The Pile

I took a protracted break from writing. It's therapeutic but can leave me feeling overexposed and vulnerable after bearing my soul to the world. As much as blogging is liberating, it requires a lot of introspection, which can feel suffocating at times. Living inside your head isn't always comfortable, so I made the decision to just, for a while. I've been reading and exercising and trying to really take care of myself with intention. I'm trying to live intuitively and really listen to what my body and soul are telling me I need. It's new and foreign, but I think I like the change.  I needed a break, but I've found myself drafting paragraphs in my head again, so here we are.

I've always done that, by the way. Written whole drafts of pieces in my head while in the shower, or brushing my teeth only to put pen to paper when I had time to sit. My frontal cortex works the graveyard shift and every one leading up to it. It simply never stops. Sometimes it works to my advantage, other times it's a nuisance to put it lightly. If I had three wishes, the first one would be to compartmentalize the thoughts meandering down my cognitive pathways. (The second and third are much more vain and materialistic so I won't bother to document them here. lol)

But to be able to sort your thoughts into separate boxes and only open one box at a time? Magical. I can't imagine operating in a mental environment with clarity or peace. My thought boxes have been ransacked and dumped into a pile where everything touches and intermingles. Most of the time "the pile" is manageable. I am able to function and conduct business as usual. There are times though, when "the pile" escalates even simple decisions into MENSA-level complexity. Discussing the kids' progress at school with my husband touches on my feelings of inadequacy as a teacher stand-in, which makes me question my contributions to the family as a whole, which triggers anxiety about not currently working, which circles back to needing to be home with the kids, which is ultimately because of COVID...which, a fucking soul-sucking pandemic. So...yeah. My lack of compartmentalization leads to flow charts of fuckery and madness.

I've read somewhere that men have an innate ability to sort their thoughts and only play them on the big screen when they, wait for it...choose to. My husband has been a case study for me to confirm that this is, in fact, true. He isn't able to always be in control of his thought reel, but is far better at it than me. I've also read that men have a NOTHING box in their head that they can open when they want to shut off their mental noise. I know for certain that I don't have that box and never have. Again, my husband seems to exhibit the ability to shut down like a frigging computer, almost instantaneously, when he feels compelled to do so. My jealously is palpable. 

Although, I realize as I write this that for me, a nothing box would be akin to a Pandora's box. Opening it would only lead to leaving it open, probably all of the time. It would be too great a temptation for me to leave on the shelf and I would crawl into it and live there. When your head is as noisy as mine is, the prospect of mental silence is seductive. This self-awareness made we very wary of using anti-anxiety medication even at the height of my struggle with panic. I was afraid of relief that was externally manufactured. I knew deep down that I needed to find a way through my anxiety on my own if I was ever going to find authentic relief.

What I have learned through much darkness and subsequent light, is that "the pile" isn't static and immovable, but rather fluid and dynamic. I can change the shape of it and even prioritize healthier thoughts towards the top while pushing the negative ones deeper down making them harder to access. I am stretching this metaphor, but what I'm really getting at is neuroplasticity and the ability to teach old minds new tricks. Truly, science is teaching us that we can retrain our brains in order to live healthier, happier lives. Even victims of trauma and those that suffer with PTSD have seen remarkable progress in using talk therapy and a variety of cognitive techniques to clean up their "piles." I have made a lot of progress even just a year in and have done so intrinsically, which was important to me.

Progress for me is also realizing that as much as I want to escape "the pile," it is actually the essence of who I am. My mental heap is full of fears and doubts, but it also includes my children's faces and my grandmother's recipes and the lyrics to Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio. I am a reflection of "the pile" and people seem to dig it most of the time. There are times when I wish I could shove it into a sack and ship it off to God knows where, but then it would just be baggage and that's a whole 'nother topic. AmIright?


  1. So now you have to tell me what your other two wishes are, you know that right?

    The pile is real. I keep threatening to write my thoughts down to align and straighten them out to make some sense of them. Maybe I should...when there's time I suppose...


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