About this episode

In this episode of Bewildered, Martha and Ro talk about drift patterns, the cultural currents we can get stuck in that could be carrying us far away from our true nature. One function of cultural patterns is to "save" us from having to make choices. If you do what the culture says, you might feel safe for a while—but at what cost to your soul? To find out if you're drifting in a current that's wrong for you—and what you can do about it—be sure to catch this very practical (and entertaining) conversation!

Image for Episode #47 Drift Patterns for the Bewildered Podcast with Martha Beck and Rowan Mangan
Drift Patterns
Show Notes

Click here to watch the full episode on YouTube!

So many of us drift through our lives, going from one culturally approved milestone to the next—whether it’s drift from school to college, or to work, or to marriage and parenthood, etc. 

Just like 18th century sailors who could go almost anywhere in the world by drifting on ocean currents, the culture tries to carry us through our lives the same way. As long as we continue to take the obvious direction, we don’t have to think too much. 

We want that certainty that the culture promises—we want to feel safe forever. 

One of the functions of cultural patterns is to “save” you from having to make choices. You just follow what the culture prescribes for you, which can feel very safe and affirming—but at what cost to your soul?

In this episode of Bewildered, Martha and Rowan explore the idea of cultural drift patterns—how we can discover if we’re in one that’s wrong for us and what we can do about it. 

As Martha points out, we’re all in some cultural currents, and that’s not always bad. You learn who you are, no matter what current you’re in, but the drifts that are not right for your true nature can make you suffer.

The earlier you can push away from culture, the earlier you find your true nature—but it’s never too late!

To find out where there is no culture, how to listen to yourself, and Martha and Ro’s “stop drop and roll” technique to get out of a drift pattern, don’t miss the full conversation!

Also in this episode: 

* screaming sea otters and gay feminist lesbians

* when “fashion forward” means backward

* Martha tries on pants made for octopi.

* the difficulty of returning things by mail 

* lessons from 18th century naval warfare

 

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Ratings and reviews are like gold in the podcasting universe—they help people find us, they help build this beautiful community, and most of all, they help us in our quest to Bewilder the world…

Transcript

Please note: This is an unedited transcript, provided as a courtesy, and reflects the actual conversation as closely as possible. Please forgive any typographical or grammatical errors.

(Topic Discussion starts around 00:11:20)

Martha Beck:
[Intro Music] Welcome to Bewildered. I’m Martha Beck, here with Rowan Mangan. At this crazy moment in history a lot of people are feelings bewildered, but that actually may be a sign we’re on track. Human culture teaches us to come to consensus, but nature — our own true nature — helps us come to our senses. Rowan and I believe that the best way to figure it all out is by going through bewilderment into be-wild-erment. That’s why we’re here. [Music fades] Hi, I’m Martha Beck!

Rowan Mangan:
And I’m Rowan Mangan. And this is another episode of Bewildered, the podcast for people trying to figure it out. Isn’t it Marty? Isn’t it?

Martha Beck:
It is, verily so.

Rowan Mangan:
Today we’re doing something a little bit different, not to the podcast, but just with each other, and the process of recording. Which has got to be fascinating for the peeps. We’re not in the same geographical location today, Marty, are we?

Martha Beck:
No, we are not, which is spooky. And 21st century. But as long as we’re in the same emotional space, it doesn’t matter if we’re in the same geographic space, does it?

Rowan Mangan:
Well, let’s see if we are in the same emotional space.

Martha Beck:
[inaudible 00:01:13].

Rowan Mangan:
My emotional space is large.

Martha Beck:
Mine is small and crooked. No, I think mine fits into yours. Well, okay, let’s just move on to what you’re trying to figure out. What are you trying to figure out, Ro, besides all the logistics of this podcast?

Rowan Mangan:
Look, Marty, as so often with me, I’m just trying to figure out how to be a good partner to you in this world.

Martha Beck:
What else matters?

Rowan Mangan:
Partner is maybe the wrong word, because what I’m trying to figure out at the moment is often to do with how to be a good sidekick to you. Not specifically partner.

Martha Beck:
No. I thought you were going to say keep me as a pet. More [inaudible 00:02:01] your relationship from my perspective.

Rowan Mangan:
No, it’s more like the other way around. But I have a lot of responsibilities for a pet.

Martha Beck:
You’re a working pet.

Rowan Mangan:
I’m a working pet. I’m like a dogs with jobs. This is what happened. I’ll just tell you. I might as well just tell you. I’ve been putting a little bit of pressure on you lately to get better clothes, because your standard attire for a public speaking event will be a blue turtleneck from Target that was on the specials rack that doesn’t fit you very well. And at some point our dog Claire has chewed out the back of it. I think it used to be the front, but then you thought, oh I can still use this if I just put the bit that the dog gnawed out at the back. And then you get a safety pin and you pin up the turtleneck because it’s too big. And then there’s a oil stain from something, some paint or something years ago.

Martha Beck:
I can mix the color of the shirt and paint over the paint stains. This is what I have discovered.

Rowan Mangan:
I know she actually does that. I was like, look, enough. You are a public figure. You’re going out in the world. Let’s dress like it. Goddammit. And so anyway, to that end, Marty got a new blouse.

Martha Beck:
I did.

Rowan Mangan:
Lovely thing. Lovely thing. Not really a blouse, that would be too conventional. It was a little bit edgy.

Martha Beck:
[inaudible 00:03:33].

Rowan Mangan:
It was a bit fashion forward, was it Marty?

Martha Beck:
Yes, it was a garment.

Rowan Mangan:
It was a garment of some sort. We go off to the event, she’s wearing her new garment. Lovely. Looking great. We start doing small talk with the people who are running the event. This happens, this is what happens. I’ve learned this. You come in, you do small talk. And I’m feeling a lot of pressure because I’m your sidekick, and I’m also your-

Martha Beck:
Owner.

Rowan Mangan:
… keeper. And so it’s like I have to contain the human in the right way so that the genius may step forth. That’s why I was so horrified, Marty, as you were being delightful to these people, when I realized that your beautiful new garment had been put on backwards. And I was like, oh my God, she’s about to go on stage in front of all these people, and she’s got her top on backwards. Which is honestly worse than the Target turtleneck. This amazing, beautiful fashion forward garment, and it’s on backwards. I could see the zip. I could see the zip [inaudible 00:04:51] zipped up in front.

Martha Beck:
If it was upside down, that would be a serious problem. Backward, forward, what’s the difference?

Rowan Mangan:
It wasn’t inside out either, that was apparent. But it was a big enough problem for me to panic, as your keeper. I was like, very rudely burst into the small talk and said, “Marty, you must need to pee.”

Martha Beck:
I guess she just picked it up in the way I was moving my eyes.

Rowan Mangan:
And she jumped right on that. She’s never shy about being taken away from small talk. So we went up [inaudible 00:05:24]-

Martha Beck:
I wish I could be. It’s very hard for you as a pet owner when I’m not shy about peeing.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s true. Look, I took you off to the bathroom, I was doing my job. But you were also about to do some bit of public speaking, right? I didn’t want to upset you, I just wanted to deal with the problem. So we’re standing there in the bathroom, there’s two stalls with the door closed. That means there’s two humans in there, and there’s a pretty good chance that they are there to see you. Because we’re just right next to the venue. I’m like, how do I do this in a way that does not bring shame upon our house? And doesn’t freak you out or make you feel self-conscious.

Hey babe, I don’t judge you. It’s fine. It’s totally fine. Oh my God, I judge you so hard. But I didn’t want to convey that at the time because it felt like an important moment. I was like, “Sweetie, look, I think you’re great with clothes and you’ve made interesting choices all the time, and it’s really good.” And I hear the toilet flush and I’m like, what does that mean? And I’m just like, “But look, I have to tell you this, and I don’t want it to be awkward. But dude, it’s on backwards. It’s on backwards. You’ve got the zip here and maybe you couldn’t do the zip at the back. Maybe you know it’s on backwards and you just couldn’t reach it.”

Martha Beck:
Yes, the concept of back and front.

Rowan Mangan:
Yes, you can get in front of a stage and delight them with the most amazing self-help and funny, and everything. But no, you can’t dress yourself. Honey, let me dress you.

Martha Beck:
Never [inaudible 00:07:09].

Rowan Mangan:
Let me dress you with my eyes.

Martha Beck:
But! What happened next, oh, Ro?

Rowan Mangan:
I very gently told her this, and I leaned forward and began unzipping the little zipper. And at that point Marty reached the back and brandished the tag that was actually at the back. It was so fashion forward, it had the subtle little zip that goes at the back, at the front.

Martha Beck:
That’s right. That’s how fashion forward it is. Fashion, I suppose, is in the back. And if it’s fashion forward, it puts everything in the front. Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
It wasn’t my greatest moment as a sidekick. Yeah.

Martha Beck:
I won the fashion contest that very day.

Rowan Mangan:
You did.

Martha Beck:
And it was the only day of my life I have ever won a fashion contest.

Rowan Mangan:
Basically, the one thing I had going for me was that I knew how to put clothes on. She can do everything else. And that day is when it finally came to me that, no, she can actually put clothes on too. So I’m completely redundant.

Martha Beck:
Redundant. Well you’re not though, because I’m trying to figure out something related to those very same clothing advances.

Rowan Mangan:
Tell me about it.

Martha Beck:
Because you also ordered me some pants, and they came and they were shaped for a completely different human. And-

Rowan Mangan:
Like an octopus?

Martha Beck:
More like an octopus, yeah. More like an octopus with hooves and a little chubbiness. No, the octopus would actually be very slim in the middle. An octopus, a foot long can fit through a hole the size of a dime. That is literally true. And therefore an octopus would’ve fit in these pants. I’m not sure what else would, frankly, I don’t. I am trying to figure out how to return things by mail. By snail mail. They came in a box designed to be tried on. Not the box, the pants. And then-

Rowan Mangan:
Maybe that was the mistake.

Martha Beck:
There you go, I can fit in the box. Then if they don’t fit, you put them back in the box, there is a self-addressed stamped label. You put them in it. I assume you take them somewhere. The box and the pants have been sitting in my room for five days, and they just strike such fear into my heart. The thought of returning them by mail just is so complex to me. I’m very excited about things like how to overcome anxiety and transform human consciousness, and save the ecosphere. But return a pair of pants? In my dreams. I’m actually thinking of maybe having some bones replaced or rearranged so that I fit the pants so I won’t have to send them back.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, we could do that. We could do that. It’s funny, I’m trying to rank the difficulty of getting dressed with things the right way round, and stuff like that, versus… Because you can get dressed. We’ve established this.

Martha Beck:
Mainly, yeah. If I focus.

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t know. I believe that if you can get dressed, you can return a pair of pants.

Martha Beck:
It’s an interesting hypothesis, Mangan. We shall test it.

Rowan Mangan:
All right, let’s test it. We’ll be right back with more Bewildered.

I have a favor to ask. You might not know this, but ratings and reviews are gold in the podcasting universe. They get podcasts in front of more faces, more eyes, more ears. All the bits that you could have a podcast in front of, that’s what they do. It would help us enormously if you would consider going over to your favorite podcasting app, especially if it’s Apple, and giving us a few stars, maybe even five, maybe even six. If you can find a way to hack the system, I wouldn’t complain. And a review would also be wonderful, we read them all and love them. Thank you very much in advance, let’s just go out there and bewilder the world.

Let’s get to today’s topic. What do you think?

Martha Beck:
Oh, a topic. Why not? Let’s do it.

Rowan Mangan:
This topic came from a conversation that we had not too long ago that was related to the idea of drifting. I think I was driving and we were talking on the phone, and I was changing lanes or something. And there was just that sense of, oh, the car wants to stay in the lane. And I started thinking and talking to Marty about how so many of us just drift through our lives from milestones that the culture approves of, from one to the other. Whether it’s drift from school to college, if that’s the rules of your particular culture. Or to work. And as long as we continue to take the obvious direction, then we don’t have to think too much. And it’s relaxing.

Martha Beck:
Right. And that is actually one of the functions of cultural patterns, they save us from having to make choices. We can be quite passive because the whole culture is telling us, now you do this, and now you do this, and now you do this. So it’s convenient and it saves a lot of anguish, I’m sure. But as you pointed out, people can drift into places that aren’t perfect for them.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, exactly. It’s like you can get caught in a current and then suddenly 50 years goes by and you’re like, oh wait, I don’t think I wanted to be on that track after all. And so we just started thinking about culture wants us to drift in a certain direction, and Marty started talking about what she was calling the drift patterns. Which is where the culture wants us in particular to drift. And so that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Because I’ve been reading a lot about 19th century, maybe even 18th century naval warfare. And-

Rowan Mangan:
Of course you have.

Martha Beck:
Of course I have. It’s really fascinating how these people who couldn’t really go far or communicate very freely on land compared to us, they could get into the ocean. And if they knew the drift patterns, they could just get into the one they wanted and basically be carried by currents as well as wind anywhere in the world. And that is so efficient and almost magical. And I thought, culture is doing us a favor, or thinks it is, by trying to carry us through our lives that way. But as you say, 50 years in, if we’re in the wrong drift pattern, it’s brutal to realize you’ve wasted all that time. And why did you do that? The culture basically wanted you to drift in the way that it sent you. Because when individuals conform to its drift pattern, it gets to maintain what it is and be in control. So it’s basically benevolent, but then it can become extremely powerful. And if a ship is in the wrong current, really bad things can happen. Yeah?

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. I don’t know, we are probably belaboring this metaphor too hard. But that’s right, there’s plenty more metaphors to come in the show. You’re in a current, you’re drifting into college from school and that seems like you say, pretty benevolent, pretty benign. And then I think what can happen is that there’s gentle currents and then there’s not so gentle currents. And then suddenly you don’t… It’s about, do you know you’re in a current, or not? In Australia, we’re all very, very aware of what’s called riptides, rip currents. Which, probably everywhere, but it feels like a very big deal in Australia. In your childhood it’s like, the rip, get caught in the rip. And that’s a current that flows outwards from the beach. It’s a strong one. And very quickly, if you get caught in a rip, you can just be out to sea. And it’s scary. It’s super scary. Yeah.

Martha Beck:
And if you’s try to swim against it, you think you’re a good swimmer. And you swim, swim, swim, swim, swim. And I once got caught in a current that was headed north of the beach in Florida and I was trying to swim toward the beach east. And I thought I was swimming really well, because I was making such progress, I was moving so far. And then I looked up and realized I had never seen the landscape that was there. It was a totally different beach. And it was seriously scary trying to get out of it, because you could drown out there pretty easily. Even in America.

Rowan Mangan:
Even in America. Why do you think that culture establishes these really strong drift patterns, Marty?

Martha Beck:
Well, I think there’s so much of us that want to control other people. And control ourselves too. Drift patterns happen when a certain critical mass of people want to control one another. And it’s usually because, sometimes we think it’s because it will keep them safe. But often we reinforce drift patterns because we think it’ll force people to do what we want, or get what we want from them.

Rowan Mangan:
If you are defining safety as your goal, and that safety is doing more or less what you did, you might be tempted to push someone else into that.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. We all try to protect our children by teaching them to do certain things, to obey us implicitly, to respond to what we say. And it does start off as protection, and it’s important that way. But if you look deeper into really controlling parents, often they want the child to represent themselves. Reflect well on me, child. It’s not just about protecting you, it’s about making the kids buff up our cultural place.

And marriage is the same way. I’ve seen so many clients who forced spouses to make decisions that were in keeping with cultural norms, but it wasn’t for the good of either one of the people. It was so in one spouse’s mind they would look good to the neighbors, to their parents, to whoever.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. It’s so interesting how the way that we’re controlled by culture is so much about, what’s it going to look like to other people? It’s so intense.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. It’s about appearances. And there’s a part of us that also likes it when other people give us these cultural patterns that we can just follow, because it means we don’t have to make scary choices. We just lie on our backs and drift, and we go to the places we’re supposed to go to.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, yeah. It’s perfect. And you get the rewards of the culture, and you get the feeling of safety. And doing what’s familiar and what you’ve seen other people do feels very safe, and very affirming. But it’s like, you have to think of at what cost to, I don’t know, your soul, right?

Martha Beck:
Right. At what cost do we never set precedence of breaking free? At what cost do we agree never to do the things our culture says we don’t do? There’s that weird thing of drift patterns where it’s just, why don’t we do it? Well, we just don’t.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s not the done thing.

Martha Beck:
Yes. We don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day. I don’t even know when Labor Day is, nor do I own white shoes. But that’s beside the point. Yeah, it’s weird. All these little cues. And somebody says, “But we don’t do that.” And you’re like, oh, all right. Because-

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, because that’s powerful. For whatever reason, that’s very powerful. I was just thinking about how much the culture, our lives are set up with all these little rewards. When you pass each level you get points. Like wedding gifts. Get married, the culture loves it when you get married, and everyone will give you a toaster and a fridge. I don’t know what you get. But no one gave me a wedding present, weirdly.

Martha Beck:
Nobody gave me one either the second time. I got them when I first got married as a 20-year-old Mormon, I got bags of sugar. That’s what Mormons get as wedding gifts, more often than not.

Rowan Mangan:
I love that.

Martha Beck:
But nobody gave me anything when we got married.

Rowan Mangan:
No. Weird. Almost like we never told anyone and went in yoga pants. But anyway, that’s a story for another time. So, wedding gifts are a classic. Because if you don’t get married, you got to buy your own freaking toaster.

Martha Beck:
That’s right. That’s right.

Rowan Mangan:
And the whole of doing the standard middle of the road, mainstream life is set up with those kinds of rewards. That’s a really obvious one. But just to accord with the standard milestones is just pure reward after reward. It’s like little dopamine hits. They’re like a little computer game.

Martha Beck:
And we just long for it. Because it’s like we’re going to be set for life if we can just get into the right current. And if it will just grab us hard enough. It makes me think of the Janis Ian song, 17.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah.

Martha Beck:
Because I really identified with that song. And part of it goes, the rich relationed hometown queen marries into what she needs with a guarantee of company and haven for the elderly. Your whole damn life is set. If you look right at 17, and you get the football star to marry you, you’re set to the grave. Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s interesting, this topic brewing so many songs up. It’s so interesting. Because I started thinking then, as you were talking about Jack and Diane, the John Cougar Mellencamp.

Martha Beck:
Right, right.

Rowan Mangan:
And that’s that hometown thing, life goes on long after the-

Martha Beck:
Yeah. I think-

Rowan Mangan:
Joy?

Martha Beck:
The thrill of living is gone.

Rowan Mangan:
The thrill. The thrill of living is gone. Yeah. But it is, it’s so… I really think marriage and conventional look in marriage is really fascinating. The traditions are so well scripted. And so you grow up and you see… And this is in our culture, it’s very, very different. But I could imagine for a Hindu wedding as well, it would work exactly the same way. You grow up seeing all those amazing traditions, or whatever the traditions are.

But you see that white dress, you see those suits, you see whatever the meaningful images are. You hear the stories. So much of the culture’s power is in storytelling. And then when you embody that picture and it’s you in there, and you’re like falling into line with the ancestors. And you know you’re doing it right because you’re doing the same thing they did.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Every Disney movie.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. And it seems like if we can just keep in that current, actually, it’s the solution to everything.

Martha Beck:
It is. I actually, at 17, I was so highly acculturated because I was raised in Mormonism back when… They didn’t even have… There was a sitcom that had a gay character, and in Utah it couldn’t be shown until after 11:00 PM so that children would never see it.

Rowan Mangan:
When the gays come out.

Martha Beck:
When the gays come out.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s well-known that gays come out at 11:00. Nightly.

Martha Beck:
I was 30 when I came out. But they should come out when they’re 11. Kids, it gets better. Anyway, Mormonism is a very narrow, very strong current, or at least it was when I was a lass. And I got really stuck in it. I really was. It’s not that I wanted to be the bride or anything, but I wanted that certainty. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be safe forever. I did not ever want to be lonely. And I thought that current is the way. And I jumped in and I got married at 20, and had three kids right away. And really thought that I was set for the rest of my life. And then-

Rowan Mangan:
What happened?

Martha Beck:
Then I decided I wanted to kill myself. My body fell apart. I got really, really depressed. And I remembered that at the end of that same song, Janis Ian says, “Remember those who win the game, lose the love they sought it to gain.” Listen to these lines, I love it. “In debentures of quality and dubious integrity.” And I just wrote a book about integrity just a few years ago.

Rowan Mangan:
I just wrote a book about debentures.

Martha Beck:
It’s thrilling. It’s a thriller. But a love story as well.

Rowan Mangan:
What is a debentures, please? When it’s at home?

Martha Beck:
I think it means it’s worth less. You accept something that’s worth less. It’s like that dating show on Mad TV called Lowered Expectations. You’ll do anything to get in the current, you’ll sell out. And you’ll abandon your integrity. I didn’t know who I really was at that age. What I did was leave my integrity by getting into the current and saying, this is the way I want to live my life. My ex-husband, I think would say the same thing. He had done exactly the same thing, grew up in the same culture, also very young. He was 23 when we got married.

We were caught in the current of our culture, and we were floating along together. And at a certain point we looked at each other and went, ew. Neither one of us likes this current at all. I think largely based on the fact that I fit all three of the categories that the Mormon church… One of the leaders came out and said in the 90s, “There are three enemies of the church in the latter days, feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals.” And I was like, uh-oh, that rings a bell. I got three for three. And imagine that, I wake up in the current. It kind of reminds me, I saw a sea otter colony in California at the beach.

Rowan Mangan:
I was just going to say, this story reminds me so much of otters.

Martha Beck:
It does, doesn’t it?

Rowan Mangan:
So obvious. It’s almost too obvious though to go to the otter angle at this point. Young Mormon couple, it just screams otter story. Go on.

Martha Beck:
Sea otter, in particular. Yeah, those things are big. They’re as big as a four-year-old. So there’s these big fuzzy darling things, and they’re sleeping on their backs in the water on a rocky cove in California. And one of the babies is sleeping with his paw interlaced with his mommy’s paw. Which is adorable. And then he got too asleep and he let go, and he got caught in a rip. And both of them were asleep and it was carrying him out. And he was going out quickly, still asleep. And there were a small group of people on the beach and we were screaming at the otters to wake up.

Rowan Mangan:
Marty.

Martha Beck:
And then-

Rowan Mangan:
If this freaking story doesn’t have a happy ending, I swear to God, I will not be the only one coming for you.

Martha Beck:
I’m going to write a novel about it, it’s a tragedy that rivals Anna Karenina. No, it had a great ending. What happened was the baby woke up. And I saw his little head come up, and then I saw his little mouth open. And you know how sight travels faster than sound? Like you’ll see lightning and then you’ll hear it. He let out a shriek that I saw before I heard it. His little mouth open. And then I heard… And the mother woke up and turned her head and she was like…

Rowan Mangan:
It’s like me at the supermarket, when I turn my head for a minute to look at the ingredients list or something, I turn back and I’m like, where the fuck is the baby?

Martha Beck:
Where’s Marty? Is she well-dressed? Are her clothes on correctly? No, they are not. And I am hiding under the ginger root. Okay. Anyway, these two otters, they swam toward each other, they clench paws. And there was a happy memory. Sorry, it’s happy memory for me. There was a happy ending to it. And that is basically what I did when I was 29 and decided I was going to-

Rowan Mangan:
You just watched otters?

Martha Beck:
Yes, I just watched otters. No, I was the baby otter who had drifted far from shore, and I woke up and looked at the people that I was meant to be with, like lesbians, were far away from me. And I needed to open my tiny mouth and shriek. I am a gay feminist intellectual, Lord help me!

Rowan Mangan:
The lesbians saw you screaming before they heard you.

Martha Beck:
Well, Karrie Coo did. She came swimming in going, “I’m in the same current and I’m all three of those things too.” And together we swam across current and got away.

Rowan Mangan:
Brilliant.

Martha Beck:
And the rest is history. But it was a gift to be in such a strong culture, because I was so conformist. And because the current was so absolutely inimical to my nature that it was one of those things that when I woke up, I could kick off it really hard and say, “I want to be the opposite of that.” So in a weird way, it’s good to wake up in a current to see that it is really drifting fast and you really need to do something about it. Instead of waiting until you’re 80 and then going, oh, that was a mistake. When I came to my senses, I was in such a strong current carrying me so fast that I realized quickly, relatively quickly, before 30, that I needed to push away. Which is nice. I think the earlier you can push away from culture, the earlier you find your true nature.

Rowan Mangan:
It is really bound up in youth, a lot of this stuff, isn’t it? Because it’s like that’s when it gets its claws in you a little bit. There’s so many of those cultural milestones happen when you are really young. And then, you were very lucky. If you’d given another five years, you might not have got off that.

Martha Beck:
Right?

Rowan Mangan:
Let alone another 20. I think we can always get off it, but you’ve got more and more and more to “lose” as you grow older.

Martha Beck:
And I think we need to say it’s never too late. A lot of people finally pushed back in their 60s, 70s, even 80s, and really be glad they did.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Oh, God. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s funny, because thinking about myself, I thought I wasn’t in a current. I thought I was just such a little renegade individual and I knew I was pushing back against the mainstream because I wasn’t doing all the things that you were doing, in my 20s. But it’s really funny that what I ended up doing, of course, because it’s me, is just pledging allegiance to a different current. A different culture.

Martha Beck:
I think everybody does that, especially when we’re young. Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. You’re just sort of casting about a little bit for something. And for me, as long as it wasn’t marriage and children and the steady job and everything. And I did like the gay intellectual, what was it? Feminist?

Martha Beck:
Lesbian. Oh, yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
The gay lesbian. Don’t tell me she’s a lesbian as well as being gay.

Martha Beck:
Yeah, gay, lesbian, feminist.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. For me, it was so important to me. God, I was such a little punk, Marty. It was so important to me to be seen not to be doing those things. I had no financial security, I built no career. I didn’t have a family. I just wandered about. And I was like, oh my gosh, I was such a dickhead. Kind of really self-aware of my own youth. And like, yeah, this is the moment that you can do this, so do it to the max. And it’s just silly. It’s just silly. And I followed all the tropes of the hippies, really. It’s funny, because I was drifting into what my parents’ generation did when they were young. And my parents particularly. I did the same bloody things. I played acoustic guitar and smoked cigarettes and pot, and went to India.

Martha Beck:
But that took a lot of energy, a lot of guts. It was a pretty fun current. That’s the thing, I think actually-

Rowan Mangan:
It was fun.

Martha Beck:
You’ve never wasted your time being in a current. You learn who you are no matter what current you’re in. I really don’t want listeners to think, oh, I’ve really blown it. I’ve been letting drift patterns have me. But the thing is, I think no matter how long you drift, now you’re waking up and going, oh yeah, I was such a little punk. I was caught in these hippie modes. At the moment you can say that you’ve learned something, you’ve taken this position that’s outside that cultural drift. It’s like you’ve thrown your past self a rope. The moment you wake up, you’ve already learned from everything you did before. I really feel like no drift is wasted, but the drifts that are not right for your true nature can make you suffer a lot. And they can make you exhausted and miserable.

Rowan Mangan:
And more than that, it’s never as simple as we’re making it sound. In the sense that even if you’re in some sort of drift pattern, you’re doing it in your own way and you’re still on your path, or whatever. It’s not as simple as though you were wrong and now you’re right or anything like that. It’s always going to be a very complex thing. I think that it is true though, that it’s very tiring to swim against any current at any time. And-

Martha Beck:
Oh, that’s the truth.

Rowan Mangan:
You’ve got to do it when it matters. And maybe not so much when it doesn’t matter. It’s like, what parts of my life do I stake this on? So-

Martha Beck:
So the drift pattern can have me as long as it’s not taking me too far away from my truth, because it’s so tiring to swim against it.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Like, okay, my kid wants to have whatever in her lunchbox. I’m not going to put a lot of energy into swimming against the current on that because this other thing really matters to me. I’m getting the metaphors-

Martha Beck:
Remember before Lila was born you were like, “My child will never see a screen in her life.” And I was like, oh crap. My other children’s a lot of screens. And now-

Rowan Mangan:
No screens, no processed food, no white food, nothing. Not to my child, never. Not my child.

Martha Beck:
I felt so deeply affirmed the other day when she was sick and you turned on Peppa Pig. And you just went, “Oh, thank God for television, it’s like toddler storage.” And I was like, oh, I wasn’t evil. I did not do something lazy. I let that current take me because raising kids is hard, and you need whatever current you can get most days.

Rowan Mangan:
I think, for those of us who have children, nothing in the world is cuter than what we thought before we had the children.

Martha Beck:
Right. Oh my God.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, you were so, so close.

Martha Beck:
I like to ask pregnant clients, or dads of pregnant people, what do you think life will be like with the baby? Ugh. We’ll get up in the morning. We’ll read stories and do dances, and we’ll make macaroni art. Then the baby will nap while I have a career. Okay, hon, you just drift into that. You just go ahead.

Rowan Mangan:
We’ll sit side by side. We’ll sit side by side, she’ll draw with her crayons and I’ll just type away on my laptop.

Martha Beck:
I’ll take her to the office. I’ll take both the twins to the office. Everyone will be delighted. And they’ll sit in their bassinets like tiny little dolls.

Rowan Mangan:
Good times. Good times. Yeah. All of that was to say that you pick your battles, because you don’t want to be exhausted. Completely exhausted from being a maverick at the point where something really matters.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. If you’re sailing a ship and you’re getting in a current that’s going basically where you want, you can ride it for a while.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Martha Beck:
So we’re all in some currents, and that’s not always bad, but sometimes we need to wake up and start screaming like otters. And I would compare that to coming to our true nature. Instead of coming to consensus, come to our senses. How do we come to our senses about drift patterns, Ro?

Rowan Mangan:
An excellent question, and we are going to talk about it in just a minute. What are some ways that we can recognize that we’re in a drift pattern? Like when we’re drifting with culture and probably away from our true nature?

Martha Beck:
Well, for me, I think it’s a push-pull thing. I felt pushed. If I go back to my whole Mormon thing, I felt awful. I felt like a sense of growing resentment and exhaustion that I couldn’t place because it was all around me. And my body started to break down. I got really grumpy and depressed. It was like everything in my true nature was going into revolt and pushing me away from the cultural model.

Rowan Mangan:
That’s so interesting.

Martha Beck:
So there’s a lot of push.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. Whereas, I can remember a really distinct sense of being pulled towards my true nature. I keep having trouble extending this metaphor in the right directions. But anyway, I had this really vivid memory yesterday of sitting… I was dating this guy and I was at his house, and he had all these housemates. And they were all super intelligent, educated people. And so I’m sitting there about to go off and be a waitress, eating my toast. And there’s this conversation going on at the table, and they started talking about whatever the political matter of the day was. And I just remember Jasper saying, “Well, you know Mossad will be all over that.” And I was like, “What’s Mossad? What’s Mossad? I need to know this.” And I just remember thinking, I am supposed to be someone who can talk about concepts and political concepts and what’s happening in the world. And I was just, out of the clear blue sky, I just had to. And after that year in Ireland I went home and enrolled in a Master’s in international politics because it was just like this, bing!

Martha Beck:
And now there is another area where you have to keep me as a pet because you know so much about international politics. And I’m like, what is Mossad? And so there’s the push of resentment and fatigue, and then there’s the pull of excitement. And often it’s both at once, I think. Because I think our true nature is fighting back. The further we get in a drift pattern away from our true nature, the stronger the pressures that are coming from inside. Both push and pull saying, not that, go over there. So what do you do when you’re in a moment and you realize, oh my god, I’ve been in a drift pattern? I hate it and I feel pushed away from it, and I feel pulled towards something else, but the current is strong. What do I do?

Rowan Mangan:
I don’t know if it’s because we’re talking about this elemental thing of the rolling ocean, or whatever. But when it’s like, what do we do? What pops into my head really bizarrely is from early childhood, from primary school. And I was amazed to hear that you had this over here as well, because it feels like something that would’ve just been in my little corner of the world.

Martha Beck:
Do tell.

Rowan Mangan:
Stop, drop, and roll. Now, again, the metaphor strains ridiculously.

Martha Beck:
That’s for fire. That’s for fire. If you’re on fire, stop, drop, and roll.

Rowan Mangan:
No. Oh, yeah. Yeah, if you’re on fire. Yes.

Martha Beck:
When did you guys do it? When do you do it in Australia, when there are snakes?

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah, just basically anything. It’s just not safe, except snakes. Snakes are usually on the ground, so don’t drop.

Martha Beck:
So if I’m in downtown Melbourne and I just get worried, and something is worrying people. And I see people stopping, dropping, and rolling around, I just assume that they’re alarmed about something.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, shit, mate, it’s time to stop, drop, and roll, I guess. Oh, well, everyone else is doing it.

Martha Beck:
I think it’s a great phrase, if you take the fire part out. Because I don’t even think it’s a metaphor. I literally think you have to stop. I think stop, drop, it’s exactly what you need to do. Literally stop what you’re doing. Go into a room by yourself, stop it. Stop everything.

Rowan Mangan:
Yeah. I need to defend this because it is… I think it pops up, and maybe it even embeds so deeply in our psyche, the stop, drop, and roll, because it is like a message from the universe.

Martha Beck:
This will get you out of your parents’ house.

Rowan Mangan:
Exactly. Exactly.

Martha Beck:
Unless they kick you back in. No, it’s really, really primal. You’re right. Whenever I get caught in any kind of cultural drift, even if… You talk about culture at different levels. Every friendship has a culture, every school has a culture. So whenever I feel that push-pull inside me, I have to get by myself. I literally stop going with the flow of the culture by being by myself, away from any of those pressures. So it’s a literal stop. And then I drop in. I drop in to my deepest self.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s funny it’s drop in is the expression you use. But I immediately, being a good little hippie, think of drop out. The alternative expression.

Martha Beck:
It wasn’t a hippie thing. Drop out, drop in, smoke pot or something. I was in Utah, I didn’t know.

Rowan Mangan:
I know, but I can’t think of it in this moment. Everyone, just put it in the comments, please.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Anyway, I use the phrase drop in when I go into a meditative state. And a lot of people use it, it does feel… I even picture it as I drop my eyes to half-mast and my attention turns inward to the center of my head. And then it’s almost like I feel something like a coin dropping into a well, and it ends up landing right in the center of my body. And it goes through my heart and down into my solar plexus and there… Or all the way to the pit of my gut. We call it the [foreign language 00:42:42] in Japanese. And there I feel what’s right for me, and where the cultural drift is taking me that I don’t want to go. I think drop in is great.

Rowan Mangan:
It’s so interesting that you have to get alone, because alone is the only place where there’s no culture.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. Yeah.

Rowan Mangan:
Isn’t that fascinating? So you stop, you get alone, you drop in. So you get down below the conscious mind where your interjected culture is. All the that left brain stuff, all the language and voices and blah, blah, blah. And just sink down below that because that’s where we can listen to ourselves. Listen to our true self. Stop, drop, listen, and roll.

Martha Beck:
Listen, yeah. That’s implied in the dropping in. And I think some people get so good at it they can do it in the middle of a conversation. I think if you practice it, you get better and better, and then you’re wild. Right?

Rowan Mangan:
Right.

Martha Beck:
I’m not sure where the metaphor goes with roll. Although-

Rowan Mangan:
I do.

Martha Beck:
Oh, say it. Tell me.

Rowan Mangan:
All right. Maybe you stop, drop, and listen. And you listen to your true self. And maybe your truth self says, nah, you’re just hungry, or whatever. It’s fine. You’re not, this is a fine current for now. But if your true self is like, yeah, this is not right for us. You’re a little body and you’re in a little current, and then you just roll, roll, roll, roll.

Martha Beck:
I have to say-

Rowan Mangan:
Roll out of it.

Martha Beck:
Sea otters roll a lot.

Rowan Mangan:
Oh, my God. Everything with the otters every time.

Martha Beck:
I’m just saying, I mean they-

Rowan Mangan:
Marty, if you love otters so much, why don’t you just marry them?

Martha Beck:
Wait, what? You’re not an otter? Ah! Yeah, well they do roll, and they make some progress that way. When I think about this, I think about our Lila. Our beautiful Lila was not an early walker. She just basically was fine being a sponge for several months after other babies were toddling out. And before she could walk, before she could stand, before she could crawl, she began to roll out. It’s when they start to roll, it’s like the basic first thing a baby learns. You leave them on the change table and the next thing you hear is a thump. And you’ve never seen them move at all before. They have rolled. And I think at the times when I have been pushed and pulled and drifted out to way beyond my comfort zone, my lying flat thing moves in. And I lie down flat, and then in my mind I roll in the opposite direction, or crosswise for the current. Crosswise.

Rowan Mangan:
I just realized why it’s roll. It’s roll because swimming against the current is exhausting and roll is a very low energy way to get out of something. Instead of flounder and butterfly and try to do freestyle, which you never really learn properly anyway, out of the current. Just roll. Everybody can roll. Roll. Roll.

Martha Beck:
Yeah. You’re just floating there. I love that. Because sometimes when people tell me they want to come back to integrity and they’re like, “I have to do all these dramatic gestures.” And I’m like, “That is going to break you.” The current is so strong that if your little fragile self gets up there and tries to fight it, it may just break you. But if you can just gently roll away. You’re talking to your parents and you think, I don’t agree with that perspective. And instead of having to change the whole family system, you go get in your car or your room or whatever. You drop in, you go, that’s not the way I want to go. And then you just gently go to some place on the internet, or whatever, where people with other ideas. You find another current that’s going a different way. Because I think the drift patterns, like the navigation patterns for ships, are incredibly valuable. But you have to be able to steer into the currents and know that there are always currents. And if you can roll into the right one. Bingo.

Rowan Mangan:
Marty, against all my best intentions, you have managed to make this an incredibly useful and practical podcast. I think I’m going to use it. I think people are going to use it. I think it’s awesome.

Martha Beck:
And what I’ve learned is that the zipper usually goes in the back.

Rowan Mangan:
I’ve learned that you thought I was an otter this whole time.

Martha Beck:
And I’m willing to roll with that zipper in the back thing. I will roll. And as long as we all roll together, we can just wave at each other in the ocean. So keep rolling and stay wild.

Rowan Mangan: 
We hope you’re enjoying Bewildered. If you’re in the USA and want to be notified when a new episode comes out, text the word ‘WILD’ to 570-873-0144.

We’re also on Instagram. Our handle is @bewilderedpodcast. You can follow us to get updates, hear funny snippets and outtakes, and chat with other fans of the show.

For more of us, Martha’s on Instagram, themarthabeck. She’s on Facebook, The Martha Beck, and she’s on Twitter, marthabeck. Her website is, MarthaBeck.com. And me, I too am on Instagram. Rowan_Mangan. I’m on Facebook as Rowan Mangan. And I’m on Twitter as RowanMangan. Bewildered is produced by Scott Forster with support from the brilliant team at MBI.


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