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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