I was listening to Educated, a Memoir, on Audible throughout the month of October (I have a very short commute – not complaining, just explaining my slow progress through a book that was really a page turner). I loved the book, but I won’t get into details now. This is not a review. It’s about me, okay? There was a moment in the book when Tara, the survivor of a childhood with a maniacally abusive bi-polar survivalist father in the mountains of Idaho, reads something from one of the British political theorists she’s studying at Cambridge (oops, spoiler? Sorry, I think it’s on the back cover, though), and it makes her stop in her tracks. I nearly stopped in my traffic. The quote is not going to rock your world, and it’s not going to be exact, and I can’t go searching for it on my phone, sorry. So, here’s the gist of the thing that Hume or Mill or Locke or someone who was smart and British said, “Man is only free in the mind, when he frees himself of misconceptions, unfounded beliefs, and superstitions.” Really, I just made all of that up except the part about being free… and superstitions. That word leaped out at me as I rolled down Post Road. I swerved to avoid it, but it smacked right into my windshield, and the wipers couldn’t do a thing about it. Because here’s the thing: I’d really like to be free, but I’m not just superstitious, I’m superduperstitious or megalastitious or ridiculous-stitious…and that moment, for some reason was the first time I realized that I was, at least to a degree, enslaved. Prior to that, I liked to think of myself as charmingly quirky. This was a game changing moment. There may be bigger problems in the world right now (such as the maniacally abusive bipolar leader of the free world), but I determined that I could, and should do something about this little one, my affliction.
I’m not going to go cold turkey on the myriad chains that bind me to the mystical world of stitions, but I need to start whittling away. This may call for several slices of my life. They will be like my support group confessions/testimonials.
For starters, I am going to wean myself from a few of the superstitions that govern my daily movements. Movement One: Somehow, in the 24 years that I’ve lived in my current house, I developed a belief that when I got to the bottom of the stairs from our upstairs hallway, it was bad luck to take a right turn into our kitchen. Thus, I regularly walk into the living room, turn right into the dining room and then take another right into the kitchen. It costs me merely 3 or 4 seconds each morning, but that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t know where this came from, don’t know what the original consequences were, and don’t think I should continue to be held captive to the ritual. Tomorrow, at the base of the stairs, in the dark of the early morning, I will take an immediate right. Wish me luck.
Walking weirdness number two is my aversion to ramps. This is my superstition: when given the option of steps or ramp, one must always opt for steps. I do not know why. Nonetheless, I have been known to separate from someone mid-conversation when I discover that they are a ramper and are trying to lead me in that direction. We diverge, sometimes awkwardly. I take the steps and wait. We resume the conversation. Few people know of this odd behavior of mine, or if they do, they are remarkably tolerant. Tomorrow, I shall boldly take the ramp outside my school. I still think it’s a little wimpy, so I’ll probably only do it to prove that I mean business in my emancipation from superstition. Again, wish me luck…not that I need it…luck being just, “an irrational construct invented to enslave our minds.”
Next week’s challenge: the shampoo-soap sequence and…gulp…the curse of 17 ounces.