Ruminator!

I stumbled across a psychology term that couldn’t describe what I do more perfectly: rumination. Wikipedia says it’s “the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.” And the American Psychological Association says, “The word ‘ruminate’ derives from the Latin for chewing cud, a less than gentile process in which cattle grind up, swallow, then regurgitate and rechew their feed. Similarly, human ruminators mull an issue at length.”

It’s an endless loop, a circular reference, me trying to solve a problem that can’t be solved. I keep making the same realizations, I know. But I’ve been getting a little discouraged that after so many months of meditation, life coaching, positive thinking, prayer – just working so fucking hard – that I’m still stuck in these thought patterns and still going over the same things in my head. Over and over and over and over, knowing I’ll never figure them out but still trying endlessly to.

(I’ve made a ton of progress, don’t get me wrong; on the whole I’m a much more positive, more accepting, calmer, more peaceful, more compassionate person – who actually likes herself.)

It was super comforting to know that what I do is so common that it’s been studied, has a name, has scholarly research behind it, and, <angels sounding trumpets> ways to stop </angels sounding trumpets>! It felt like getting a solid diagnosis that I can now work on concretely.

Ruminator!

Ruminator!

The first solution that popped into my head was that as soon as I catch myself going over the same thoughts, I yell out (in my head of course) “RUMINATOR!!” just like Miracle Max’s wife in “Princess Bride.” It makes me giggle and takes the situation down a couple notches on the seriously-I’m-fucking-crazy-right-or-not-oh-god-what-is-happening-in-my-head yardstick.

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the damn word, though! I caught myself doing it – a lot – and then tried to come up with the word but all I kept coming up with was either “enumerator” or more often, “bloviator.” Both were fucking hilarious to me and so worked pretty well.

The other tactic I’ve read about (obsessively, natch) to stop this shit is distraction, either with another thought, an activity, or by the one I already came up with all one my own, which is to say, “Stop.” to yourself. Or, “BLOVIATOR!!!!”

So, half marathon it is then. I had already started running again when a nasty little cold kept me on the couch. I also started volunteering with the kid’s grief group and it was AWESOME. I love doing those things, they’re so fun. Hard to understand, I know, but it really isn’t sitting around crying about how sad we all are.

Hello, my name is Lara and I’m a ruminator. It’ll take me a while, but some day I’ll be a recovering ruminator.

 


“Gender aside, ruminators share some common characteristics. They often:
  • Believe they’re gaining insight through it.
  • Have a history of trauma.
  • Perceive that they face chronic, uncontrollable stressors.
  • Exhibit personality characteristics such as perfectionism, neuroticism and excessive relational focus–‘a tendency to so overvalue your relationships with others that you will sacrifice yourself to maintain them, no matter what the costs,’ Nolen-Hoeksema explained.”

My New Best Friend

Today was a total shit day. Not for any good reason, I just felt like a growling angry werewolf. So I broke my very long streak of zero physical activity and hit the treadmill early so I could make it to the local Buddhist meeting to meditate. The run was great – I am feeling the twinges of wanting to get back into regular running and 1/2 marathons yay! – but I still felt like a powder keg.

In the shower I just broke down. Here’s the conversation I had in my head:

Me: Go to the meeting, it will do you good.

Me: But I am crying, I don’t want to be around people. I can meditate here, it will be just as good.

Me: Hey bitch, how do you know what’s best for her?

Me: Why does this have to be so hard?

Me: Other people don’t have to struggle so much you know, why do I?

Me: Hey now, chin up there, little buddy! You’re okay. Go, don’t go, either one will be okay. Ease up, you’re doing great. Cry it out and get showered. When it comes time to leave and you still want to go, go and have a great time. If you don’t, stay home. It’s okay!

Me: You’re not going to yell at me and tell me I’m doing it wrong?

Me: No man, you’re doing it fine!

Me: Wow, thanks. You’re actually a good friend. Way better than those years of you being such a dick to me.

Me: Yeah, that chick was a fucking bitch, huh?


Yeah she was.

There Is No Wrong

I feel a bit like a teenager growing up and making discoveries that every adult knows. I don’t know what to call it, but I feel I’m on a path towards a way of living that’s different than what I’ve been doing before. It involves mindfulness, meditation, forgiveness, acceptance, discipline, and faith. It sounds a lot like religion but maybe it’s just growing up.

I’ve started to develop some skills in these areas. To use a snowboarding analogy for my level of mastery, I’m pretty comfortable on the green runs and the blue ones are fun but still really challenging. Black diamonds? Maaaaaaybe on a 3-feet-of-powder day, and then only if there’s a cute boy to impress.

One of these skills is recognizing inner thoughts as side effects of larger situations, instead of as the absolute truth. When I have thoughts of, “No one likes me and I have no friends and I’m destined to die alone and miserable like my aunt,” I kind of realize it’s not true and probably due to hormones or anxiety about something else. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting those thoughts go crap as I typed that I realize I don’t let them go at all. I dissect them to find the reason behind it – am I hormonal? What am I anxious about? Should I meditate about this? Do I need exercise? Am I hungry?

This post was originally going to be about how I always expect there to be an end to my sadness, my anxiety, my meanness … my life, basically. It was going to be about how all those things will always be there and I need to learn to accept those things too. Now I realize that all that’s true, yes, but something that will also always be there is my instinct to analyze. Yeah, I could work really really hard on letting that go but I could also work really really hard on dying my Asian hair blonde. What’s the point? It’s kind of denying who I am, isn’t it? As long as I recognize that the analytical skill is just a skill and not a fact – not a determiner of my happiness – all is well, right?

This Shit DOES Work!

Last night I did the gratitude thing again, writing the three things I was thankful for that day. I also did a guided meditation in bed right before going to sleep. Okay, since I don’t remember the end of the meditation, I more accurately went to sleep with a guided meditation track playing. And goddamital if I didn’t wake up this morning with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.