Dost thou wallow?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 28, 2021, 7:04 PM | comments: 0

Everyone knows someone who can't sit still and has to have all time planned and accounted for. In my super judgy way, I find this a convenient way to avoid thinking about life or engaging in self-reflection. But in the last year, I think I have the opposite problem, because I wallow in thought. At times it interferes with me doing, well, anything. In my defense, sometimes I don't have a lot to do. (And you don't either... you just make different choices.)

I was having a day like this today. Allergy meds were already taking a toll on my general alertness, but what would normally be a half hour of quiet reflection turned into two hours of wallowing in my thoughts. I covered it all... health, mortality, parenting, career, finances. Mercifully I skipped over the parts about "why am I me?" because that topic has been beaten to death in the last few years.

I've said before that my variation on meditation is often to find a quiet place to lie down, where I can feel a good breeze or listen to good music, and let my brain be quiet and present. When that isn't coming to me easily, I get into that wallowing. I often confuse the two, and often go into one or the other in an indeliberate fashion. Thinking about all the things can be a serious rabbit hole, and it's hard to break out of that cycle.

That's the funny thing about comparing your personal life to your career. As a manager, I've learned and developed habits that lead me to process things quickly so I can move on and go to the next thing. (Sidebar: Like many things in work, this is absolutely learned and practiced, which is why I tend to agree with folks who believe that education is not a skip-the-line entitlement in business.) But when it comes to real life, it's exceptionally difficult to do the thing and move on, because the things are never simple and discreet tasks. As a 40-something who never gave much thought to retirement and is making up for it now, I couldn't when I was 25 just open an IRA, fund it, and then contribute to it twice a month for the next 40 years. Setting yourself up to do something 1,000 times over 40 years isn't simple or immediate. As a parent, I can't teach Simon to make a sandwich for himself once and consider him ready for college. Big life things are not like taking out the garbage or buying groceries or filling out a TPS report.

If wallowing in my thoughts has caused me to arrive at any conclusions, it's that you can't manage life at all. You can set up some broad targets, but they're moving. I didn't plan to change careers or get divorced or even move to Central Florida, but here I am. Ultimately, I think returning to that reality is the way to not get too lost in thought, and that's what I hope I can do going forward. You can only type so many words on the keyboard of life.


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