Recently, I was rejoicing quietly about the fact that I had been communicating with people in a professional capacity without excessive post-comms rumination. I didn’t do anything directly to attain this freedom, though I thought I might be able to trace its provenence. Regardless, it felt like I’d magically put things in their rightful place, instead of amplifying their importance and peril.
And then my grandma took bad and was taken into hospital, and there was not much for me to do to help. So, what little I could do, I did, peripherally and imperfectly, and then I tore it apart afterwards for every imperfection. The situation itself was, of course, important and perilous. But my part in it…largely uninfluential. I tried my best to help in a situation where people more capable than me were already handling everything, and that was all I could do. But it triggered my self-absorbed belief that if I’m not the MVP I don’t deserve to be playing. So I wasted a bunch of thoughts retroactively optimising my conduct – wishing that I’d been, at the very least, flawless in my execution of said peripheral tasks, so I could escape the fate of being considered, by any objective measure, a net loss.
And then I went to read to kids at my son’s school, and failed to maintain an appropriate level of order. The teacher handed me a pile of books and directed me to a room with the kids, which was not exactly what I’d expected things to look like. Straight off, I made the mistake of being ambiguous about what behaviour would be acceptable, because I hadn’t figured how this whole thing was going to work. So I spent most of the rest of the time trying to convince them to stop playing with toys and listen to stories instead. And then I sat in a tornado of self-criticism for most of the following night, unable to sleep for thoughts of how I should have handled things better, what this said about my parenting, when and how I could redeem myself, how irritating my incompetence must have been… A violent stampede of thoughts, altogether too concerned about myself, unable to simply accept my conclusions and go to sleep.
And I know this is why, generally speaking, I’m better at the things I do than most other people. Because I literally obsess over my flaws, at a rate completely out of proportion with the attention they deserve for normal human functioning. That does result in accelerated progress. But it also results in needless suffering. And, sometimes, it’s not worth it.
It’s why I also have a tendency toward avoidance; avoiding things that don’t matter because my brain will act like they do, and avoiding things that could matter because I’m scared I’ll crumble under their weight. If I’m going to do things, I prefer to have no choice in the matter. I’d volunteered for the school reading, and that was what made my inner critic more vicious, because to be anything less than perfect when I’m inflicting myself on others is a mortal sin.
But I am wondering if the problem is that my brain is built for bigger, tougher problems. Perhaps I’m like a husky without a sledge to pull. So I’m fabricating sledges to give myself something to do.
The only way to test that hypothesis, though, is to hitch me up to something heavy. Voluntarily. Are there any easier hypotheses to test first?