My mom was smart…scary smart. The kind of smart that sized up every one of my first dates, friendship choices and career opportunities and if given the chance, handily predicted the final outcome before I even got started. She also knew everything there was to know about politicians, medical cures and current events. Plus, she always knew when I was fibbing about anything — no matter how well-rehearsed.
She wasn’t always so smart about herself, by the way. If she had been, she would have noticed that every time she spilled the beans before I was ready to hear it, a little door slammed shut in my heart. By then it would have been too late, anyway. Even if she had ever learned not to speak every intuition, insight or revelation aloud as if it were fact, I always knew that she knew way more too soon than any mere mortal ever should.
It wasn’t just my mom, by the way. It was all of her sisters…and beyond my personal family. In other words, freedom has to include at least the potential for making errors of judgment, stupid mistakes and a fool of one’s self.
So here’s the thing. Whatever it is, I caught it. I first realized I had this scary smart thing going on right around the time my first child was born — and it’s only gotten worse since. I’m not sure how I know things — but I often do.
It’s probable that I inherited this fair and square from generations of women who have, like it or not, honed their intuitions to draw conclusions from whispers of indicators that would elude less tuned-in guts. At least that’s one theory. I do know (and this is a fact available to anybody who cares to look it up) that women have a whole lot more brain matter, in the form of dendrites, packed into our smaller skulls than do the males of our species.
I’ve also learned, from my studies about intuitive decision-making (about which I have not coincidentally written a book for Random House: Solved by Sunset) that the more observant one is — the more information one takes in — the more accurately one’s gut tends to function. By this explanation, it may not be generations of DNA that is the culprit, but rather the on-going scanning of the environment that women have had to come to rely upon for emotional survival in male-dominated societies.
Whatever the cause, I’ve learned something that’s helped keep that door-in-the-heart thing from slamming shut in others, at least some of the time. For in addition to keeping my lips sealed, I force myself to at least entertain other than the most obvious (to me) probable outcomes as real possibilities. Sometimes, I am even able to put the whole matter aside by doing something either very quiet—like meditation — or very loud — like playing along to pre-recorded music on my portable keyboard.
And then, too, I’ve done something that my mother had a real hard time with: taking the leap of faith that even though I can not prevent bad things from happening to the people I love, it’s somehow more or less sooner or later going to be alright.
I think of it as evolution to be both scary smart — and to relish surprises. And the good news is: I’m rarely disappointed.