“Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than we are” — Lloyd Alexander
Well the last few weeks have brought with them a frenetic level of activity reminiscent of earlier chapters in my life. Facilitating training sessions at two law firms; attending a national convention where I will be moderating a panel on effective communication between leaders in practice offices and their counterparts at ‘headquarters’; discussions on employee engagement at another company and then back to another professional services firm to chair forums on a number of issues all rolling up under the header of ‘organizational dynamics’. Ok, stop yawning – I find this stuff pretty fascinating, and the people I meet as a result, even more interesting and engaging. It’s the people – I’m just so damn drawn to the people.
So somewhere around the end of May or June, things may slow down a bit once more. Some things haven’t changed – the more I have to do, the less I sleep and the more I perseverate. For those of you who have not been ‘gifted’ with this talent, I’ll describe it quickly. It starts with a benign thought, like “I hope I can pull all this together in time”, and from there it blossoms into a profusion of peripatetic petals (it is spring and Cherry Blossom time here in DC after all) that fall all over my mind, covering the synapses, neurons and pathways with layer upon layer of resistant ground cover. Thought loses all rhyme or reason, and I spend an inordinate amount of time getting in my own way. Do I know that I really should get out the leaf blower? Of course I do – I’m just too busy looking at the magnificent mess I have created.
Now this talent of mine exists in direct counterpoint with another ability that I really do have about many, many issues. When my sons were younger, they maintained their rooms as temples to the God Of Who Cares. Somehow the word ‘messy’ really doesn’t do their efforts justice – neither does ‘unhygienic’. Once a week, I would expect them to make some effort to return their rooms into something livable, for I really didn’t want them contracting some weird bacteria that is only found in the Amazon and the soles of filthy socks. Their disregard drove Andy crazy – he’s the kind of guy who feels that everything has a place and there’s a place for everything – and if not, toss it out. So as he would get increasingly exorcised, I would become calmer. And my mantra through those years was “If this is going to bother you in five years honey, then I will invest in this issue with all the emotional energy I can summon. But if this isn’t going to matter five years hence, then I’m letting it go”.
Hypocrite – thy name is Mimi.
You see I really believe that little mantra – I do. I just don’t apply it with as much conviction when it comes to my own efforts. So in short – I become my own pain in the butt. Somebody needs something from me – ok, let’s jump into hyper-drive, over-think it and deliver with everything I’ve got. And then collapse and chastise myself for all that excess worry and emotional self-flagellation. Oh, and then start the whole process again…because after all, this is different. It’s about someone else’s needs. I have to be better this time, right?
Last night though – somewhere between Carson Daly and the 2:30AM news on ABC – a memory came to the fore and I think as a result, I am going to try to teach my foolish self what I already know.
Years ago, after one back surgery or another, I lost the use of my arms. Truly. I could raise one arm high enough to bring a utensil to my lips, the other only far enough to scratch an inch near my waist. The surgeon wasn’t alarmed (of course, they weren’t his arms) – neurological effrontery can make for some pretty lousy retribution. I was petrified. All of a sudden elements of daily self-care were elusive to me. Andy would wash and dry my hair (with enormous affection and limited expertise – we will not conjure any thoughts of how I looked during this time), I drank coffee through a straw, modifications were made. The doctor was sure my range of motion would return – he had no doubt, so I believed him. My anxiety became more reflective of the ‘when’ not the ‘if’, and immediately became more manageable. In five years, this would not be an issue for me – I knew that. My thoughts became less frantic, I began to clear away the disorderly mess that had become my thought process. And yes, the doctor knew what he was talking about.
Which brings me back to this moment. In five years it will matter to me that I gave my best to others – period. I won’t get there by letting my worry trump my determination. Let me re-phrase – I may get there, but I will be have depleted essential elements of the thoughts I need to be happy. Today, I’m going to follow the advice of Steve Martin – “I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be the worst business mistake if I don’t”.
I hope this makes you smile – and if by chance you identify with any of this – I hope it helps you breathe.
50 thoughts on “Overthinking”
I think that we all have a bit of that persevering tendency. I use the 5 year rule as well! Works wonders for me! Glad you can move your arms again ~ sending hugs. xo
Hi – I’m sure many of us do. Love that you use the five year rule!! And I’m very happy that I’m fully mobile – everyday..xo
Our greatest strengths are often our greatest challenges as well. And, the biggest challenge of them all is often remembering to breathe. Often, the “five year rule” is restructured into a “five minute rule” by me. I like the “five year plan” much better. You really are an inspiration in so many ways. The way you use words to guide, teach, and illustrate is art. Your comic timing is impeccable. I think for our generation of women “overthinking” may be as natural as breathing. Our growth as a generation is recognizing what we would like to change about ourselves and then be proactive in effecting that change. You, my dear friend, can and will do what ever you set your mind to. And, the choices you make will be the right ones for now. And, remembering to breathe is part of the process. To the moon and back.
I love you Jo and agree that this is a tendency for which I can claim no sole ownership..We do it well!!! And we arrive – one way or another. To the moon and back..xo
love how you always put things in perspective–I am not a fan of perspective, but know it helps to put things there every once in awhile
Laughing…I have to admit to being a bit suspect about perspective sometimes too. 🙂
The phrase emplyee engagement struck home. Too bad if you are that person trying to sell it to the employees, as I am on the other end of that. I feel it is just another trick to lull people into thinking they can get some pleasure out of having to do more and a greater variety of assigned work duties with less people on the job, as cutbacks and hiring freezes are everywhere. I’d say stick to writing…..
Johanna van Zanten
Hi Johanna, I’m not on either side of the argument – I am stuck in the middle of this hourglass. Without question, there are an increasing number of people who are being asked to do more with less. And there are managers struggling with shrinking resources who are still trying to make their workplaces decent and enjoyable places to work. To them, it’s not a trick – it’s a genuine desire – and its those people that I typically speak with. Those who view it as a ruse, typically don’t want to speak with me. And that said, I’m not going to give up on the writing either.
Oh Mimi …how beautifully written this is. Your candor is so comforting because I have been there, done that – so many of us have. Isn’t it part of the creative process??? I hope I did not miss the chance to meet you when you are visiting with Lori! Jane
We will make sure that doesn’t happen!! I’m hoping to get to see Lori in May – fingers crossed!! And thank you so much! m
I’m so glad you are out there spreading your amazing leadership skills where it could hopefully make a difference and prevent the poor morale which has become prevelant in the corporate world due to the drastic unethical changes that have taken place over the past few years. There is a lot on your plate because the tide is rising in the wrong direction, but from where I stand, you have nothing to lose being true to yourself and your good business sense.
What a wonderful outlet you have created for yourself and all of us who stop in. Overthinking is a normal process when we feel challenged. Timing is everything; we have to stop it as soon as it starts to over consume us by turning it over, taking deep breaths and writing or talking about it. I hope you help yourself the way you help all of us.
Go out there and spread your magic for those who don’t have access to your blog.
You are the best! Xo
Fran, you leave me without words – yet again. I guess it’s a function of my years that I see the direction of this pendulum. The good news is that the arc returns to a less extreme position at some point – but for now, it certainly isn’t an easy time for anyone. Learning to trust one’s self? I’m workin’ on it..:-) Being confident about my professional values and commitment to them – unequivocal.
I’m not sure everyone feels it’s magic I’m spreading..:-) But my appreciation that you believe so is inestimable. Thank you for every word, every comment and every hug..xox
it also occurred to me that after the pendulum starts swinging back (hopefully before five years) the only important thing will be that you left your mark, making a difference, for sure We all have a hand in the pendulum swinging back to where it belongs as long as we live for the greater good. Xo
Yes Fran, yes – really true..xo
Mimi!!! I am going to be quoting you all day today …. “I am my own pain the butt!” That is brilliant, and oh so true. Glad to hear you are back in the field doing what you do best. Wherever you are imparting your knowledge, those on the receiving end will be the better for it. BTW, I’m going to be DC for meetings July. Any chance we could have dinner? I now feel as if you are one of my closest friends thanks to this amazing blog. xo
Yay!!! You’re going to be here? YES!! Of course we can have dinner…or breakfast…or coffee…or whatever your schedule permits! And at that time we can quote each other, for there are certainly some notable quotables from our time together that I can invoke too! I’d love to see you! xo
Wonderful! I arrive on Sunday, July 21st and leave on Wednesday, the 24th. I’m free on Tuesday night (the 23rd). Will hold it open, and can’t wait!! xo
It’s on my calendar!! Yippee!! xo
Ahhhh, sweet Mimi, we *were* separated at birth, after reading this I’m more certain than ever. (Never mind the fact that there are a few years separating us… 😉 ) The astounding ability to park oneself *squarely* in one’s own way, the tendency to spin like a top, all very familiar. Thank you for giving voice and perspective to a struggle that so many of us share…. All there is…xoxo, l
There’s no doubt that we’re sisters-from-another mother (and yes, I am solidly the older one)…I like how you write how we park ourselves “squarely” in our own way. How many conversations have we shared about this remarkable talent? 🙂 And how reassuring to know that I’m in the best company ever…all there is..xox, m
All in with the sisters part, but as for you being ‘solidly the older one,’ pssshaw! There’s not much time separating us, not much at all. And no, I can’t think of *anyone* I’d rather ‘spin’ with… 🙂 xxoo
🙂 Honey, I know the number of years between us, and let’s just say that you’re bring wonderful as always..On with the spinning – I’ll catch you when you get dizzy and know you’ll be right there when I begin to fall over too!! ❤
Thanks for the laugh indeed. I too had a surgery on my right arm some years ago and lost the use of it for a bit. Being right handed made for some interesting messes and I’ve since tried to teach myself to be ambidexterous, but after jabbing myself in the eye with mascara too many times I’ve accepted my limitations 😉
I was truly blessed to experience your teachings at LW and you are the best! Thank you for continuing to impart your wisdom 🙂
Hi Vivia, I’m glad to hear that you figured out a way not to poke yourself in the eye!! And happier still that you stopped by – have a great day!
Vivia, I neglected to include the most important part of this response!! I am so happy to see that you are well and flourishing!! And it makes me happier that you can imagine to think that we are continuing a conversation of sorts even though we have both moved on to new adventures (so to speak). Thank you for your generous perspective on our times in conference rooms together – I am really, really buoyed by your comments..Thank you..hugs, m
I have never heard of the five year rule and am totally loving this idea. What a fabulous way to put things in perspective! And then, you close your post with Jason Mraz … even better!
Had to end with Jason – I get totally revved up when he sings the second verse (the gratitude cafe…)…And yup, I really apply that rule often – it helps keep me from flying around all the time!!
Yes, dear Mimi. Just remember to breathe. It’ll bring you back to the moment where everything’s okay.
Thanks Cathy…many hugs, m
You had me at the post title of course. Overthinking, a tendency with which I can relate to all too well. I love how you put it -how easy it is to get in our own way, getting out the leaf blower and in the end – what will remain important in five years are the people who have touched us and whom we leave little parts of ourselves with along the way. I am confident that each person who has the wonderful benefit of being in one of the rooms where you are present comes away with a part of you, making them all that much better. Oh to be filling one of those chairs. And like Amb said, then you top us off with a little Jason Mraz so we can all take a deep breath and keep things in perspective. You are wonderful! xox
Well, you know that feeling is mutual BonBon…and you can come on over and visit anytime, without having to sit in a chair at one of the presentations (though I try not to make them too painful). We have the benefit of friendship – so we fill far more than chairs. We fill hearts. xox
Yes..we will far more than chairs…you fill my heart to overflowing. There will be NO overthinking of that! xoxo
NEVER heard of this word – “Perseverate: To repeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased.” OMG. You’ve defined me! All these years and I didn’t know what the affliction was and you solved it. How can I ever thank you.
Ah shucks – it was my pleasure. Grad school taught me a couple of things – and this particular behavior? Well buddy, get in line – I have perfected perseverating. That said, ask me if I’m surprised that you recognize a little of yourself in such activity. 😉
🙂 I don’t do a “little” of anything. You gotta psychological word for that?
How about ‘over-zealous’. Though it’s really a contradiction in terms – if one engages in perseverative behavior, there really is very little moderation involved, right? 🙂
And if you don’t do a “little” of anything, that also means (in my perpetual quest to make you smile) that you laugh big, enjoy hugely and hug the world tightly. Yup – you’re my long lost brother.
We’re going with THAT. All of it.
So it is written, so it shall be. Have a great Friday.
And the sentence of the show: “Which brings me back to this moment. In five years it will matter to me that I gave my best to others – period.”
There’s little else that will matter as much (other than things like the good health of friends, family and one’s self). Thanks David – happy weekend to you.
Oh, you remind me of me! My process is this: I get the request, blow everything up (research, lists, indices, videos, PP presos), then realize I have far too much stuff and start to narrow down and throw away. In the end, I usually do things well, this as a result of “overthinking.” It’s partly perfectionism (perfectionists fear criticism) and partly respect for the work. But when I was doing that for others, I used up all my creative energy on them. Now that I’m “retired” (we need a different word), I use it up on myself.
But the piles are still there.
Final thought? What a horrendous challenge you faced. Thank God you’re okay now.
Yup…you’ve been visiting me haven’t you? And if this pace keeps up so much for the notion of ‘being retired’ (and I agree we need a different word). No question though that whether it is for others or ourselves, the piles remain. hugs, m
“5 years” …going in the toolbox. Thanks 8)
My pleasure!! It really works for me (most of the time).
When I could not find ‘perseverate’ in my normal dictionary, I turned to my medical dictionary and there it was describing me in detail this last week 🙂 . Your take on the 5 year rule is so true, because you are correct that the messy kids room did NOT deserve the energy it would take; whereas your recent project did and does. So the self-criticism (Hypocrite – thy name is Mimi) you have is not actually correct as these are not the same.
You describe this so well and with such sense of humour.
And yes ‘breathe’, that is a good solution some days.
Best advice on those days when we can’t get out of our own frustrated thinking – some days, all you need to do is breathe. 😉 Thank you for giving me a ‘by’ on my own feelings of hypocrisy too!! And yes, the adjective (and verb) is also found in the DSM IV (and the new addition too). Just a great $.50 word picked up in grad school that I never let go of.
Reblogged this on Wholeheartedness.
Thanks very much Todd