Jenni, stop! You’re overthinking it!
My friend’s words snapped me out of my anxious thought pattern and brought me back to reality. Nothing about my situation required me to be overthinking anything. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and then opened them, taking in the full scene before me.
It was a sunny summer day without a cloud in the sky. I was spending my Sunday morning lounging in an over-sized inflatable tube, tethered to a group of over two dozen of my friends and their children, all in their own individual tubes, as we floated lazily down 5 miles of a river in New Hampshire. The air was filled with the sound of laughter as music from a speaker in a waterproof pouch provided the soundtrack. Other groups in kayaks and tubes drifted by us, everyone smiling and waving at each other.
What could there possibly be to overthink?
Bags were stowed safely in inflatable rafts of their own, complete with sunscreen, dry towels, cell phones, empty trash bags, and snacks. Even our coolers filled with ice-cold beverages had their own floats, some with very useful cup holders. We could take as much time as we wanted floating down the river back to our cars. We could stop whenever we wanted and rest on a beach at the river’s edge. Everything about the day was laid back and care free.
Except for me.
Just one day before our river tubing trip, my husband, our two sons, and I rode a gondola to the top of a New Hampshire mountain where we took in the breathtaking scenery and prepared to eat a picnic on the mountaintop. As I was taking a photo of the view, my 10 year old found a sign near a trail that indicated it was part of the 2200 mile long Appalachian Trail.
Let’s hike it!
My 10 year old proposed the idea with a huge smile on his face, a smile I don’t see quite as often now that he is approaching his teenage years.
Instantly I began overthinking it.
But we don’t really know where it goes…We were going to take the gondola back down….We have our lunch with us…I don’t know how hard the trail is…What if someone gets hurt…
My 10 year old son and my 13 year old sons looked at me and sighed.
Come on, Mom! It’ll be fun. We’ll just go in and when we want to be done, we’ll turn around and come back out.
This was a magical moment, my two sons were wanting the same thing and weren’t arguing about anything. Just then my husband came up behind us and when the boys told him their plan, he shrugged his shoulders and said,
That was it. No overthinking. No “what if…” Just, “cool.”
In that moment, I desperately wished I could be more like the three of them — carefree, able to be in the moment, not anxious. So, I pushed all my fears aside and we headed into the trail. The thoughts continued inside my head during our hike but I kept them to myself, determined to not let them ruin my day or anyone else’s day.
It turns out the hike was pretty strenuous. We were climbing up rocks, jumping down over structures, and had a few stumbles. But, we shared a few laughs, got to help each other with the climb and descent, and enjoyed the time on the trail. On our way back to the top of the mountain, we met a woman who was hiking with two companions, each over 70 years old. She shared that they had hiked nearly all of the segments of the Appalachian Trail in their lifetime and this particular part of the trail and one other in the area are all they had left to complete.
There’s no way they were overthinking it. They were living their best life, climbing a flipping mountain at over 70 years old. Yet there I was, in the middle of a mountain, and then in the middle of lazy tubing trip down a river, overthinking all the small stuff.
If I had listened to my anxious thoughts on that mountain, I wouldn’t have the amazing memories my family now has from that trail. I wouldn’t have heard the story about that couple in their 70’s. We wouldn’t have been so interested in the Appalachian Trail that we would read about it later as a family. If I had listened to my anxious thoughts on that river, I wouldn’t have laughed so hard that my stomach was sore the next day. I wouldn’t have found the humor in so many memories from that day, even when our group of tubes got caught on some mini rapids and we needed to work to free ourselves. My overthinking almost stopped me from fully living in so many moments on that trip.
So, here I sit, overthinking my overthinking.
Is it possible to leave my overthinking tendencies at home on my next vacation? Could I add “hide the overthinking” to my pre-vacation To Do List? Could I at least tuck it away in my suitcase and just leave it there during the trip like all the unused “just in case” shirts and outfits?
I’m not quite sure of the answer but what I do know is that even if my anxious thoughts tag along on my next vacation, I don’t have to listen to them. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t have to give them power. I don’t want to let them keep me from fully enjoying my vacation, my family, my friends, or my life.
Instead, at least for now, I can simply keep telling myself,
Jenni, stop! You’re overthinking it!
About Changing Perspectives
I often find myself encouraging people to consider changing their perspective or reframe the way in which they view things. This blog is an extension of that practice and is also an opportunity for me to write from a number of different perspectives including clinician, educator, mother, friend and supervisor. Blog topics are also quite varied and changeable. Topics explored include, but are certainly not limited to, grief, parenting, health and wellness and relationships. Join me and explore a number of changing perspectives!