Alone With My Thoughts

This week’s Embracing Intensity Podcast guest, Brittani Nelson, shares a mutual history of being a single mom and starting a business and a relationship around the same time. Unlike me though, she didn’t skip a beat in her business like I did when I took a break from my business as I got to know my now husband.

When I asked how she managed it all, she talked about the importance of self-care and balancing time with family. Another major tool for her has been harnessing the power of reflection and learning from each adventure.

I had a wonderful opportunity for reflection this week. In my group coaching call this weekend, we talked about our tendency to keep busy partly to avoid being alone with our thoughts. I particularly related to this habit when I was a single mom and went out with friends almost every night I didn’t have the boy. I felt very much like this guy:

Nowadays since I got married and moved to the country, I find myself much more of a home body and make a lot more time for self-reflection.

This week, however, I found myself caught in an unproductive thought loop.

I got a message on Twitter from someone who remembered me from college. He was from another dorm and I didn’t remember him at first. His dorm was the more quirky, hippy type dorm in my mind, and I always thought that I might have fit better there than I did in the freshman dorm I was in.

This thought sent me down a rabbit hole of “what if” thoughts – What if I lived in that dorm instead? I probably would not have ended up in the dysfunctional living situation my sophomore year that contributed to my body shutting down that year, which ultimately caused me to drop out of that college.

I realized that dropping out of that college was my single biggest regret in life. I tried to get back in right away but they wouldn’t let me back because my grades had dropped. I felt like I had deprived myself of half of my college experience because I finished off at a commuter school.

That said, I knew logically that if I hadn’t dropped out of that school, I would not have the life I have today. I would not have run into my son’s father at the commuter school. We would not have moved up to the Portland area, and my family would not have followed me up here. I would not have met my husband or my awesome friends here, and I would not be living out in the beautiful wilderness of the PNW.

I could know all of these things at an intellectual level, but I couldn’t help rolling around in my mind the thoughts of “what if.” For me, this looked like knots in my stomach and mind wandering when I should be working.

I stopped for a moment and thought, “I know this is not in anyway logical – what if I just let myself feel grief for a moment about the decisions that I made?” I took some time to just feel sad. Really accept that there doesn’t need to be a logical reason for it to be valid.

Sometimes you just need to stop thinking and let yourself feel.

Once I gave myself permission to feel it, it passed. At lunch I found that this Twitter friend had posted a picture of us from College (at a drag party where I had dressed half the men in my dorm with my thrift store finds), and I remembered exactly who he was. It was fun to reconnect, and I no longer felt that melancholy of “what if”  because I let myself grieve and move on.

Not to say that I will never feel that way again, but now if I feel stuck on a repetitive thought loop I will look at the heart of where it’s coming from and just let myself feel instead of trying to talk myself out of it.