“Just because it wasn’t conscious doesn’t mean it wasn’t a choice” ~ Kwote #80
I remember the day quite vividly. I sat on my bed and turned the TV on, not because I wanted to watch whatever was on, but because it provided background noise, in my otherwise quiet Georgia apartment. I flipped open my laptop, and logged onto Facebook.
Let me see what my oldest goddaughter is up to these days, I thought. I knew she was taking Driver’s Ed and I wanted to see if there were any updates. Last post she was falling asleep and I had begged her to wake up and pay attention.
Hmmm. This is strange.
I typed her full name into the search bar.
“Do you know —? To see what she shares with friends, send her a friend request.”
Huh? Of course I know her Facebook. She’s my goddaughter. Of course I know her, she’s my aunt’s oldest daughter, thus my cousin. Send her a friend request? But we were already friends…on Facebook.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been defriended from social media before, but there are a couple of stages you go through:
Stage 1: Disbelief This couldn’t possibly be.
Stage 2: Anger I know this little heifer didn’t defriend me.
Stage 3: More disbelief Let me check other people’s pages. She’s still friends with my daughters, her dad, her mom, and other cousins.
Stage 4: Acceptance So, she’s just defriended me.
I was still fluctuating somewhere in between disbelief and acceptance. This Facebook friend wasn’t some high-school sweetheart from yesteryear. And she wasn’t some person I’d met at a conference one time. Nope. This was my aunt’s daughter, my cousin and my pronounced goddaughter. Next on my agenda was a phone call to my aunt, immediately.
“Hi, Aunt –! May I speak to –?”
“Why?” she asked.
Why, I thought. What was this about? I didn’t think I needed permission to talk to her.
“Well,” I began, “It seems as if she’s defriended me on Facebook and I wanted to know why.”
Now, before I continue with this story, I understand how very petty this must seem. But what I kept thinking is how in the world will I ever know what’s going on with her or her sister if I’m not even sharing a social media space with them? She doesn’t call me. When I call her, she gives one-word answers (typical adolescent phone convo). Instead of passing the phone, my aunt and I had a conversation about this defriending business.
“Yes. Yes, she did,” my aunt replied matter-of-factly. And then she added, “She came to me and said, ‘I’m going to delete Kathy, okay?’ and I said, ‘okay.’”
What was I listening to? So my aunt approved her daughter’s deletion of me on social media? My feelings were a bit bruised. What could I do? Through further conversation, I found out that it was because I recounted a situation where she had cussed at her dad on said social media. My cousin had written, “Pay the f-ing bill Daddy,” upon finding out her cell phone wasn’t working. Consequently, our grandmother gave everyone a lecture. Including me, ironically for not reprimanding her more harshly for the disrespect.
So we continued talking.
“I feel as if she hates me,” I confessed to my aunt.
“She does,” she admitted.
Then I found out why. It was because something had been going on without my knowledge. You see my teenaged cousins live about an hour and a half away from our grandmother, and at one point in their lives, they actually lived with our grandmother. What our grandmother had been doing is praising all of my accomplishments: Kathy has a Ph.D. Kathy got a tenure-track position. One time, my grannie actually described throwing one of my publications across the bed and telling her, “Read this. It’s scholarly writing.”
This adolescent girl was filled with resentment. So much resentment that she often begged her mother not to pass the phone when I called. She seemingly couldn’t discern our age difference was a major factor in comparing our achievements. At the time, she had yet to graduate high school, but was implicitly being compared to my achieving a third degree.
This wasn’t fair to her or to me.
But here comes the lesson.
I complained and complained to my therapist. I whined about failed attempts at being a great godmother. I complained about not being honored as an inspirational person who could relate to her (we’re both adopted and I could see my cousin’s evolving mirrored issues). I droned on and on about how her dad, nor her mom would even make them do anything related to me. Oh, I was full of ego about the situation.
The therapist listened, as licensed professionals are paid to do. She nodded and scribbled on her legal pad.
And then she said this, “You chose to be the type of godmother you wanted to be to them.”
“Wha?” I asked in between sniffles.
“If you wanted to be the super-cool godmother who they flocked to when they couldn’t talk to their mother, then you would have chosen different actions,” she explained. She read my choices from her pad:
- Telling your grandmother about her Facebook actions
- Asking her why she’s wearing a bathing suit on social media
- Commenting on her driver’s education status
Those are not things that would make her feel as if she could come to you.”
I would be lying if I said I had an on the spot breakthrough. The therapist had to explain that well-intended, unconscious choices are still choices that lead to specific outcomes. My actions, coupled with her teenage choices meant there would be no relationship.
Eventually, I got it.
The therapist was somewhat right.
What eventually helped me understand the concept are the words unconscious and conscious. It’s true. The choices that I made with my goddaughter were very unconscious. Involuntary even. They were based on how I was raised and the types of expectations to which I was held. Ultimately, this experience taught me to be more mindful about choices that I made with other people because I understood there would always be a specific consequence.
I don’t regret the choices that I’ve made with her. But now this is crystal clear. Whether the choice is intentional, unintentional, conscious, or unconscious, consequences will always be tied to our choices. So the best we can do is to always be as intentional and conscious as possible.