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I'm A Classic (Over)thinker




“I’ve spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.”

~ Mark Twain

 

That, in a nutshell, is me. The worrying part, not the sage, bushy-haired author loved and respected by generations of readers young and old. (As you might already know, I’m neither sage nor bushy-haired, and to say I’m an author stretches the very boundaries of both the definition and the craft.)

 

No, I identify with Twain’s quote, in that I think and fret about things; usually things that haven’t happened yet, things that are often insignificant, or at most, tiny potential bumps in the road; mole hills I “anticipate” into mountains.

 

I define myself as an “overthinker.” And as I think about it (but hopefully, not overthink it), I guess that’s just a less-wimpy way of saying I’m a worrier.

 

Because isn’t “overthinker” a more productive label than “worrier”? I mean, simply tacking “over” onto the front of the word “thinker” makes it appear like I’m trying harder to think (and therefore find a solution), rather than just worrying too much about things, most of which are either unimportant, or according to Twain, never going to happen.

 

While I’m not sure Twain was always telling me the truth (can one really put all their trust in someone dressed like a snake oil salesman and sporting such a massive mustache?), I believe he was being straight with me on this one.

 

In modern terms, I might be defined as a someone suffering from “anticipatory anxiety” or someone who is “future tripping.” The former is too clinical for me; the latter, too “Wookstock/Summer of Love.”

 

In my mind, if I’m an overthinker (and make no bones about it, I am), I’m a go-getter, wound up a bit tighter than most, always digging for clues, turning over rocks, looking for answers, and speculating about all possibilities of a situation, problem or event.

 

But if I’m a worrier, I’m just a weenie, a wet blanket sitting in a corner, chewing my nails, staring into space, hoping the worst doesn’t occur, but expecting it to. (Mark Twain be damned!)

 

Yes, I’m definitely an overthinker.

 

But aren’t we all on some level? Don’t we all have things that keep us up at night, things we obsess about? Things that make our anxiety kick in, tighten our throats and upset our stomachs just a little bit?

 

And isn’t it true that what keeps me up at night, what tightens me up and stirs my insides is probably something that doesn’t bother you at all? Conversely, isn’t it also probably true that those things that get you riled up and worried wouldn’t even hit my “worry” radar?

 

That’s why I believe Twain’s quote is 100% spot-on. Because on some level, we’re all worrying about things that others don’t even consider, things that probably won’t happen anyway.

 

So, if I believe that, why do I still overthink things like …

 

… air travel (not the flying part; just the logistics of everything leading up to the flight)?

 

… being on time (I justify this one because I’m almost never late, but I am, to the chagrin of those going places with me, sometimes painfully early)?

 

… why my favorite sports teams don’t win more championships (which then leads me to overthink why I care so much about such trivial things)?

 

… Mondays (that’s all; just Mondays)?

 

… information I’ve been given by and about other people—mostly family and friends—and their challenges or opportunities?

 

… why I procrastinate (which I realize leads to more procrastination, which leads to more overthinking, etc.)?

 

Maybe you share some of these or have a similar list.

 

But I also overthink things that likely wouldn’t hit your radar, or anyone else’s for that matter. Here’s an example:

 

I’m in a coffee shop, enjoying a cup of dark roast while I work or read. After a while, Nature calls and I need the restroom. (For the record, I’ve never cared for the phrase “Nature calls” but I couldn’t think of anything quippy in its place), and the restrooms are close to where several people are sitting. I nod and smile as I pass (I’m not an animal, after all), making a hard right into the restroom. (I’m also not fond of the term “restroom,” but I’ve been told it’s more appropriate than bathroom, john, head, crapper, one-holer or turlet.)

 

Finding the door unlocked (which always causes me anxiety, wondering if it’s occupied by an “occupant” who simply forgot to lock the door), I enter. Then, I “go.” Then, I wash my hands (again, I’m not an animal), drying them under the automatic dryer and summarily wiping my hands on my pants because no one–and I mean NO ONE—is patient enough to wait for those machines to get our hands completely dry.

 

As I prepare to exit, I notice the automatic toilet has not flushed. So, I wave my hand in front of the sensor, and this time it flushes as expected. Then, as I again start to leave, it occurs to me (and likely to me only) that if I open the door while the toilet is still flushing, people will think I went to the bathroom without washing my hands (thus causing them to think I am, indeed, an animal).

 

To avoid such potential embarrassment, I again put my dry hands under the hand dryer to activate it before opening the door. As a bonus, as I leave the restroom, I wipe my (now dry) hands on my pants as though the dryer didn’t quite get everything, even though I completed this task as well, but I feel the need to repeat it for believability purposes.

 

So, that’s a good example of me overthinking something. It also may explain why some folks steer clear of me when they see me at social events.

 

We all have things we overthink, don’t we? (If you don’t, count yourself lucky.) And to us, whatever our “thing” is, it’s completely rational and justifiable, while to others (maybe a lot of others), it’s silly, stupid or just a waste of time, one of those things that if you explained it (like I just laid out the ridiculous example above, and to set the record straight, I realize just how ridiculous it is), others might laugh or cock their head like a dog who’s just heard a high-pitched sound.

 

But if they do laugh or cock their head (as if to say, “Why is he telling me this?”) there’s something in the back of their mind that gets it because they understand my ridiculous “what if” scenarios because they have them to. And usually, when I’m willing to share my overthinking affliction, they’ll open up with stories of their own, thus justifying our common behavior trait, which by the way, perpetuates it.

 

For the record, I don’t love being an overthinker, but I really don’t know any other way. I wonder how long it took Twain to kick his habit.

 

© 2024 David R. Haznaw

 

 

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