Sunday, September 30, 2018
Tending the Fire
Once in a long while, I have to just sit down and pay attention to something without doing much else that engages my brain.
Tending a brush burn is one of those. I have to be with the fire in the field, but I only add wood a few times an hour. The rest of the time I just have to sit. Or stand. Always with an eye on the breeze and floating ash. Eventually the pile of wood is gone and I get to spend a few more hours just watching it burn down until nothing but embers is left and we can douse it. It's a lot of time for my brain to wander.
I have a busy brain. It reminds me of all the things I want to do but haven't. Or need to do but haven't. It reminds me of things I did wrong or could have done better. The things that I tried that didn't work out. The time I wasted doing it. It pulls up uncomfortable feelings about things that have happened and tells me that if I'm uncomfortable, then I must have done something wrong and so I should fix it. Then it goes round and round trying to find a way that I could have done things differently. If I remind it that it's too late to change anything, it invites shame and guilt over for a play date. If it comes to the conclusion that the problem lay with someone else's choices, then it goes round and round and round to make sure, searching and searching for the mistake that I must have made. It compares me with my favorite people - pointing out all the ways I am not like them. It tells me I am stupid. Lazy. Unattractive. Repulsive. A failure. It tells me that there is no way I'm going to accomplish the goals I have and that the goals I've already achieved don't mean that much.
It will go on as long as I let it.
This is the main reason I work so hard and multi-task so relentlessly. Working and juggling multiple tasks are my coping mechanism for giving my brain something else to think about besides telling me how rotten I am.
It's a very effective strategy. Except for the burnout. Also the reluctance to make lasting relationships [with awesome people who I'm not at all like]. Also the reluctance to go out socially [great situations in which to make lots of mistakes]. And don't forget the depression and anxiety.
So basically, what I have finally acknowledged is that my tried and true methods for coping with my busy brain have some pretty nasty side effects.
This year I spent some serious time and study finding new ways to think so that my brain isn't always beating me up. I read some great books. My favorites were Rick Hanson's Hardwiring Happiness, George Pratt & Peter Lambrou's Code to Joy, and Danielle La Porte's The Desire Map. Each one gave me a new way of thinking about why my brain does what it does, how to teach it new habits and how to choose a life based on feeling good.
So last weekend, when I was sitting, tending the fire for hours and hours and hours, I found things for my brain to do other than beat me up. I spent a lot of time expressing my inner music instead.
With time and the right care, healing happens.
How does your brain treat you when you have nothing to do but tend the fire?