Stories for Lent: #16 The great over-thinker

I spent most of Monday morning writing, writing, writing. You’d think I ran out of steam, but no – today was the same. Julia Cameron said somewhere that when we are writing more (in our morning pages), that’s when we’re ready to write because we have a lot to say. Then I looked at what I’d actually written and I realized I’d been going round in circles for about 6 pages.
Well. Nobody said that the journals had to be published. In fact, I do believe that’s the point.

Notebooks, journals, practice runs, warm-ups… if reading memoirs of the craft has taught me anything, it is that writers need permission to write in circles. Me, I feel like sometimes I need to be told to stop and just get on with whatever it is I have a problem with.

Like many others (it seems) I, too, write in order to explain things to myself. I take a bunch of messy feelings and try to transcribe them into sentences, and then go over everything, syllable by syllable, deconstructing until I have something at least vaguely resembling coherent thought. I’m an over-thinker – this is what we do.

But is it always a good thing?

*

I can think of a case (or ten) where my inability to shut my brain down saved me from making a big fool of myself. I can also think of two more cases (or twenty) where it led to me making an even bigger fool of myself. Funny how that works?

If nearly a decade of typecasting Katherine Heigl into movies has taught us anything, being a neurotic, career-driven, over-thinker of a woman is the worst thing you could be, and the best thing you could do is to loosen up. (Usually through a very good porking. Who says we have no use for romance?) And indeed, the easiest humiliating memory to spring to mind is when I took eight months to work up the guts to tell a guy I fancied him, never mind the fact that he completely ignored it when I drunkenly propositioned him a few month earlier. But then you have to wonder – when you have to imbibe your weight in cider for liquid courage, is it really your brain that’s the problem, or the romance? Was I trying too hard? Or did I know something, deep down, and didn’t want to acknowledge it?

It’s probably not a coincidence that this particular year was one of the most painful in my life. The one before, I had completely bottomed out from anxiety and stress. I’d stopped writing. I’d stopped enjoying myself. I was drowning in self-recrimination and self-pity. The one that followed, I was finding my way out, but slowly, and with many a stumble along the way. I was still struggling to write. I was still struggling with food and exercise.

To an extent, being in that group, and having a crush kept me sane. But then I hitched my wagon a little too close, started taking the things they said too much to heart, started using random criteria pulled out of hearsay to value myself.

And that turned out SO well!

*

The biggest irony is that for all my over-thinking, I remained absolutely blind to so many things – that year, the one before, the one after, too. Blind to the way I was poisoning my own attitude to food. Blind to how I was using exercise as punishment, rather than an end in itself. Blind to a myriad of flaws in others, convinced it was all my fault. Displacing blame for my own behaviour where it wasn’t due. In the end, my over-thinking made a huge clusterfuck of things, so huge I had to drop it for a while because I couldn’t carry it anymore.

And then comes the challenge. Sitting on the floor in the middle of the mess and trying not to punish the over-thinking brain, not making another resolution to “fix myself” but rather to move forward and be myself instead.

It’s hard. Accepting who you are for what you are.

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