The Second Third, Week 4: Stewing

Blogger’s Note: The whole idea behind these “Second Third” posts can be found here.

I tend to spend too much time “in my head,” as a friend of mine would say. Ever read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Well, I half-recommended it to my dad, in part because I thought he’d like the motorcycle parts, and in part because I admired it (which is not the same as liked). He read it, and afterward admitted that he liked the motorcycle parts best, and that the philosophical portions of the book, which appeared to have lead the narrator to a nervous breakdown, made him think of me.

A couple different times in my teen years, he and Mom came home to find me sitting alone in silence in the twilight, having accomplished nothing all day, pale and distracted and emotional. He knows I have a tendency to go down the rabbit hole. So far I’ve always been able to find my way back to the surface. So far.

This tendency is at its worst when I get into a heated discussion regarding something I care about, especially with a friend. I will hash and re-hash an argument, sometimes even out loud, think of responses and likely counters, try to imagine what may have led to their point of view and how best to persuade them or at least make myself understood…and if the discussion is happening online, check for replies compulsively with my stomach tied in knots. I have unfriended people on Facebook just to relieve myself of the anxiety about The Next Thing they were sure to say, tomorrow, or two years from now, that would ignite an argument. I have a hard time ignoring things, and a harder time letting go.

It’s not a problem with forgiveness. I can forgive; that’s an action I can take, every day if need be. But I can’t forget. And if it’s me that screwed up, it’s worse still, because I tend not to cut myself much slack. With myself, even the forgiveness comes hard.

Another friend often says, “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” meaning that all of our efforts to make everything work out just so will amount to nothing, because perfection is unachievable, and by focusing all out efforts on accomplishing the impossible, we will accomplish nothing.

I have a wife to love, children to raise, things to do — I can’t afford to accomplish nothing! No one lives to 105 with the weight of all their mistakes on their shoulders and a thousand useless arguments raging in their heads. No question about it: in my Second Third, I need to lighten up.

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