it is so deceptively easy to get hopelessly wrapped up in what you think is in someone else's head, what you think might happen, what you think you're going to mess up on.
this habit frequently results in the infamous 'downward spiral', as i fondly call my own tendency to catastrophize. i find it exhausting and frustrating, and i'm sure it's not exactly fun for anyone else around me either.
it begins with a small nagging problem or worry, and quickly blossoms into a giant void of hopelessness in which you are certain you are an absolutely hideous failure with no talent or intelligence whatsoever that will spend the rest of your life alone - except for your 18 cats, which will eat your face off when you die before anyone finds your body.
i've learned it's important to re-assess what's going on in your own head first, give yourself a hard reality check. do you have reason to think what you're thinking? is it really a gut feeling of instinct, or are you panicking yourself over something you extrapolated from a tiny, probably meaningless action or word?
these things are ridiculously difficult to distinguish between. the line between them is so very thin, and to make matters worse, it tends to smear and wobble in times of high emotion or anxiety.
nonetheless, that self-checking process needs to happen before you even allow a thought of the frantic downward spiral into misery to enter your head.
once your mind takes that first stair down, you risk the possibility - even the probability - that you will be wallowing in the depths of despair over nothing at all.
i habitually run for miles, sweating my ass off on the cracked sidewalks of my little hometown. it's my hobby, my obsession, my therapy.
usually i run into some people walking dogs, a couple of sunburnt kids on shitty bikes, maybe a few middle-aged ladies with water bottles and fancy sneakers trying to get fit for that midsummer vacation to florida. but today was different. everyone and their brother was out and about, breathing in that muggy air drenched with the smell of all the flowers that lost the battle against the heat of the past few days.
as i was panting and shuffling my way down a side street, i thought about how i felt i had a pretty good day, all things considered; i thought about how i need to run a little bit more before shimmying into that new skirt; i thought about the poor, abused skin on my shoulders soaking up even more UV rays as i ran.
i squinted into the evening sunshine as a group of people got closer - a middle aged mom, older dad, and three young kids, the youngest of which was enthusiastically heading the pack with a fake push-vacuum (the kind with the little balls inside) and a polka dot bathing suit ensemble. that made me smile as i hopped off the curb to give their troupe full clearance to pass.
that smile was glued to my face while the father asked me something i didn't quite hear, and remained when i asked him what he'd said. it was even still there when he repeated jokingly, 'what are ya running from?'
but it was gone in a split second when i answered, 'myself'.
gone because i didn't even realize that's what i was going to say; gone because i wasn't trying to be funny; gone because it was automatic and morbid and completely true.