Updated: Jul 18
Written By: AJ Monahan
At thirty-two, I now know and care for myself well enough to admit that I’m pretty great. I’m ambitious, relatively diligent, smart, and funny. I also care for others deeply. Most of my faults are pretty standard. There are limitations that I can understand and my self-talk and emotional control could be better. I acknowledge these limitations and consciously work at them.
Then there’s the big one: I am a birdbrain.
Definitions vary but from my perspective birdbrain = scatterbrain. I forget where I put things, I don’t always finish sentences, and I lose stuff. In my first semester of college, I locked myself out a whopping 34 times.
What is important is how I got to acceptance.
A little history - I was raised by my mom and grandmother and cut off from my father’s side of the family. Throughout childhood, I was reminded that I looked like my dad and that it wasn’t a good thing. Characteristics like my birdbrain were a source of frustration for my family. My mom and grandma were on the opposite end of the spectrum: perfectly organized. My limitations were viewed as intentional disobedience.
I would try and try to mimic their behavior to no avail. It just wasn’t in me. Teamed with our culture's “overcome or be damned” philosophy, failure blossomed into self-loathing.
My self-talk while searching for lost things was harsh. “You are such a fucking idiot, why can’t you find anything?” was my frequent refrain.
Fast forward to young adulthood when I decided to reconnect with my dad’s side, and my entire perception changed.
I not only look like my cousins and relatives but share many other characteristics with them. Dad and I eat and walk at the same pace (fast), many of us love storytelling (my mom’s side is silent), and many of us are birdbrains. Dad loses his phone, my aunt misplaces her wallet, and my cousin loses her keys. I lose them all.
I even adopted the term “birdbrain” from my aunt who uses it to refer to her scattered brain (an improvement over “fucking idiot”).
Watching my family accept it in themselves has provided healing for me. Now, rather than rail against it, I look for ways to work with, accept, and even embrace it.
As in all things, communication about this limitation is helpful. I am open with my employers, friends, and family that this is something I struggle with, and would appreciate patience and support. When I am on the hunt for a lost item, I say things out loud like, “Silly me!”, or “Oh gosh, here it goes again.” This helps me accept the situation while teaching others how they can react to it.
Sometimes I notice my birdbrain when I’m cleaning or playing with my daughters and I begin to question myself and speak critically about it. Then I remember these are low-stakes arenas. Who cares if I jump around? I can acknowledge it and let my mind do what it wants to do.
All in all, it was helpful for me to see my limitations in my family. But I don’t think it's necessary for acceptance. Rather, it’s important to remember that some aspects of personality and behavior are inherited. Even if you don’t know that great aunt Rita spoke loudly when she talked just like you do, you can imagine that she did. There is kinship and forgiveness in that.
Meet the Author
AJ Monahan is always aspiring to something, whether it’s work-related (climbing a rung then the next) or personal (exploring herself or the world) - she’s always chasing some goal off in the horizon. Otherwise, she’s trying to make sure she keeps her kids, dog, and plants alive - preferably while sitting.