I have a problem. Too few topics take up way too much space in my mind. The too few topics are:
- the upcoming election;
- the pandemic;
- the Post Office (Did I ever think the Post Office would occupy a big chunk of my mind? No.); and
- global warming.
Not a day passes when I do not spend a large portion of my downtime musings on each of those. They are all hugely important topics, but the time I spend dwelling on them is not pleasant or productive time. It is repetitive, ruminative, feckless brooding.
Scat! I want to say. Begone! Rid me of this drill. I do not want to give any more of the precious seconds of my life to useless, painful, frustrating head-banging. While each of the problems I brood over is tremendously important, and if I could make a valuable contribution to solving any of them I’d be proud to do so, what I do with them is not problem-solving. It’s problem-sucking. I suck on those problems as if somehow each issue will squirt out some solution that I can use. But instead, what I get is as dry as dust, as if I were sucking on a rock.
What would I rather think about?
Anything! The lake we used to summer at. The faces of our dogs. The aroma of pumpkin pie. The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree.
I’d rather suck on the juicy fruit of life, not its barren rocks. So why does my mind drift incessantly toward these problems I’m not able to solve? Why, instead of picking one and committing myself to constructive action toward its resolution, do I stupidly, painfully suck on the rock, gnashing my mental teeth on crotchets and sand?
No more, I say to myself, no more! Rise up, take back control of your mind, set your sights on beauty, love, creative projects, and good food. Set your thoughts on wine, long walks, dear friends, and savory treats. Be done with rags and bones and take up fertile and supple things.
- Take up new ideas and foods you’ve yet to try.
- Take up people you miss and reconnect with them at last.
- Take a stroll down memory lane and place a rose on someone’s door.
It’s time for me to clear out the rubble, to revamp my mind, to weed it out the way I need to weed out my cluttered, dusty attic and basement. I need to call 1-800-GOT-JUNK for my mind. I need to cart away all the detritus and be done with fractured artifacts forever. Why nurse pain? Let it go.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you give up on important causes to take walks and drink wine instead. Not at all. I’ve spent my entire professional life championing one cause: helping people achieve peace of mind and more particularly helping the world understand and embrace a condition that is misleadingly called ADHD. I’ve put every ounce of my being into trying to help people understand what a superpower ADHD can become if it is managed properly, and what a curse it can become if it is not. Working for a cause you passionately believe in may be the single best way to spend your time on this earth. No matter what the outcome, you win if you try.
No, what I am trying to rid myself of is time wasted. Time wasted in ruminating, time wasted in going over and over the same script time and again. Instead, I advise myself, why not set your mind on what you can help grow and flourish? Set you mind on what you can sink your teeth into and come out with a prized plum.
It’s all there for the taking, I tell myself, but it won’t be there forever. You’re 70 years old. Don’t waste another second on the mental rock pile. Go for the juicy, sweet, dripping, glistening beauties, morsels, and tidbits that abound all around you. From the cause of ADHD, to the cause of helping your grown children grow even stronger, to savoring corn grilled outdoors, to re-reading one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. #73 is one of my favorites.
May I quote a few lines without boring you?
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west.
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
How much better than brooding is that! To love that well which thou must leave ere long. Not a second more with the rocks.
It’s time to squeeze life at its most excellent parts and drink in the liquor that pours out.
Carpe diem. Seize the day. Live it up for all it’s worth. Now. Today. This very moment. And thank all that’s holy with all your heart that you still have time to do it.
Edward “Ned” Hallowell, M.D.
Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s podcast on “Stop and Smell the Roses” and learn how to appreciate the small things.