Meet my imaginary mother. You can have one too!

Portrait of Gretchen Rubin, NYC

I do a ton of “mindset work” which basically means reprogramming your brain by journaling, goalsetting and watching motivational videos.
They’re gold.
It’s as if every day ten variations to The Secret are posted online and because I’m way over forty, I actually remember the pre-YouTube era where you had to go to a new age store to get anything about the Universal woo-woo.

I was one of those people who got into that at a pretty early stage. This was a coincidence: I would never have considered entering a shop with crystals and angel cards in the Netherlands.
Anything alternative reminded me too much of the anthroposophical and macrobiotic community, which was something people my mothers age engaged in.
Not cool kids in their twenties.

But because I was abroad at the time, I was exposed to English Louise Hay books, which I didn’t associate with my own personal history. The design of English books was more appealing as well.
In the largest chain of secondhand bookstores in the Netherlands you could clearly see the difference between the rows of English books, and the other shelves with Dutch books.

English covers had brighter colors, and the layout inside had striking fonts.
The Dutch ones were plain and unexciting, both outside and in.

The language on the covers was different as well:
English books were more sales-y. With references to bestseller lists, prizes and quotes from celebrities giving praise for the book.

Things Dutch books would never do.
Well, maybe one.
In the sixties an author called Jan Cremer singlehandedly propelled his debut novel to bestseller status by printing on the cover:
“The inevitable bestseller”
Which then became a bestseller.
But other than that, all books were published downplaying their content and there was zero level of excitement to be found.

Had I stayed in the Netherlands, I might have missed New Age thinking entirely.

So because of my adventure abroad I was one of the early adapters of New Age in the Netherlands. At least from my generation. Yoga had been making a rise in young people (young was everything under forty), but positive thinking was absolutely not done.
We, yoga students, were supposed to study Patanjali’s yoga sutras instead.
I strongly advice against that by the way.
Unless maybe when you stumble onto a spiffy American version with a sticker “The inevitable ancient bestseller.”
What I was trying to say here was that I have a long history of mindset work, from Louise Hay’s positive thinking, to The Secret, to motivational YouTube  videos and journaling goals and dreams.

Not only do I believe that you can create an internal world, and that the outer world will start matching your imaginary bank account, body, lifestyle.
I also believe that you are fully allowed to create an internal world that cannot even exist in reality.
For example: maybe I will have new cats one day.

But because it is super unpractical to have them until way in 2019, for a number of reasons, I keep my old cats alive in my heart. My deceased furry friends are alive in my spiritual world. And because I will be doing this consistently, over a very long period of time, there is a chance I don’t choose to have new cats in 2019.
By keeping the cats alive in my internal, spiritual world, they already fulfill a need.

Something similar happened when I created a new mother out of thin air.
I was setting up a new life or fantasy, where I would be thin, young, healthy, and I would automatically do all my daily tasks. Comparable to when I was a teen when I was indeed thin, young, and healthy, and school provided an environment where studying was simply automatic.
My parents didn’t get that much involved in what I did. Which is probably a good thing because I don’t respond too well to people mingling into my affairs. But I do remember that it helped me that they just naturally assumed I was working hard to get good grades.
And I did.

I was never that ambitious, I have to say. But I was good enough and certainly didn’t skip class or anything.
And at home I knew I was taken care of.
They provided food and shelter, and belonging.
My mother (my real mother!) even got up and made our breakfast and lunch, all throughout high school. Until we moved out. I knew of very few mothers who were that dedicated to be there for their teens.

I think what she understood better than anyone, was that it was never about the lunchbox or the fresh orange juice.
She could have just sat there and do nothing, and talk to us while we were getting ready for the day. It was about presence. It was about love.

The reason I suddenly longed being fifteen, and imagined I was fifteen, was not just to get the youthful body back but also to get the presence of a mother back.
So I created a new mother.
Oh by the way, the reason I created a new mother is because my real mother is still alive, so I can’t possibly make her into a ghost! That would feel awful.
And besides, this offered me an opportunity to get an even “better” mom: one who would suit the occasion.
And I immediately thought of Gretchen Rubin.

Gretchen is an author, best known for her book The Happiness Project, and other books in the field of personal development. A month ago I studied her work, and one of the things I liked was that she had persuaded one of her daughters who was complaining that she didn’t want to do school work on the weekends, to work together at 7 AM every Sunday.
So that she would have the rest of the day off.

The daughter agreed, and Gretchen helped by making sure the room was warm and made her daughter breakfast. While Gretchen did her daily two hour email purge,  her daughter did her school work.

Gretchen is caring like my mother, but way more domineering and ambitious. Which would definitely be annoying if she’d been my real mother, but now that I was installing her to be my fantasy mother, I thought it was just right.
I liked the idea of her relentless work ethics kicking my life into a higher gear. Meanwhile relieving me of the obligation to worry about stuff.
I wouldn’t have to worry about life any more than I was fifteen.
From now on, I would be looked after and taken care of.

So now I live in my apartment with my mother Gretchen, who makes sure I go to bed on time, get up on time, and that I don’t stress myself out for example by checking my mailbox or social media at a time that is designated for something else.
That I don’t doubt myself too much, and just get back up if life gets tough.

I once heard that becoming an adult – and this definitely referred to personal development, not to just coming of age – meant that you learned how to become your own parent.
I see Gretchen just checked that off my list.


An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

{ to keep these little gems aka blogposts from hijacking my day I set the intention to write them in sixty minutes. This one was written in written in 2 hours }


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