I have a tendency to overthink things. It’s a bad habit that I have long tried to get rid of, but I haven’t been successful. I have utterly, miserably failed to stop overdramatizing and making my minor problems into major tragedies.
In college, my friend Nova and I read the books of Carrie ‘Princess Leia’, namely “Postcards from the Edge’ and ‘Surrender the Pink.’ (Ms. Carrie’s other books – ‘Delusions of Gramma’ and ‘The Best Awful There Is’ were as then unpublished), and were shocked to find our own selves mirrored in the characters. Of course I can’t speak for Nova here, so this is where I stop mentioning here and focus on my own realizations. Anyway, so there I was, shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that there really was such a thing as overthinking; that one CAN really really think problems into being. At the time I was just worried that I had some kind of mental disorder that forced my brain to grab at certain issues and to worry them to death like a particularly naughty puppy with a juicy bone.
Reading Ms. Fisher made me realize that no, overthinking was not a disorder, but yes, it was a problem and yes, thankfully, there was a solution: just freaking STOP IT. Quit worrying and rethinking and reassessing and just be brave and stand pat on decisions I’ve made and intend to make.
So that was what? 15 years years ago? And yet here I am, today, still guilty of overthinking and then worrying myself sick that I did the wrong thing/said the wrong thing or was just plain WRONG.
I ought to be more confident, I think. Or at least, less confident. Oh it’s quite easier for me to be confident about making decisions that are not strictly personal (in short, work related); but in my own life I am such a wimp. I have more vulnerabilities than eggs in a carton placed in the middle of a busy highway at midday. I am often too thin-skinned (onions have nothing on me), and I, more often than not, pregfer the company of animals and small children to adults (they’e friendlier, infintely less hurtful, and I don’t need to fake smiles with them).
Oh what to do, what to do!
After almost a decade, I again read ‘Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass’ and I’ve been so pleased to realize that I am still enchanted by it – that I still find it wonderful and beautiful and amazing, the same way I felt about it when I first read the complete version as a child of 12, only now I appreciate the humor more, and the elements of pathos which I find runs likes a very fine, subtle thread through the narrative of the story (re the pathos: I can’t explain it, really; but I do feel it in the book. It’s not Alice, but in the fantastic characters in Wonderland whose existence rely mainly on the imagination of a little girl but they do not know it).
So there I went again — overthinking. Imagine feeling sad and frustrated for the likes of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum! Or sympathizing with the Mock Turtle! It’s not a good thing. Because as I thought of the travails of the twins and the former sea denizen, I began to feel sad and connect the sadness to other things, and it’s a long line of dominoes falling one after the other and I end up in a sorry state of mind. And of course, again, it’s not a good thing.
Maybe I need therapy.
On therapy: it’s only recently that I realized that I read the books of one of my all-time favorite writers Alain de Botton because they help me sift through the mess that is sometimes my life. I didn’t know that Mr. de Botton’s books on philosophy and art and architecture and travel all qualify as self-help books. And not to sound snooty or disdainful, but what does it mean when you read self-help books?! It simply means that you need help.
I probably need help.
I don’t see my best friends very often these days. They’re all very busy with their own lives and careers and children; the same way I think they view me. But there are days when it’s a Beatles song and I need a little help from my friends to get by. I can’t rely on my books alone (for one thing, they can’t talk back), and left to my own devices during times of minor turbulence, I end up doing retail therapy and regret my emotional purchases soon after (even if they’re books or music— madalas kasi, wala naman sa budget). I don’t binge, and I don’t drink (at least, not anymore), so what’s left but to wander around a mall inhaling artificially chilled air, trying to clear my messy head.
I could use some ice cream right now. And a doughnut. It’s not that I’m sad, it’s more like I’m emotionally exhausted over nothing specific. Seeing a wide, wide expanse of grassy land would be great, and throw in a tall tree with spreading branches casting shadows against the backdrop of warm sunlight.
Thank God for poetry! When all else feels lost, or all feelings are lost, or one simply feels lost.
Stepping Backward by Adrienne Rich.
Good-by to you whom I shall see tomorrow,
Next year and when I’m fifty; still good-by.
This is the leave we never really take.
If you were dead or gone to live in China
The event might draw your stature in my mind.
I should be forced to look upon you whole
The way we look upon the things we lose.
We see each other daily and in segments;
Parting might make us meet anew, entire.
You asked me once, and I could give no answer,
How far dare we throw off the daily ruse,
Official treacheries of face and name,
Have out our true identity? I could hazard
An answer now, if you are asking still.
We are a small and lonely human race
Showing no sign of mastering solitude
Out on this stony planet that we farm.
The most that we can do for one another
Is let our blunders and our blind mischances
Argue a certain brusque abrupt compassion.
We might as well be truthful. I should say
They’re luckiest who know they’re not unique;
But only art or common interchange
Can teach that kindest truth. And even art
Can only hint at what disturbed a Melville
Or calmed a Mahler’s frenzy; you and I
Still look from separate windows every morning
Upon the same white daylight in the square.
And when we come into each other’s rooms
Once in awhile, encumbered and self-conscious,
We hover awkwardly about the threshold
And usually regret the visit later.
Perhaps the harshest fact is, only lovers–
And once in a while two with the grace of lovers–
Unlearn that clumsiness of rare intrusion
And let each other freely come and go.
Most of us shut too quickly into cupboards
The margin-scribbled books, the dried geranium,
The penny horoscope, letters never mailed.
The door may open, but the room is altered;
Not the same room we look from night and day.
It takes a late and slowly blooming wisdom
To learn that those we marked infallible
Are tragi-comic stumblers like ourselves.
The knowledge breeds reserve. We walk on tiptoe,
Demanding more than we know how to render.
Two-edged discovery hunts us finally down;
The human act will make us real again,
And then perhaps we come to know each other.
Let us return to imperfection’s school.
No longer wandering after Plato’s ghost,
Seeking the garden where all fruit is flawless,
We must at last renounce that ultimate blue
And take a walk in other kinds of weather.
The sourest apple makes its wry announcement
That imperfection has a certain tang.
Maybe we shouldn’t turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation–
If not our own, then someone’s, anyway.
So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you’ll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.
Your stature’s one I want to memorize–
Your whole level of being, to impose
On any other comers, man or woman.
I’d ask them that they carry what they are
With your particular bearing, as you wear
The flaws that make you both yourself and human.