Saturday, March 30, 2013

All Up In My Head

This last week or so, I have been All Up In My Head, culminating today in a vicious stress headache and terminal indecision at the grocery store, during which I lingered a creepily long time in the meat department, incapable of deciding on steak or pork for tomorrow night’s Sunday dinner. I became someone I hate—a slow mover, a fretter-over-er, a ninny who is so overwhelmed by too many consumer choices  that she seizes up at the meat freezer and won’t get out of the way so I can buy some damn skirt steak. I tend to feel more overwhelmed by the world in general than normal people do, but I can usually execute a simple grocery shopping excursion without a crisis of indecision over protein.

When I was trying to figure out what has me in such a state—thereby exacerbating my already overthinky condition—I realized I’ve been forced into making a lot of decisions lately. Not earth-shattering decisions, but decisions nonetheless. I’m planning a large yearly event for work, and I have to pick colors and centerpieces and paper and flowers and colors of flowers and appetizers and dessert cakes and words and the general order of everything. I’m judging a poetry contest and I can’t choose every poem, only a very a few of them, because they have all these “rules” about how many winners there can be. I have to pick a title for my mini short story collection. I have to decide on new noise-canceling headphones because I broke mine playing Tomb Raider. 

I know these are all very first world-y issues, but confident decision making is not my strong suit. When it concerns anything petty, I worry obsessively about the consequences of the wrong choice. What if the color of the event programs clashes with the tablecloths? What if I pick buzzy headphones? What if I choose a book title that turns out to be linguisticly proven to repel potential readers? You would think that all of this ruminating would translate into better decision-making about things that actually matter, but no. I have a pattern of making major life decisions with impulsive abandon, and expending all of my analytical skills on envisioning the exact quality of unbearable shame that will be brought to bear upon me if I choose the wrong napkins holders.

I’m also all up in my head about writing. I’m super-excited about getting my short stories published, but of course I choose instead to focus on angsting because my third chapbook hasn’t been picked up yet, and could die on the vine. I don’t know if I am now “A Poet” or “A Fiction Writer” and if I should even care. It seems like I should care somehow. It seems like I should be going about this whole writing thing with a lot more intentionality than I do. It seems like I should strive to be more official about it, more “branded”, more marketable. But I find the whole idea exhausting. I don’t want to package myself. What if I pick the wrong box?

All of this, along with a lot of pent-up creative energy, has caused a persistent throbbing headache, unresponsive to Advil. I am going to take a long, lavender-salt bath and read some chick lit. I hereby declare that to be my official last decision of the evening. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, I picked ham.

--Kristen McHenry

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