When I was twenty-one, my grandma was bedridden and needed full time care. She was worried that the lady living with her and taking care of her was crazy and asked us to get someone else. Fresh out of college with no idea where to go, I took the job and moved into my grandma’s house to relieve the “crazy” lady of duty.
Even though she was moving out, she took her job of training me in the care of my grandma very seriously. One morning while teaching me to make oatmeal the way my grandma liked it, she carefully measured a scoop out, showed me how much to use and explained there was too much in the measuring cup. She tipped it over the container and with some great, unseen calculation, carefully tapped four or five oat flakes off the top. She proudly proclaimed, “This is the right amount, no more.” I studied and memorized carefully, wanting to take proper care of my grandma.
Then, two or three months later with the lady who trained me long gone, I found myself in the midst of the daily kitchen routine, dutifully tap, tap, tapping the four or five flakes off the top of the measuring cup. When I suddenly woke up from my trance of obedience to question what I was doing. Did it really matter that there were four or five extra flakes of oatmeal? Clearly, it did not. I had inadvertently become the crazy lady, due to my lack of questioning, my lack of inquiry. My mere obedience without thought allowed “crazy” to be contagious.
I saw this emerge again when my husband and I bought our first house. My sister came to visit and when she walked into my kitchen, she started laughing. She pointed toward my sink where I had a dishtowel carefully folded up the long way, lying along the narrow ridge of counter between the edge and the sink. She asked me, “Do you know why you put that towel there?” I looked at the towel in question, resting where towels had been laid in the kitchen of my childhood and answered, “No, only ‘cause mom always did.” She smiled and asked, “Do you know why mom put a towel there?” At that point I had to admit that I had no idea. Still laughing she explained, “Mom put a towel there to cover up a crack in her tile!” Suddenly I realized I was doing something the way I had seen it done without ever stopping to question the rhyme and reason—or to see if there was one. And, in my kitchen, there was not. Here a conscious choice passed on without question became crazy—or at least irrelevant and unnecessary.
Now, many, many years later when I train a new employee, I always tell them the oatmeal story and ask them to watch out for things that don’t make sense. Just because I, or another employee, has done something a certain way doesn’t mean it is the right way, or the best way. I invite inquiry. I invite the questioning. Otherwise, “crazy” is contagious and continued.
So my invitation to you is to notice what you do and why you do it. Look at what you value, what you believe and what you do. Are these behaviors and beliefs truly yours or where they passed onto you unconsciously without question?
What about in your relationships? Are you crazy in love? Do you take on certain tasks because your mother did or your father did, regardless of whether that works in your own relationship? Do you have rituals or traditions that make no sense, but you are diligent about passing them on without any question or thought? Do you treat your partner or yourself the way you observed it being done without questioning whether it is the best approach for you? Do you do things that your partner does or have crazy behaviors of your own that you haven’t stopped to question?
Once you notice what you do you have the opportunity to move your behavior from the unconscious to the conscious, or to change the behavior.
This simple act of self-observation and inquiry sets us free from crazy and moves us into the powerful realm of choice.
Take a peek. What is your “crazy?” It isn’t so important that you reveal it here, although inquiring minds want to know. It is more important that you reveal what you do to yourself, and why you do it and investigate whether it truly serves you or not—and whether it will continue to serve you over time. Once you choose the behavior consciously, it often leaves the realm of crazy and moves into the powerful realm of choice.