All families carry myths with them. Most are harmless and make for great stories: “You were so beautiful as a child that I had to fend off modeling offers.” “You were so shy I wore you as a third leg until you were eight and now look at you up on stage playing for thousands.” They can be a lifeboat as we make our way through the murkiness of growing up and bring laughter and love to who we were and who are today.
But sometimes they hurt. Kids can’t get past the vision of themselves by other family members. They don’t reach their own potential because they aren’t “the smart one” or “the athletic one.” They stop trying in school and focus on the field or vise versa, and they are stripped of the opportunity to fall in love with an unexpected subject in or out of school. The family myth of one sibling can also steal the joy of learning about one’s self: “Why bother? I can be popular or funny or something, somewhere else, to show that I, too, deserve a myth around me. A story of my own beyond not-my-sibling.”
Family myths often carry into adulthood. They shape how we view ourselves — our expectations of what we can and can’t do, of what clubs to try and friends to make. They can also be remade in our new families when we are married and/or have children.
“Stop being crazy.”
“You’re always unreliable.”
“She’s so much like you. Poor thing.”
Never. Always. Every interaction colored by a two-dimensional view of our partner and, eventually, our children.
I have myths surrounding me. Some I love and some I hate, but this is the tale of one myth. The myth of messy.
Yes, by the time I was in high school, my mom gave up on my disaster of a room and just asked me to keep the door closed so our beautiful home didn’t have to fight my hatred of cleaning. My motto was an exasperated: “It just gets messy again!” In college, I once found a rice cooker underneath three-weeks worth of laundry, and I didn’t even own a rice cooker. By my 20s, I began to see the importance and joy of cleaner living, but the myth of messy persisted into my marriage no matter how many countertops I wiped down or floors I vacuumed. The manufacturing of mess was mine and the desire to clean was Scott’s.
WELL, NO MORE! I’M BREAKING FREE!
Scott always wanted his and her sinks, and I fought against it for years because it seemed decadent. Had I known his wish would also be my myth’s downfall I would’ve ordered them for our two-foot bathroom in Carytown and lived without a tub.
Wait, does this mean I have to do all the cleaning now?