It’s not easy typing an article with my wireless keyboard balanced precariously on the loose skin of my doxiepoo, Cleo, who’s laying on my lap and flatly refuses to move. But that is, indeed, how I was typing until our bichon, Delly, turned over in her sleep and unceremoniously fell off the bed in a flurry of white fur. Thankfully, Cleo got up to investigate. (Delly was fine. She had that surprised expression when she jumped back on the bed as if to say, “Dang! That hasn’t happened since I was a puppy.”)
My father had a saying, “Life is stranger than fiction.” He was right. I like to say, “Life is the strangest thing that ever happened to me.” Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to run the machinery we all call “me” or “ourselves.”
There are so many people telling us “how should we then live.” Including me. Touché. One week coffee is good for us, the next it’ll kill us. Ideas come into style and out-of-style faster than Zsa Zsa Gabor (may she rest in peace) went through husbands.
But each person is like a unique machine, for lack of a better analogy. You can’t run a CNC lathe the way you run a 6-color offset printing press. They’re completely different requiring different skills and different chemicals to keep them running smoothly without overheating and breaking down.
So it is with people. The trick is figuring out how to run our own machinery because, unlike Sheldon Cooper, the rest of us didn’t come with a manual. Alas!
Here’s an example. All my life, when 9 p.m. rolled around, shades were drawn, lights turned out, silence reined and I was encouraged to drift off into the Land of Nod. And all my life, it’s taken me about two hours to fall asleep. My mind won’t shut off. Given a blacked-out sensory deprivation chamber (aka my bedroom), it spins even faster reworking the events of the day for lack of anything to distract it and slow it down. Even worse, I’m a night owl. I have a huge burst of energy at 9 p.m. But, let me stay up ’til all hours, leave the lights on and the television going and I’m off to the races in no time flat. It may be against every sleep study on the planet, but it’s how I sleep best. The machinery is finally being run properly and I’m no longer chronically tired.
The same goes for our psychological machinery. Our minds are all wired differently and abuse makes it even more complicated.
Some people seem straightforward and uncomplicated. They never seem to be too upset by anything. Easy come, easy go. Water off a duck’s back. I envy them.
Then there are those like me (and Frasier Crane!) who are told, “You overthink everything. You make everything so complicated.” But that’s how my mental machinery is wired. Have I tried to be simple and straightforward? For years! Did it work? Nope! It never, ever worked. Pretending to be easygoing only delayed eventually having to work through every hurt, every failed relationship my way. The “overthinking” way. It’s the only way my machinery works. It also happens to be the fuel that runs Narcissism Meets Normalcy — “overthinking” things.
Isn’t “You’re overthinking things” what narcissists and other abusers always say when we start thinking. It gums up the works of their free pass to abuse us with zero repercussions. They need us to be easy-going, simple, sweet and smiley so they can keep doing what makes them happiest or a rough facsimile of “happy” which, frankly, I’m not sure narcissists ever are. Happy, that is. Uptight, upset, depressed, moping, angry. But not happy and relaxed. Nope. Never.
Perhaps “overthinking things” is our superpower! (Yeah, you can tell I’ve just gotten into the whole Marvel Universe thing.)
Perhaps the flip-side of overthinking is brainwashing. Narcissists doing our thinking for us ahead of time so, when we get around to overthinking things, our logic has already been tampered with. This happened to me all the time.
My narcissists were unique. Instead of being dictatorial and dogmatic in a “You’re doing it our way. Shut up and sit down” way, they always tried to bring me around to their way of thinking. To force pseudomutuality. To do my overthinking for me prematurely, so I never had the opportunity to think my thoughts. To employ my logic. To think authentically.
Oh, don’t get me wrong!!! It was still “their way or the highway.” There was no question about that! They just found their own lives were simpler and easier if I didn’t “kick against the pricks,” question nor rebel because I’d been brainwashed to always seeing things their way, forced into pseudomutuality, pseudo-acquiescence. Hence all the talking, lecturing, brainwashing and mind controlling. It was easier for them….in the long run.
And that worked nicely for them for thirty-six years. But the proverbial shit will hit the proverbial fan, sooner or later.
Learning how to run our particular “machinery” is one of the most important things to having a happy, peaceful life. It’s hard to learn. Takes much experimentation and quiet introspection or, in my case, introspection with the Frasier show blaring in the background. I can’t think or calm down without constant noise, apparently.
Major life events can throw us off our game and make us temporarily forget how to run our machinery. Getting married for example, wonderful though it was and is, threw me majorly off my game. I forgot everything I’d learned about how to run Me. Even my name changed. It’s taken years to figure it all out again.
Trauma of any kind can gum up the works. Personally, I was just putting the finishing touches on my “manual,” The Care and Feeding of Lenora, early this year when it all got shot to pieces when a close friendship fell apart. I’m still trying to fit the pieces back together.
But at least I’m trying. And you’re trying. We’re all trying to figure out how to run this machine called Us the way it was designed to be run. Sometimes that means doing everything upside-down and backwards. And that’s okay!
Oh! If only human beings came into this world with a manual!
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