we owe it to ourselves to change our minds

(I have made it a Christmas vow to publish all of the old bits and pieces of drafts that I have hanging around. Some of them are a couple of years old, so who the hell knows what I may have even meant by them. This one is from August, so I can even sort of remember writing it. And I still like the quote.)

I was at BlogHer last month [edit from the present: back in July now] and Arianna Huffington said something that rang true for me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since: “we owe it to ourselves to change our minds.” She mentioned how difficult it was for her to change her political affiliation — that people who were her friends asked her why she was betraying them and everything they believed in. Change it hard, not only for us, but for those around us. Actually, when I think of Arianna Huffington, I still think of her as the wife of the rich Republican candidate. I lived in California when those ads were on TV every time you looked. That was years ago, but it’s still the first thing I think of when I hear her name, so I can imagine it was a difficult shift for her.

I think sometimes we forget that we can change our minds — entirely if we want to. That we can turn around, choose a different path, go a completely different direction. But we can. My divorce was hard for many reasons, but the idea of complely changing my life was a big one. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to change. That life itself wouldn’t let me.

When I was a kid, my stepdad valued his word above all else. He wouldn’t go back on it, no matter what. Sticking to his word was more important than reviewing the facts, doing the right thing, admitting he was wrong. If he made a rash decision in the heat of the moment, that decision stood no matter how ridiculous he later realized he was. That led to us as children being grounded for a year, moving halfway across the country, owning a girl cat named Butch.

I wanted to name the cat Cinderella. I was going through a time during which I desperately wished fairy godmothers were real and that mine would come and rescue me. The cat was a tiny calico kitten, born to a stray cat under the neighbor’s trailer. My stepdad didn’t want the cat but gave us an ultimatum. We could keep her, but her name would be Butch. What could we do? We loved that kitten. So, Butch it was.

In high school, I was scraping together every last penny for college applications and SAT tests and I needed another hundred dollars for something. My stepdad said I could sell my stamp collection to him for $100. I started collecting stamps in around the first grade and had carefully moved them from house to house to house. What did he need with it, honestly? But much like the cat naming problem, I was backed into a corner. I really needed the money, so I handed over the stamps. He kept them. I guess he did acquiesce on the stamps eventually. When he and my mom got divorced, he left the stamps with her to give back to me.

When I was growing up, my secret revenge on my stepdad was the quote about how “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. That Emerson would think my stepdad had a little mind only helped a little those nights that I was grounded for no reason, but a little was better than nothing.

I know that it’s important to be responsible and reliable and stick things out, stay the course, all of that. But there’s just no reason to name a girl cat Butch.

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