I am given to intense bouts of rumination. This has been a trait of mine since I was a wee little one. It doesn’t take more than a couple conversation clips to get a feel for my serious, two-year-old self.
Musing on the birth of my sister, Samantha:
Me: Will you read me this book, please?
Mom: I can’t right now. I’m taking care of your sister.
Me: But I really want you to read to me.
Mom: I will in a little bit, honey.
Me: Things aren’t ever going to be the same again, are they, Mom?
Dad: I think we’re eating turkey poop for dinner tonight.
Me: Stop it, Dad.
Dad: No really. We’ll have stuffing, and mashed potatoes, but instead of turkey we’re having turkey poop.
Me: Stop it, Dad! We’re NOT having turkey poop.
My mother always says that she worried I would never develop a sense of humor. I must have had some underlying gift for wit and whimsy, though, buried beneath my surely toddler exterior. For example, I was one of those children that preferred not to wear clothes at all – ever. If my mother dressed me, she would find me not a minute later, stripped down again. I would sit on family members’ laps, bare bottomed. I was also what people like to call, “big-boned,” or just generally heavy, dense, solid. I could only sit on said laps for a short time before they booted me off. During this time, someone gave me an unusually large, heavy doll. I stripped it down. It was so heavy I couldn’t really lift it, so I would drag it behind me, by the arm, its cloth body rubbing against the carpet. I named it, “Heavy Baby.”
As further evidence, there is a photo, from high school, of my good friend Elise and I, fists to our chins, eyes glazed and looking into the distance, in an imitation of the familiar position of Auguste Rodin’s, The Thinker. I may well be a new wave, science fiction action hero: the ruminator…
So you see, rumination has firm roots in my very nature. As I got older, this developed into a series of neurotic tendencies: depression, anxiety, impulsive and compulsive acts, obsession, habitual fantasizing, cynicism, unpleasant or disturbing thoughts…I basically fit 90% of the “effects and symptoms” listed on Wikipedia. And Wikipedia is always right. Not to mention helpful when it comes to self diagnosis.
In order to cope with my neurosis, I exercise. It’s really the only solution I’ve come up with. I can become an utterly unbearable companion within two days of not exercising, and Elise, still my trusty side-kick, has to continually remind me to stop ruminating. It helps that she’s also neurotic, so we can keep each other in check. This can backfire occasionally, and sometimes we end up ruminating together, on things like living at home again, and what sorts of choices we should be making to further our position in the world.
When looking at a breakdown of my many neurosis, sometimes I wonder how I cope.
Depression: This was something I suffered from much more acutely in high school, was medicated for, and eventually triumphed over in college. If I do not engage in some form of physical activity for a couple of days, however, I’m once again susceptible. Endorphins are my happy pill.
Anxiety: This surfaces the most in the what am I doing with my life train of thought. I compare myself with other artists constantly, which helps nothing, and with other people’s accomplishments, which also is not productive. I suffer anxiety about my skill level – the what if I’m not actually good at this…type of worry.
Obsession: Fits together with anxiety. I obsess over my life choices, which, in turn, makes me anxious. It’s a vicious cycle. Calvin Klein’s perfume, Obsession, may well have been inspired by my natural scent. Obsession, marketed as a refreshing and oriental fragrance, is exactly what I smell like. I’m not sure when being obsessed with something (or someone) developed an association with the word refreshing. Like it’s a glass of lemonade on a hot day. The feeling of obsession quenches thirst. It’s also oriental, and vaguely offensive. Who knew you could smell like the east? Calvin Klein did, silly. So perhaps there are exotic herbs (a blend of vanilla, amber, orange blossom, oakmoss, and other oriental spices) sprucing up the lemonade. Klein recommends Obsession for daytime wear. It’s not appropriate, or refreshing, to be obsessed in the evening.
Habitual Fantasizing: My half hour commute to and from work only indulges this tendency. Most of the time I am frolicking in a field of sun flowers with Margaret Atwood, who, for the moment, has ceased to be a bitch.
Cynicism: How can one avoid cynicism in a world were Republicans exist? Yes, of course I have to question their motives!
Although I manage my neurosis and exercise out my demons, in some ways I embrace them. I figure as long as I acknowledge them, no one can blame me when they surface unexpectedly. In many ways, my neurosis are what feeds my art. They keep me thinking and creating. So I chew the cud. Sometimes too much, but I chew it all the same. And it’s okay, so long as I can keep it in check with a good run outside, fresh air in my lungs, and thoughts sifting themselves out in my head.