We are driving to cello lessons in Madison. Maybe you realize that just last week I wrote about about driving to cello lessons in Madison. Maybe my drives to Madison will be like Monet’s cathedrals: I’ll just keep popping them out, each written from a different angle, and you will learn to see the nuances of our family interactions in different lights.
In today’s story we are late. I was going to shave my legs before we left because I’ve never been great at shaving. I always tell myself I’ll get them waxed next week and then I don’t. But I just read how we perceive women to be good looking if they look like they spend a lot of time caring about their looks. So I thought I might spend some time caring.
Seeking admiration is a mental disorder.
My husband and my son are in the car, waiting. I felt bad. I could have kept them waiting for one leg, but not two. It would be too inconsiderate and I worry my son will spend adult life telling a therapist I was a narcissist.
Is it narcissistic to think my kid will be consumed with recovering from my narcissism?
People with Aspergers and people with narcissism look very similar because both seem overly concerned with themselves. The difference is that people with narcissism have a deep need for admiration and people with Aspergers don’t need other peoples’ approval.
I go to the car with my hairy legs as soon as I notice they are waiting. My son tells me my clothes don’t match and my husband tells me I have toilet paper stuck to my skirt.
I do not fix either.
My husband, who is not the official driver of our family, is driving. Here’s why:
We flew to Montana for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. And when we got back to the Madison airport, my husband could not find our car.
A few years ago I lost our car at O’Hare, and my husband said, “If I lost my car in a parking lot, I’d go straight to the emergency room to have an MRI. Because there would have to be something really wrong.”
I made a note to myself to make an MRI joke later. In the meantime, I called security and asked them to look up our license plate. My husband came back two hours later. I pretty much wanted to kill him. But it turned out he wanted to kill me more: I didn’t make payments on the BMW for four months and the bank repossessed it.
“Oh,” I said, processing the news. Then I looked up at him to see how angry he was and said, “That’s surprising that they knew where the car was. I guess it has a chip in it or something.”
He said, “How are we getting home?”
He asked because I am in charge of all things non-farm. Which includes getting back to the farm.
It’s not that I forgot to pay. It’s more like I forgot how important it is to pay. Or I forgot how much I was forgetting to pay. Or something like that. I mean, I always know in the back of my head that I need to make the monthly payment. But it’s like how I always know in the back of my head that I need to cut out sugar and carbs.
The other car we have (yes, I am supposed to make payments on two cars) is a Honda Fit. My husband picked it out and when I told him that the cello doesn’t fit and no one but him wants to drive stick shift, he told me it is his midlife crisis car and he never does impractical things and he wants to get the car.
As long as we were both in agreement that the car is impractical, I got on board.
Empathy wastes energy.
So now the midlife crisis car is our primary car and Carla, the driver, can’t drive it.
Fortunately, it’s not that inconvenient for my husband to drive it today because we have to go to the repossession place to get our stuff out of the BMW and he’s the only one who can do it because his name is on the car because when we bought the car he had amazing credit.
That seems so long ago. I have messed up his credit because I have inconsistent cash flow from my business. And sometimes I’m not just missing payments I said I’d make, but I’m also borrowing money from his farm account.
I have empathy for how he is way outside his financial comfort zone with me. But empathy doesn’t lead to action. In fact, empathy has been shown to actually undermine righteous action, which maybe means I have an oversized amount of empathy for him. But since empathy is really overrated, maybe I should preserve my energy for something more virtuous.
Shame marks an immature stage of personal development.
We drive to Madison and I am answering email, and my son is listening to Haydn in C, and my husband is stressing about people seeing him cleaning out a car that’s been repossessed.
“No one cares,” I tell him. “It’s okay. We’ll get a different car. It’s fine.”
He says it’s a shame thing. He says, “Not everyone can be like you and Donald Trump.”
“What? What are you talking about?” I have to peer around the top of the cello in the front seat to be able to see his face to check if he’s joking.
“You and Donald Trump are the only two people I know who have no sense of shame.”
I tell him that’s interesting because Putin is having trouble keeping his government together and the Economist reports that Alexei Navalny, a popular blogger, is the most viable opposition leader. I tell my husband: “I’m thinking maybe bloggers and world leaders have the same traits.”
Emails. Haydn. Emails. Haydn. Emails. Haydn.
Then we are at the car repossession place and there’s our BMW, parked between two cars that look like they are not worth the time it took to repossess them. My husband wants to make sure we don’t bring sticky, gunky kid junk into his midlife crisis car.
As he checks every little compartment, I rescue Monet and Modernism from under the seat. But I am distracted by a stash of disposable razors in the glove compartment. I put my foot on the seat because it’s not our seat anymore, and I start shaving. The sun shines at a perfect angle to see all the hairs I might otherwise miss.
He asks if I have to do that now and I say yes. “If I did it in your car I would make your car dirty,” I tell him.
I shave. He searches. He’s looking for stuff we might not want to forget, but I like the idea of forgetting most of it. The payments are $1100 a month. I’m sick of them. I’m happy to be rid of the car. I just wish it hadn’t happened at the airport. That’s the difference between shame and guilt: shame is thinking I am bad for having my car repossessed. Guilt is taking responsibility for not having a car to drive home from the airport.
Admiring people makes you feel good. But envy makes you take action.
We are unscrewing the license plate. My husband wants to keep it as a souvenir of the time we hit rock bottom. I don’t tell him this is totally not as bottom as my rock bottom.
My son stays in the car the whole time. He sees I’m giddy that we won’t have BMW payments so he thinks nothing bad has happened. It reminds me of when he was a toddler learning to walk and he’d inadvertently gain speed and then start running and then trip and fall and if we didn’t make a big deal about it, he wouldn’t realize he should be crying.
Cassie calls me to get feedback on her investor pitch. I tell her I can’t talk because our car was repossessed and we have to clean it out.
She talks anyway. She says she is in money trouble right now too. She says most small business owners are women selling to women and women don’t do nearly as much in the summer because they have kids at home. So basically, unless you’re selling pool passes, summer is not a good time for cash flow.
Then, because she hates when I don’t realize that she is full of brilliant insight, she sends me this link abut how Etsy sales plummet in summertime. She also sends me an article that says America is full of high-earning poor people, and people who are Internet famous have no money, and suddenly I feel very on-trend.
I wish I were a good role model. The Harvard Business Review published research that shows striving to be role models holds women back because women focus on that so much more than men do, and it distracts from career advancement. So the car repossession must be catapulting my career to the top.
So it’s not healthy to want to be admired. You could cultivate envy — because envy, more than admiration, inspires action. But I think, instead, we should strive to admire.
Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, in his book, The Righteous Mind, considers admiration something like gratitude with a moral component. It’s the emotion we feel when someone does something good or skillful—it helps us feel transcendent ourselves. Admiration elevates life. But being admired ourselves has nothing to do with that experience.
My husband is so stressed about our financial doom that he arrives at the cello lesson early and says he’s taking a walk. That’s what he does when he’s stressed, he walks. He is working really hard to adjust to life with me: financial windfalls and financial black holes, bad credit and me constantly chasing my next idea for a business.
And I admire that. Which is an emotion that makes me feel calm and secure. And that’s how I deal with the slow cash flow of summertime months.