Do you envy confident people? I mean not mean-confident people but actually truly strongly confident people who never waiver when it comes to their decisions. Who never second guess themselves. You never doubt their gut. Whose gut is their asset. Who love their gut. And swear that their gut is their heart, brain, life coach and actually a quasi-parent. I envy them because try as I might, my gut is really a slap in the face of its own integrity and cognition. It’s really a sucker punch to all the amazing guts out there who are busy supplying the best ideas to their owners. My gut sullies the good name of the famous instinct “the gut instinct”. My gut is a disgrace to the stature of gut in popular literature where sometimes the gut is given even more significance than the mind or the brain in terms of intelligence. The gut is usually considered even more of a bigger counsel than our parents. Gut has been written by new-age writers as a soul living in our body, that makes us have conscience, wisdom, a radar to detect thugs and the sniffer to pick up potential mates. That’s how esteemed the gut is. So obviously when I see someone equipped with a functional and reliable gut, I get very envious. Because my own gut is just a joke that nature played on me in the name of gut.
My gut has never rescued me like others’ guts have saved their owners. There was a time when I knew that I’m allergic to dogs and totally by virtue of being so clueless (and also because I’m virtually gutless) I ended up bringing my mother-in-law’s dogs from Maryland to Toronto.
Then another time when my boss introduced me to his wife at an office party and even though I realized that this isn’t the woman who visits my boss in skimpy outfits and always leaves with a big wad of cash afterwards, I didn’t get that only one of them could be his wife and since he is introducing this woman as his wife to everyone and numerous people know her as his wife, I should probably tip her off discretely so my hands don’t get dirty in this. Instead I blurted out, purely because my gut didn’t put two and two together just then, “So nice to meet you. You’re his wife? But you looked so different yesterday when you came to see him in the office”. Needless to say I was fired before they got divorced. Did my gut help me there? Nope!
Or that other time when my gut totally threw me a curve ball and didn’t notify me in time that I was pregnant. Now it’s fine that it didn’t tell me that in the first four months but it should’ve when I started to have a golf ball size bulge in my belly that progressively and quite suddenly increased to the size of a water balloon. When it finally reached a basketball that even LeBron James couldn’t basket without falling under its weight, I was advised by a well-meaning lady from the neighborhood that may be I should stop seeing a personal trainer and see an obstetrician. I can’t tell you how timely that advice was. According to documented data I was about 30 weeks pregnant and what I considered the occasional hunger pangs and tummy rumblings were actually the baby kicking and making his presence known. See how my gut failed me? Mothers have the best guts but my gut totally failed me and I won’t forgive it for that.
After I became a mother something changed in me. I mean yes my dress size went up by two more sizes and my shoe size also increased by a size but I felt like I was a new person. True that all of you mothers might’ve felt that but the feeling that I got was one of an epiphany. Like someone had opened life and it’s possibilities to me for the first time. Like I was seeing myself and my ways for the first time. I realized for the first time that I was actually going to be another human being’s moral and social guide and to be honest, it was the most exhilarating feeling.
Regular motherly thoughts came to my mind. All my life I had been in some type of subordination and subjugation. I’m the youngest sibling, my mother-in-law’s youngest daughter-in-law, the youngest in my cousins, the youngest in every class that I was in. I was always considered the stupidest one just because I was the youngest (and because of some other factors but those are redundant). Here, nature had handed me a ready-made person who was mine to boss and order around.
Also, let’s think about it! Who do we learn manners for? Where would we unload all of that information to the most unwilling audience? Where could we give the most unsolicited advice and still get invited to their graduation party, their wedding and to their home? Of course, our children.
So when I welcomed my son into this world, I welcomed him with great expectations about switching up of my ranks in the world and also welcomed him with the hope that to raise him I’ll be enough and won’t need much external help.
But the world has never been a friendly place for me and therefore the first visitor, who happened to be my mother-in-law, cruelly said the following words when I confided in her about how scared I was that I’d have to take care of him and be responsible for a tiny life and that I had no idea how to feed, burp, change the baby or know when to feed, burp or change the baby,
“Dear! You talk like you are the first woman who has given birth to a tiny baby. Most babies are tiny unless you count some giant ones who, God bless them, are usually hated by their mothers for a few hours immediately after birth. Mothers have a gut instinct for these types of things and I’m sure your gut will give you enough information so that this feeling of being lost and dazed that you’re describing now won’t even be a concern “.
I wanted to cry and complain about my gut being useless but my mother-in-law hates tears more than she hates complaining so I controlled myself and made the most of her time with us by watching her feed, burp and change the baby.
We brought the baby home. For the first four or six hours he was quiet and my gut, being the sloppy gut that it is, kept telling me something was wrong. Finally he woke up and then all hell broke loose.
He cried and pooped and peed and basically wouldn’t stop burping and needing to be fed again and again. I was exhausted by the time night rolled around but my gut said that I won’t get time to sleep.
“Can you be quiet for a second? It’s too much listening to him and listening to you. I’m really starting to get a headache”.
“But what am I saying? You always complain that I’m not a good gut and now that I’m predicting exactly what’s going to happen you won’t buy it because you want to hear what you want to hear”.
“Shut up. Shut up. Shut up”.
“Listen to me. Listen to me. Listen to me.”
Turns out the loudest was the baby’s voice who was crying again and wanted to be fed.
After I had put the baby to bed again, my gut told me
“I think you can sleep now. He’s out for at least four hours”.
I yawned and slept.
Years slow crept by and my gut and I could never develop the copacetic, enmeshed, one-nation camaraderie that I had hoped. We both continued to get into frequent tiffs due to my distrust of the gut and the gut’s stuffiness of itself.
My baby was now five years old. My gut had always told me that he was growing up to be feisty but what does my gut know? I mean it has never guided me in the right direction.
In the first five years that I spent raising my child and being a responsible adult, my gut never showed me its instinct. I’d heard of it but never experienced it. It argued with me frequently about how I didn’t listen to it due to lack of trust but I couldn’t believe that rhetoric. If truth be told, I gave my gut way more chances than anyone else would’ve.
It didn’t warn me when I invested most of my savings in a Fortune 500 company. Needless to say I lost all of it when the company declared bankruptcy. I asked it why I didn’t warn me and it just rolled its eyes and said,
“Didn’t I ask whether it was the right move to make?”
“Yes but that’s not a direct advice. That’s like you’re asking my opinion on it. Why weren’t you more helpful?”
Gut again rolled its eyes and went back to sleep.
Or that time when my baby could be nominated for the cutest baby in town, only if I hadn’t openly insulted the “pageant’s” president. I know I should’ve been smarter. She wanted to use my beautiful front lawn for the pageant and I told her that with the type of heels that she wears I wouldn’t let her walk on my driveway. She huffed and puffed and then revealed that she was going to offer my baby the ticket to be a pageant contestant but now that opportunity is lost . I was immediately apologetic. She wasn’t changing her decision and sardonically asked me if my gut didn’t tell me that she wanted the lawn for something important? I couldn’t tell her that my relationship with my gut is a contentious one at best. I apologized profusely but she didn’t forgive a blatant insult of her designer shoes. As I was nursing my wounds, my gut spoke up,
“I wouldn’t be so upset. She seems pompous”.
“Well, pompous because she is so well-rounded. Pomp is something that comes to worthy people”, I answered back snarkily.
“Sounds like you want to be like her”.
“So what if I do?”
“Be careful. She kills plants with her shoes. Do you want to kill plants too?”
“No. I don’t.”
Gut smiled and went back to sleep for another few months.
But as my toddler was growing up into a little boy I started taking my gut more seriously. I mean it was really giving me good advice. It was working with me and not embarrassing me for my mistakes. Actually it was also occasionally giving me applause for being so astute as a mother. For the first time in my life I was enjoying my relationship with my gut.
But like all toddlers grow up to be young men, one fine day I realized that my son was 30 years old when he entered my home with a young woman in tow.
Son: Mom! Meet Alicia! We work together.
Before I could answer, my gut interjected,
Gut: I smell something funny. Many women work with him. Why is he bringing her to meet you?
Me: Hi Alicia! Nice to meet you. I haven’t heard about you.
Gut winked at me and I grinned at it.
Alicia: We just started working together.
Me: Oh funny! Many of his coworkers have been working with him for years and he hasn’t brought them home ever.
Gut and I laugh and laugh and laugh.
Son: (with stars in his eyes and looking at Alicia) Well they’re not special.
Gut: Oh so she’s special?
Me: I’m so glad to meet you.
After dinner Alicia left. I could sense that my son was upset about something. I gently asked him if something was bothering him and he said,
“Mom! You asked Alicia way too many questions. She was meeting you for the first time. You scared her”.
“Well, she shouldn’t have come unannounced”.
“I brought her thinking you’d like her”.
“Do you like her?”
“Yes a lot”.
“Then what I think or feel is irrelevant”. I said huffily and left the room.
Gut patted my back and called it a day.
Whether I liked it or not, my son and Alicia started dating. She would come home often and try to chummy up with me. I didn’t like her at all. My son was changing and I was finding it hard to like the woman behind the change.
But what could I do? He was smitten and it looked like they were headed in the direction of marriage. I wanted to ask him if she really was the one but imagine how offensive that question would’ve been.
I was aware of my inner bias against her. I knew that I didn’t like her because she was fast occupying my position as the only woman in my son’s life. I started to find faults with her for no reason. Because I identified that discrimination that my heart had against her, I started to consciously make a place for her in my mind.
There were small little things that she did that bothered gut but I would quiet it. Like the thing about her inquisitiveness. She asked for detailed accounts of where I got what from, how much it cost, if I would be needing it for long, if it was the type of thing I would’ve bought if I was a woman with not much money. She would ask in detail about how much my car payments were. She wanted to know what my mortgage was. She was inquisitive but also very nice. I found it odd but knew that whatever she might do it would feel odd to me because she was hogging my son. As I lay in bed one night mulling over some of her oddities, gut spoke up.
“You know her interest in certain things is weird, right?”
“Well I wouldn’t call it weird. She’s probably showing interest”.
“Interest? She asked you twenty times how many nice bags you have.”
“Twenty is a stretch. More like six”.
“See you noticed!”
“I did but I think it’s a legitimate interest. She’s very well-dressed and we’ll-groomed herself. No wonder she sees me as another stylish woman”.
“I think she sees you as a old hag with youngish taste.”
“I don’t think so. She’s very polite and actually takes an interest in what I say”.
“That’s because she wants to marry your son”.
“If her sole interest in me was my son then she wouldn’t spend so much time with me. She helped me clean my entire closet last night”.
“I find it odd that she would be so willing to help but since you never listen to me I’ll say it once and be quiet on this forever more. Be ware of her”.
“Beware of her? She’s an innocent girl dating my son”.
Gut was stonily quiet.
It was my son’s birthday. Alicia wanted to take us to the movies. We all went and had a great time. On our way back my son insisted that he’d treat us at The Plaza. I agreed and we ordered a huge dinner.
After dinner as my son put his hand in his pocket he looked perplexed.
“What happened, son?”
“Mom! I can’t find my wallet. May be I dropped it in the car. I’ll rush to the car and look for it and come right back”.
Alicia and I chatted for the next fifteen minutes and then saw my son coming back with a look of utter worry on his face.
“Mom, it’s not in the car. I must have dropped it at the movies”.
“Oh honey! Should we go back and look for it?”
“No don’t worry about that. I’ll cancel my cards and go to the DMV for a new license tomorrow”.
“Was there anything else in the wallet?”
“Nothing much else Mom except…..” I saw my son hesitating.
“What? What was in it?”
“It had the debit card that you gave me for my birthday”.
“Gosh! There’s ten thousand dollars in that account. It was to help you towards a potential future down payment on a house”.
“I know, Mom! I really have to rush to cancel it. I’ll call the bank right now”.
My son left. Alicia looked worried.
“That account has ten grand in it?”
“Yes…..” I hesitated and then said “you know for a future house that you guys would plan?”
Alicia went to the bathroom for a few minutes and meanwhile my son came back, dismayed.
“Mom! You’ll have to come with me to the bank tomorrow. Because it was a new card that you hadn’t even activated, we will have to go to the bank tomorrow. Why didn’t you just give me a check?”
I was kicking myself about the same thing. But there was nothing to do now.
“Why’s Alicia taking so long now?” He complained.
My son and Alicia dropped me off home. We were all gloomy and tired. I said goodbye but fifteen minutes later heard my son’s car in my driveway again.
“Mom! Alicia lost her apartment keys. Can she stay with you for tonight?”
I thought for a moment. If she didn’t stay with me she’ll stay tonight with him. No way!
Alicia and I talked for about fifteen minutes when she said,
“I’m making hot chocolate. Would you like some?”
“Oh thank you”, I said surprised and pleased at the same time at being waited on.
We had hot chocolate and the warmth of the drink put me to sleep immediately.
I woke up very late the next morning. The house was eerily silent which was strange because I always had a symphony playing in the background. Something about my room seemed different. I realized it was the light. There was a lot of sunlight in my room.
I jerked up from my bed. My closet was wide open and it was……. empty. The curtains on my bedroom window were gone.
And more things were gone as I made my way down to the family room. My TV was gone. Our workout bike was gone. My kitchen was stripped of appliances.
I rushed upstairs to wake Alicia up. But she wasn’t there.
Slowly like a crime scene detective I started putting the pieces together. While doing this I went to my safe locker.
There was nothing left there. No jewelry, the ten grand that I always kept there for emergencies, my grandmother’s jewels and my Cartier watch. Also gone were all my Hermès and Chanel bags. My wallet was gone.
I felt like the house was closing in on me. I couldn’t breathe. I called my son and asked him to come over. He sensed something was wrong and rushed over as fast as he could. I heard him fifteen minutes later,
“I’m in here”.
“What happened mom? Where’s everything?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“I don’t know”.
He pulled out his phone from his back pocket and dialed her number frantically. I saw him dialing again and again and again and then turning to me after hastily typing a message,
“Why did she leave you? She could’ve waited for me.”
I looked at him. Poor thing!
“Mom I’m calling the police”.
After we had done all the crime proceedings and were exhausted, my son offered to take me for lunch. I was in a daze.
As we were sitting in the restaurant he looked at his phone for what was quite possibly the thousandth time and said,
“She hasn’t even read her message. Did she say where she was going?”
I broke down. I cried and cried. I cried because I had figured it out before he had. I cried because I knew his heart would break. I cried because I had lost everything even though my gut had warned me. Why didn’t I protect him?
He comforted me and sat there lost in thought. Then he said abruptly,
“Mom! You don’t think they took her with them, do you?”
I hadn’t thought of it.
“Mom! I’m getting worried. I’m calling the police”.
As he picked up his phone to call the police his phone rang.
“Hi Alicia! Where have you been? Mom and I are worried dead here”.
I don’t know what she said but the color drained from his face.
“What do you mean you’re not in New York anymore?”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the phone from him and yelled at her,
“All you had to do was ask. Why didn’t you ask? You didn’t have to steal”.
Alicia laughed derisively and without replying hung up the phone.
I looked at my son blankly. He sighed and looked crestfallen.
We ate lunch quietly and then set off for home. Suddenly he said,
“Mom! We were together for eight months. Why couldn’t I ever pick up any red flags or warning signs?”
Because you weren’t listening to your gut. That inner system that humans have that nature fits them with when they come into this world.
“I mean there must have been something to tip me off. I can’t believe she was so much smarter than me and I was so much dumber. I mean no plan is ever fool-proof”.
No it’s not. No plan is fool-proof. Usually people are warned by their sixth sense or their astuteness or their……
“Gut”, gut interjected.
“Mom! Didn’t you feel anything ever? I mean aren’t humans intuitive? I don’t know why I was so stupid. I really thought she was the most innocent girl I had ever met”.
I felt like crying. I had never expected my child to be so heartbroken. I never wanted him to question his judgement but here he was questioning his first love and whether he could pick out the good from the bad or in case of Alicia, the bad from the good .
I had a very heavy day. We had to go through the police proceedings twice more because our losses were so huge. There was a lot of family heirloom that she had taken plus some original art. That had become a real concern to the police. They suspected that she was part of a bigger group of thugs .
As I lay in bed that night I was surprised to not hear my gut gloating. I finally broke the silence,
“Why’re you so quiet?”
“I was waiting for you to get into trouble so I could warn you”.
“You did warn me”.
“Then why didn’t I listen to you?”
“Because you’re a good person and think that not trusting others is a bad thing”.
“Look, dear! I’ve lived with you my entire life. I have been fitted into your body and mind not to make you guilty, suspicious, doubtful or even wary. I’ve been built-in as a security system. I can’t be ignored. A lot of people think that I talk smack but actually I say exactly what you think immediately upon meeting a person or a situation. I’m your first thought. I’m your intuition. I’m your feeler. I’m the social antennae that help you protect yourself from a guy who slips pills into girls’ drinks. Or a person who could potentially physically harm you. Or a person who could malign your reputation. You and I are the same entity. I’m just a more cynical, more cautious and more scared side of you. I keep you in check on your first date. I keep you from giving into your toddler’s tantrums. I keep you from accepting a salary that’s less than your work’s worth. I protect you. To see me as pompous, self-assured and cocky is like seeing yourself as that. My purpose isn’t to make your trust in people weak. It is to actually strengthen it. My purpose is to prevent bad experiences. Trust yourself because usually you’re the only person available to yourself to trust! I’m your inner cautious person that has been built in by nature and works as your soldier”.
I was listening to it silently and wondering why I had had such immense distrust of my gut my whole life. It had always warned me. My son’s father wasn’t a nice man. But I gave him numerous chances even though I could tell that he won’t change. My boss had not been fair to me on many occasions but I thought I deserved it. I had a feisty toddler once but I always blamed my parenting for it. I had spent my entire life blaming myself or distracting myself from my opinion of others because I thought that my opinion of a person or a situation was either biased or partial or unfair. When actually I usually was quite good at telling the nasty ones from the good ones.
“Thanks for watching out for me”.
“No problem. That’s what I’m here for. Do you think may be you should call up your son and see if he wants to talk?”
“Well…..”, I didn’t know if I should intrude so soon after his “breakup”.
But I picked up the phone and turned out that he was really sad and came over immediately when I invited him and we had ice cream and a great conversation. It felt amazing to follow my gut and feel validated also.
My gut and I are one person now. I don’t have an oppositional dialogue with it now. Well, not frequently anyway!