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If There Were a Prize for Most Likely to Obsess Over Nothing, I Would Totally Win

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Next week I am going to a week-long meditation retreat on self-compassion in California, and I am freaking out about it. I didn’t realize the meditation part would be such a prominent component of the training until after I signed up. After I found out that they recommend that I pack a zafu meditation pillow–which I had to buy–and a yoga mat. And that I need yoga-type clothing.

I do meditate every day, but more of the 5 minute variety before I go to bed. Not the sit-on-the-floor-on-a-zafu-pillow-and-meditate-for-a week kind of meditation.

I am anxious about the typical things that would make someone not choose a meditation retreat, like not being able to get on my phone, iPad, or computer. And flying. And what impact the severe drought in California will have on my trip.

But I am also obsessing about seemingly insignificant and therefore maddening things like, will I be able to sleep if I can’t recline my bed because of my stupid GERD? Would a zafu pillow, a yoga mat, a GERD pillow, and yoga-type clothing all fit into my suitcase? I could bring a gigantic suitcase, but would they think I’m high maintenance?

Do I even have yoga-type clothing? If I wear tennis stuff, would that be weird? Do I need long-sleeve shirts? What will the temperature be? Because sometimes even when it’s hot outside it can be cold inside because of the air conditioning. Although maybe they don’t crank up the air conditioner at a meditation retreat, even when it’s hot. If it is hot.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Intellectually, I know people who have chosen to go on a self-compassion retreat probably aren’t going to be judging me for my luggage or for wearing the wrong thing, but I can’t stop obsessing, nonetheless. Which is why I signed up for this retreat.

But I realized something last night that helped me to accept my obsessiveness. I was watching this biography on one of the up-and-coming tennis players, and I noticed that all of the great athletes were super competitive and full of energy even when they were kids. Their parents had to get them involved in something at all times so they wouldn’t explode.

Obsessing is the mental equivalent of a hyperactive child. Sometimes I do it because I’m anxious, but sometimes it’s just because I need something to think about. Even if it’s just what I’m going to have for dinner tomorrow. Or what order I should do my errands in. Or how many inches I should take off when I get my hair cut. There’s all this energy in my brain, and the only way to burn it off is to obsess.

So maybe if I could channel my obsessing into something useful, like those hyperactive kids who became world-class athletes did, I could become famous, too. Maybe I could use my powers for good instead of evil. Well, not evil. But something more productive. So I wrote this blog post to see if that would help. Although I’m pretty sure I’m just going to obsess about the stats after I publish it.

If anyone has ideas about useful ways to channel my obsessive energy, I am open to suggestions.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

8 responses »

  1. Let me at least put your mind at at ease regarding the drought: it will have zero impact on your stay. Contrary to what might look like in the news, daily life is pretty much the same, our showers are not curtailed and we do wash the dishes. It’s all about conserving water that is being lost through landscaping and the massive amount of water devolved to agriculture (Unless you are going to some tiny village in the central Valley where they rely solely on ground water, but I sincerely doubt that is where you are headed). So, enjoy your trip – if you are in the South it gets coldish at night but too not much but it gets colder up north. And don’t let the water run while you are brushing your teeth!!

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  2. I’m a really focused detail oriented person. My brain is always running at least three tracks, and no matter what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, or why I’m doing it, I always wonder if there is something better or more productive I could be doing.

    While I’ve never seen any documentaries on athletes, it has occurred to me that all this thinks and noticing stuff could be useful to someone somewhere. For me, I find reasonable release in writing and coaching. I really enjoy training and teaching–though since I’m so passionate and detail oriented you have to really want know it all for my coaching to be helpful instead of just annoying. I try to gauge my audience and pull back to whatever level of information they are ready to receive, but I’m certain that people sometimes walk away thinking “that’s one crazy b—!”

    And yeah, it burns some of my mental energy, but it also channels it into a new form of obsession. What did I say to that person? Would this advice have been better? Maybe we should have started with this? Did they grasp the main points or get sucked into a tangent? It’s better because I feel like I’m helping, but I don’t actually know if it’s any less self centered to focus on how your helping someone vs anything else in my life. After all, past a certain point it’s not really about them but about me anyway you slice it.

    Enjoy the retreat though. It sounds fun. If I were you, I’d take everything I needed and just try to live in the moment. I took a cruise a few years ago and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to get away from the internet and phone out at sea. I was almost sorry when we’d get to land and cell phone service again.

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  3. Just found out I will have internet and phone access. Yay!

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  4. Wow, I can relate. Accept that being a thinker is part of who you are, and embrace it. You are obviously very intelligent, and as Maya Angelou said, “the world needs thinkers who think”. Enjoy your retreat…and blog about it so we get to hear what happens!

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  5. Pingback: Beginnings and Endings, Part 2 | Normal in Training

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