By Dana Gornall
My thoughts have turned against me.
This sentence seems to spring up over my head and hang there as if suspended by wires and a neon blinking sign. Standing on the front step of my house watching my dog sniff around in the grass for a place to pee, I find myself frozen in my own thoughts.
They seem to spin strands of black thread and wind around in circles relentlessly until they have wrapped themselves into a tight knot around my heart. I feel it—the sharpness catches right at the base of my throat in the notch between where the collar bones point inward. It’s almost as if a knife is wedged right in that hollow, weak space; ready to plunge at any moment sending me into waves of panic and uneven, gasping breaths.
I hold on to an imaginary lever that seems to keep me from falling over the edge. Foolish, I know, for there is no lever or really any control over it. Yet a whisper seems to weave its way from inside my ears and catch itself in the tangles of my hair.
Don’t give in, it says. Don’t feel.
I mentally push back. The sharpness abates for now, leaving a dull ache in that space at the base of my throat and I shake my head. I don’t have time for this, I think.
These thoughts can consume me.
I’ve noticed that there are times when it feels that most of my brain has been invaded by one word—a syllable or combination of syllables that germinate and grow, spreading like ivy. Soon, each tendril begins to form buds that bloom erratically and violent, bursting forth more seeds of rumination, leaving me strangled in my own thoughts.
I hate it.
I can stand outside myself and watch as it overtakes me, as if I were a separate person from myself. Almost pleading, a small voice from somewhere yells to stop. I listen.
I don’t have time for this.
I don’t have time for the thoughts that spin round and round and take up far too much energy in my brain—far too much heaviness in my heart. I know this. I know I need to re-direct my thinking; I need to find a center and re-focus. The image of an out of control merry-go-round pops into my mind and I mentally reach out and grab hold tightly, trying to reign it in.
Reign it in, I think. Hold on and don’t let go. I don’t have time for this.
As if someone or something (or maybe even my own survival mode) decides to take over with a distraction, the image of the viral video from a few years ago is suddenly painted over the spiraling thoughts that threaten to choke and strangle.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
With that tiny laugh I feel some of the pressure release and I can breathe evenly again. Thoughts are a funny thing. Completely invisible, nothing but a puff of smoke that can float in and out of consciousness, yet they seem to hold as much weight as a cinder block at times.
So much power behind them. And I know this. I know that we can choose our thoughts the way we choose our clothes, as Elizabeth Gilbert eloquently voiced in her novel. I know that I can choose to replace the wildness of it all with one quiet simple word or phrase—a word, a combination of syllables that can breathe back life into the places that are scarred from being wrapped up too tightly with those invasive thoughts.
But knowing and doing can at times be placed on two separate sides of a deep gap that reaches down far below the sea. Knowing and doing can feel impossible to grasp onto let alone bring together in one place.
Looking down I see my dog at my feet, wagging his tail.
Ain’t nobody got time for this, I think.
My fingers find the latch to the door and we make our way back into the house. Reaching for my phone, I text a friend.
How do you replace negative thoughts, I ask.
Use a mantra my friend replies, Om Mani Padme Hum.
As if a door were shutting, I feel my mind and body repel this idea—scoffing that it won’t work. My brain will not allow these words—these syllables—to replace the untamed, ferocious overgrowth of chatter that fills my brain. And then I remember the gap that reaches down far below the sea, so far that the one side of knowing and the other side of doing seem impossible to reach. Feet planted firmly, I stretch both hands out on both side and pull hard.
Thank you, I answer, and begin to recite the words in my head.
Because ain’t nobody got time for this.