Root Facts

Root Facts. The things you believe, or know to be true, without ever examining them. Because it would never occur to you to examine them. Because they’re true. Obviously. In your head.

They are little germs of things that were planted in your brain, maybe by someone else, or maybe you did this to yourself. They’re not always bad – sometimes they’re just dumb. For example: for longer-than-I-care-to-mention, I was certain that babies were born with their eyes shut, and didn’t open them for a few weeks. This fact stuck with me until . . . well, like I said. Longer than it should have. Simply because I never saw a newborn, lacked any interest in learning about newborns, and never had any reason to examine something of which I was sure. You know what I had seen? Newborn puppies. And kittens.


Well, anyway. Suffice it to say that it came up in conversation with a friend of mine who was kind enough to clarify things for me without mocking me too much. (Unlike the friend who laughed hysterically when I said the word ‘subtle’ but pronounced it … like it’s spelled. The hazards of reading more than you speak.)

That’s a root fact. Now, the root facts of depression are far less benign. They could be something someone said once, in jest – like, ‘Move your lazy ass!’ – never in a million years thinking that someone like YOU would ever believe it. But depression, the bitch, gripped that little comment and filed it away for future late-night-ceiling-and-soul-examining times, so that when you had the following conversation with yourself:

Flailing Brain: “I’m so lazy. Lazy and useless. Well. I’m not really. Except I kind of am. Am I?”
Sneaky Depression: “You must be. Remember that time when that person you love said that thing? About your ass, and it’s lazy, lazy habits?”
Brain, No Longer Flailing: “Shit.”

Depression sneaks in and tells you all sorts of things while you’re not paying attention. You’re useless. You’re lazy. You have no worth, no ethics, no hope, and therefore no future. And then it uses tiny things throughout the day to reinforce these facts –  like that moment where you decided to just leave the dishes. The moment when you cut your workout short. That time you forgot to walk the dog. Those things prove the point that depression was trying to make! The root facts dig in deeper and deeper and soon, you don’t notice that they’re there. They are part of you. You know these things as surely as you know that you breathe oxygen.

Although really, you breathe more than just oxygen. Else you’d be really lightheaded and ALERT ALL THE TIME.

See? Another root fact, shot outta the sky.

It takes work, and self-examination, and work, and sometimes medication, and work, to find these little buggers and dig them out and pour citric acid on the soil so they can never grow again. I mean, you can’t go digging around your brain for all the things you are sure of, you’d go batshit. But. You can wait, and lurk in the shadows until you notice something in your day that makes you feel like hell, or makes you want to go lay down, or makes you hate yourself a little bit, and then pounce! on it. Find out where that root came from. Then get it! Sic!

Well, that was all a little more violent than I meant it to be.

So, insert something about nurturing and loving and, um, fertilizing the soil of your mind. (Read into that sentence what you will.)

How about you? Does any of this make sense? What are your root facts, if you have any? If you don’t know what I’m talking about feel free to give me a rating of ‘crazy’ on a scale of 1-10. But I warn you: None of my root facts think I’m crazy. We’re pretty good that way.


p.s. On the off chance that anyone has been getting this in e-mail and then replying to the email to comment? Stop. I never, ever get the e-mails, and I do so very much want to know what you had to say!


10 thoughts on “Root Facts

  1. Hey Gwen,

    I woke up in a crappy mood and beating myself up. I really needed to read this, now, this morning. Thanks so much for posting it. Perhaps we are metaphysically sharing part of the same brain? 🙂

    –Anne, off to dig up some roots of Lazy, and some others of Unrealistic Expectations, and attempting to plant seeds of It’s Okay and You Know, You’re Still Pretty Dang Cool. 😉

    • Oh, Anne, so glad! I should have really gotten in gear to respond to these comments sooner. I blame Michelle.
      Anyway, hope those little dudes took root. Water daily.
      (Anyone else getting a little sick from all the metaphor-milk?)

  2. You know, I think one of my “root facts” comes from my Mom. When I got my first job, my Mom reminded me that I’d be replaceable – so better do a good job, cause someone else could always replace you. I’m sure Mom didn’t mean for me to take this and expand its reach to all other areas of my life, but words like that are sneaky.

    In some ways, this understanding has been positive, in that it has contributed to my drive and motivation to do great work. In other ways it has been the shadowy “replacement” nipping at my heels, forcing me to keep-going-don’t-slip-show-em-what-you’re-worth. This is maybe why I struggle sometimes with work-life balance 🙂

    Fortunately I have rooted around enough (hah) to know that as a friend? Irreplaceable. As a wife? Darn tootin’. As a family member? Ditto.
    As the one and only Leanna Rose? The only one the world has seen with quite this blend of genes, exceptional eavesdropping capacity, and occasional outbursts of too-loud-guffaws in too-quiet cafes.

    Thanks for the food for thought, smarty-pants.

    • Well, that’s a little terrifying. (The first two paragraphs, not the last bit.) You are, of course, irreplaceable.
      However, I object to your opinion that you’re the only one who has outbursts in quiet cafes. You may rest assured that I have scared a tourist or two in my time.

  3. One of my root thoughts is “oh you could do anything, you have so much potential/you’re so smart”. This may seem like a positive rot thought, but it translated to me into “i’d better do something pretty damn fabulous with my life or I will be letting down all those people who have high expecations for me.” And then it adds a ton of pressure to ALWAYS succeed because people just seem to assume I will. And it’s impossible to suceed at everything! There are definitely some things I just plain suck at.

    • Argh, positive root thoughts that lead to horrible pressure. Well, yeah, I could see that being a problem. I was always told I could do anything (which is lovely!) but I spent a long time thinking that meant I had to . . . I don’t know . . . save the planet from destruction, or something less Thunder Cats-ey.
      So I give you permission to be terrible at three things. Pick ’em. (NOT KNITTING. I get that.)

  4. My guess is that we all have crap like that that surfaces. I have sometimes thought of those thoughts as toxic and have experienced their splash as an acid. I still have them for sure. I have learned, much of the time, to watch such thoughts flow by from the safety of the bank of my stream of consciousness. I still get splashed but not as bad as when I experience myself as the stream rather than an observer of it.

    Thanks, Gwen, for stimulating my ruminations 🙂

    • Sheesh, Brian. You should be writing this blog. I love that image – stand back and watch the negativity flow by. And wave. And – wait – my mental image is throwing rocks at it –

      You’re just a calmer human than I. And damn, man, you can write!

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