Around the time I turned 11, I discovered that the easiest way to get all my other worries to leave me alone was to pick one worry, assign it the job of being the “big worry,” and then worry about it to the exclusion of all other worries.
Not surprisingly, since a worry’s primary (only) job is to be worrisome enough to catch our full attention, I always had plenty of worries vying for this plush assignment.
But the worry of choice that year, and for many ensuing years, was weight.
Weight, shape, size, numbers on a scale, reflections in a mirror, examinations from all angles, attempts to find more angles (and fewer curves) to examine….worries on this theme were on constant replay day and night, weekends and holidays, for going on two decades before I finally located the “stop” button.
As you might imagine, that particular moment was an uncomfortable one.
Reason being, because once I began pushing the “stop” button every time the formerly favored topic of weight worry fired up once again, what I was left with was everything else worrisome in my life.
It was mental chaos.
With no head honcho worry to quell the rest, I was continually being faced with a horde of peon worries, each clamoring to be chosen. They had no sense of personal space and (frankly) no manners. If loud was good, louder was better. Many times I was tempted to push “play” on the old weight worry again just to get the rest of them to shut up. Occasionally I did.
Today, things have calmed down immensely.
Yet still, there are times when the ruminations recur.
Only now, instead of ruminating on weight, shape or size, I’m ruminating on whether I should pack a peanut butter sandwich in case they don’t have food at the festival. Which then leads to the realization that I’m out of bread – hard to make a peanut butter sandwich without bread. So what else could I put peanut butter on that would be portable? A banana, perhaps. Or apple slices. But that can get messy, especially when packed in a ziplock bag….so maybe I should go to the store and buy some bread. But that would mean going shopping, and spending money, and I really don’t feel like going grocery shopping, so maybe I should just trust that I will be able to find something else that I can eat at the festival after all….
Or maybe the rumination of the day is whether I should return the pink no-slip bath mat, which is rather pinker and more energizing than it had seemed when I purchased it in the store yesterday, and choose instead a new version of the more soothing, calming blue bath mat I used to have that I thought was old and slimy yesterday but now feels more like a treasured heirloom I gave up on too soon…..
These types of (relatively) harmless ruminations are my sanctuaries these days when life gets too impossibly perplexing elsewhere.
Is this something I want to work on, or work towards – ridding my mind of the need for ruminations of any sort in favor of mental stillness, no-mind, a thought-free state….>
Of course, since I really only noticed I was doing this a few days ago, it may take a few more days yet to achieve that goal.
But yes, definitely, I would like to be free from dependence on any kind of rumination, harmless or not so harmless, as a mental babysitter when I can’t be with my mind to watch it every second.
Even better, ideally I would like my mind to grow up sufficiently to not need a rumination babysitter any more.
That would be grand.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever noticed a tendency to fixate on one or a handful of worries when life seems to be getting away from you in other areas? If yes, what kinds of worries do you find yourself fixating on? Do you feel like these are “harmless” worries – and certainly more harmless than the alternative? If you could pick one ultimate coping strategy for your mind when confronted with stress, what would your ideal strategy look like?