Monday, November 23, 2009

An Active Life of Thought

Since the grand kids went back to school in September, I have been experimenting with unplanned thinking. This a new concept for me. My mind works by keeping a never-ending day-planner front and center in the executive center of my brain. Each day there are short-term goals (take a bath), medium-term goals (finish my Christmas shopping) and long-term goals (run a a mile). For forty years, I have woken each day knowing exactly what I wanted/needed to do. Unless my body backfired on me, I generally achieved what I had planned.

Now I am experimenting by leaving some time unstructured, to do whatever I feel like doing. And most of this time I spend thinking. My own thoughts about life, nature, philosophy, art, you-name-it, are endlessly interesting to me. If I read, or see an exhibition of painting or a go to a movie, this creates enough material for me to think about for at least two or three days. It is intensely pleasurable.

But there are several problems with this choice of life style. The first is dealing with my own guilt. I have a pretty heavy dose of the puritan work ethic. The second is dealing with the reactions of others. When I tell them I am thinking, the most common response is, "you deserve a rest!" This inevitably makes me angry because I think everyone should have time to think even if they haven't been busy for forty years. It also angers me because my thinking, although directed internally, is a very active pursuit and I am not just lying around doing nothing. Another problem is exercise. Thinking is cutting into my exercise time. This combined with not having an outdoor pool and sunshine, has reduced me to doing only one or two blocks per day. The blocks alternate between walking, which I still hate, and stretching, which I enjoy.

On the positive side, thinking has reduced my stress level and my compulsive eating is less evident. It is much easier for me to stick to my pre-diabetic diet most of the time. My weight has continued to decline at the rate of about 2 pounds per month, so I am now down ten pounds. I feel good physically and mentally. Each day is different because my mind takes me to different places.

Another change is that now, when I am in a social setting, I am very outgoing. I have always been an introvert who extroverts well, but it has been a challenge. I am definitely not a party person. In the past, after large social gatherings, I always felt like a had to go home and assume a fetal position mentally (physically I was way too fat and stiff to even attempt this.) I have always preferred small gatherings and especially intense one-on-one discussions to big bashes, unless I host the bash at my house. I am sure this is a control issue, but I feel like I can be myself when entertaining in my on home.

Last night we were invited to an engagement party for my nephew and his wonderful girlfriend. I genuinely had a good time. But perhaps I over did it. With one glass of bubbly (I generally don't drink any more because of my blood sugar), I was prompted to tell the saga of how Joe and I met and decided to marry, which is not the romantic story that would be appropriate for the occasion. As if this weren't bad enough, I then expounded on some of Joe's old girlfriends, making him mad. It was probably not the best choice of subject matter, but what can I say. All my inward energy exploded in a barrage of verbiage. Thankfully, the center of attention of the evening remained on the beautiful young couple, sharing their joy with their family. I think I will leave it there.

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