There is currently a trend on various social media platforms with users divulging their “toxic traits" through memes and cutesy video reels complete with background songs, dance moves, and all-too-salty facial expressions.
It is meant as that sort of tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating humor.
The posts are generally light-hearted and funny but intended as a nod toward the user's personal truth. They elicit a solid chuckle for the most part.
And, of course, as intended, the video trend leads you to ponder upon your own “toxic trait.”
For example, related to health and fitness, as some of them are directed, my personal "toxic trait" is this: I refuse to drink water. It is terrible. I hate it. I have very strong feelings about water. And I will always opt for coffee, hard cider or the occasional soda, even during exercise.
(Yes, I know the importance of drinking water. Proper hydration is imperative. The human body is made up of blahdity-blahdity-blah percent water. Whatever. It is how I feel. Leave it alone.)
Another "toxic trait" of mine: I absolutely convince myself that the stories in my head are 100% true, and I get real-life emotional and disappointed when silly things like “facts” and “practicality” get in the way of my mental stories.
Usually, this disappointment relates to everyday types of activities. Like, when I get a haircut, I prefer to schedule cuts at local barbershops. (I have very short hair. It makes sense to skip the full salon experience. I don’t really need it.) But I like to pick barbershops that have the traditional spinning barber’s pole at their front door. Somewhere along the path that is my life, I convinced myself that most every barbershop with a spinning pole also serves as an after-hours practice space for a traditional barbershop quartet. And I just know that one day, when I am getting my haircut, that quartet is going to stop in and spontaneously perform a show before they head off to whatever competition hosts local barbershop quartets. And, despite the fact that a haircut may have been perfectly wonderful, every time that quartet fails to show up, I leave the barber feeling really let down by the whole experience.
Of course, it is no one’s fault. It is an unrealistic expectation. Barbershop quartets do not randomly show up to serenade patrons. (I’m not even certain how many barbershop quartets really exist in the world these days.) Certainly, it is not something that I should mentally elevate to the level of an expectation of whatever random small business I happen upon. I am well aware of the sheer absurdity of that expectation, and yet... Reasonableness has never been my strong suit.
My propensity to fall in love with unrealistic fairytales of my own creation also frequently runs over into my role as a parent and caregiver.
I create in my mind these elaborate plans that I KNOW can happen. I research. I find dates and draw up itineraries.
Then… I share the idea with my husband. I present the plan. I lay out the dates. I talk really fast and put the whole completely finalized plan out there, all in one burst, so he doesn’t get confused or think there are any gaps that still need to be addressed. My presentation of the plan is a beaut! Perfect. It is some sound reasoning... at least, in my mind.
But… a solid 8 out of 10 times, I am met with a blank, bordering on baffled, expression.
My husband is practical. He thinks about things like jobs and bills and the responsibilities of homeownership.
I, on the other hand, blow right past those topics in my thinking because we work remotely, and we can earn money on the road, and homeownership is overrated anyway, and who really wants a home and all the responsibilities that come with it when you can just sell everything you own and buy a van and live the van-life on the road with your spouse and your son and your dogs?
My husband is my opposite, and I need that in my life.
Yin and Yang and all that jazz.
Yesterday, I was in the shower thinking — because everyone knows that all of your best ideas come to you in the shower — and I thought: How great would it be if we could give Malachi tickets to Sesame Street LIVE for Christmas this year? It would be fantastic! He would love it!
So, I went on the Sesame Street Live website and was immediately crushed. There were no shows in Seattle on the schedule. There were shows in California and Texas, New Jersey, Philadelphia and… New York.
And that’s when the idea hit!
We could road trip to New York, catch the Sesame Street Live performance, AND see Billy Joel live at Madison Square Garden, which is another bucket list item for me and Malachi. It was PERFECT! I cross-checked the schedules, and it would all work out. Of course, it would work out!
Billy Joel was scheduled to play at Madison Square Garden on February 14th, and Sesame Street Live was playing in Brooklyn on February 25th.
But then… I continued thinking: The early part of the year is prime time for winter weather, and we definitely do not want to be driving cross-country, over the Rockies, at the height of winter.
So, I figured that we could leave Washington state in early December, travel south to a warmer climate east of the Rockies, spend a month or so exploring, before packing up and heading northeast toward New York.
And what would be more fun than spending the holidays in New Orleans?!
Nothing! That sounds amazing!
So, just like that, NOLA became our holiday destination, before we would spend the early spring in New York, knocking off a couple bucket list events....
THEN, I thought: “New York is practically Boston! Why not just spend the rest of the spring in New England?!”
Last night, after Malachi fell asleep, I presented my idea to the husband.
He laughed but listened to my sales pitch, asked a couple of questions, and said “maybe… let’s think about it.”
In my mind, “maybe” means yes.
In his mind, “maybe” is a way to redirect my attention to a different topic to buy time before he inevitably raises “issues” or “problem areas” with my plan. (His concerns are legitimate, sure, for the practical-minded folks out there, but I stand by the totally doable nature of my every plan.)
In my mind, of course, this plan was already happening. The whole trip was basically underway. I had wholly convinced myself of it. I was well on my way to booking tickets.
I raised the idea again today, at which point, my husband just had to bring up his concerns around jobs and bills and homeownership. All his usual material….
And, because I had already convinced myself of the reality of my plan in action, the whole "real-life" conversation was, for sure, a real-life let-down.
I get it... I suppose. We are adults, and we have to do adult-like things.
I really do need the practical people in my life -- the "grounders" of the world -- if only as a reminder to pay the bills and mow the lawn.
So, there may be some underlying truth to it, that my co-called "toxic trait" lies in believing my own self-created fairytales.
And it's true enough -- I might not be the practical one. I might be the dreamer, the reacher, the figure-it-out-as-we-go, it-will-all-work-out-in-the-end type of person.
But of all the toxic traits in all the world, I don’t think the impracticality of reaching for dreams and chasing new experiences is really so bad.
It keeps things interesting, at least, and it keeps us pushing ahead toward those fairytales.