another essay that as many people read and care about. It did what it was supposed to do in ways I could never have planned or intended or set goals for. It’s fine. I doesn’t need any more help from me.

What I need to do is more good work. That’s it. More good work, however that happens to show up at the door.

There are other things I need to dust off and squint at, and I’ll be sharing some of those down the road. But I’d like to hear from you: what are some of your beliefs that you need to hold up to the light and find out if they’re still worth buying?

A few of my favorite things

LESSONS IN MAGIC
A CERTAIN KIND OF MAGIC
THE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN
DOJO WISDOM FOR WRITERS

11 Comments

  1. I've been thinking about this for a few days, and hoped to return to find some great comments….. Dang.

    I've spent the last few years taking a close look at my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and am feeling good where I stand on that. Looks like it's time to move onto another topic for my evaluation of self. Where to start?

  2. A belief I've long held, and which was valid for a long, long time, was simply that I'm Tired. Unfortunately, despite a lot of changes I've made and things I've done for myself, I still buy into I'm Tired far too often. I'd love to return that one to the ugly, overpriced store I bought it from and buy something new.

  3. Okay, this is very trite and lame, which is why I've taken so long to say anything about it, but it's true, so here goes: I think I am ready to stop buying into the belief that I am fat and physically defective, a belief that my parents pounded into me the whole time I was growing up. I think I'm ready to be happy with the fact that even though I walk several miles per week, I still need to lose 40 pounds. I think I'm ready to stop trying to battle the one addiction I can remember having my whole life: food. Don't get me wrong, I honestly *try* every single day to not shove so much food into my face. In fact, I don't eat *half* the portions I used to eat in my teens and twenties. Still, it's too much, but I don't think I can cut back much further. I've started buying more flattering clothes, wearing makeup when I feel like it, and I even got my nose pierced. My husband loves me and thinks I'm pretty. My child loves me. I think that this is finally enough.

  4. Okay, I still buy into the belief that I'm fat, because I am, but I think I'm ready to stop hating myself. Literally.

  5. Author

    I think this is such a brave thing to share. I think a lot of people struggle with this (I know I do) and it would be nice to release all the emotions around it. I think it's important to distinguish between what may be a fact–e.g., being a certain number of pounds over some organization's "ideal"–and the beliefs you have about it (I'm ugly, I'm unlovable, I have no self-control, etc.)

    I think of all the energy and emotion I've spent on my weight and think about what I could have accomplished if I'd put that energy and emotion somewhere else.

  6. On the other end of the spectrum there is the belief that I need to release that writing for me is a sort of magic. No matter how many times I read something I've written and say, "Wow, that's actually sorta good" and no matter how much praise I've received I still think when I sit down to do it all again that last time must have been a fluke.

    This belief is so weighty that I can't even hold it to the light. I know that if I did, this belief would melt away in the summer sun of truth. If I were able to dispel this falsehood I'd think I'd finally feel okay telling people that I'm a writer.

  7. Oh, and it's funny about your daughter's belief. We have decided to tell our kids from an early age that Santa isn't real and yet my oldest daughter (5) insists on perpetuating the ritual. She knows that Santa is as real as Sponge Bob, but she still stayed up listening for sleigh-bells. I even pretended to be Santa at the foot of the stairs by having a brief conversation with her. It's beautiful somehow, this unreality that she plays in and invites me into.

  8. Being a mom of a one year old with TSC, so much of life is just trying to survive–just trying to make it through the day seizure free, keep her out of the hospital for the holidays…heck…find time to brush my teeth and get her dressed. With the initial wound of the TSC diagnosis still fresh for us, I have shied away from examining any belief. Because, frankly, anything I have ever believed about this world now seems a fallacy.

    "For Jessica" has personally done more for me than what you will ever know. Your blog entries have inspired me to hold my beliefs up to the light and realize that everything I have believed is not false, nor is it broken. My beliefs have merely changed. So, like Jessica, I can still believe in some of the awesomeness and magic of this world and of life, but let go of other beliefs I have now found to be, well, elvish.

  9. I believed that I couldn't acknowledge my sexuality which is that I'm lesbian. There are lots of reasons for this, all of them based in making somebody else happy. A corollary belief is that I believe I can't financially support myself.

    I can. I'm just learning how sort of late in the game.


  10. Thanks for sharing about Jessica. I understand handicaps since I live with them, both physical and intellectual. I'd be willing to be a guest blogger for you and you can check out my blog at http://www.scottrdavis.blogspot.com
    Creating community is the best thing that can be done and go all for it!!!!

Leave a Reply