Worn Pathway

Do you find it hard to shut off your mind at, say, 3 a.m.?

This morning, when I sat down to meditate, I told myself that I was just practicing bringing my mind back to my breath; that it was okay if it wandered because that provided the opportunity to practice recognizing that it was wandering and bring it back.

For about 30 seconds, I felt relaxed and mindful. Then my mind wandered.

Thinking, I told myself, as if a chime had gone off. And brought my mind back to my breath as previously planned.

And immediately started mentally writing a blog post.

Thinking.

Brought my mind back to my breath and immediately started reflecting on how I should use this technique when I wake up at 3 a.m. and how hard it was to practice it when I was lying in bed for some reason and –

Thinking.

Brought my mind back and – started worrying that my inability to relax into mindfulness could be an early sign of dementia. Wondering if meditating would help my father-in-law who, at 92 is losing cognitive function and wanders around picking things up and putting them down, like my mind wanders during meditation and –

Oh.

Thinking.

Breathing in; breathing out. Breathing in. Breathing out. Breathing in.

What a tickle I have in my throat today. I’m going to – going to – going to – sneeze! Achoo! Maybe I should get up and get a tissue. Oh, my husband in the next room just sneezed, too. And he’s sniffling. But he always does that in the mornings. And his chronic cough gets worse in the morning, too. I wish he would go to the doctor. He’s had this cough since we took that Caribbean cruise in 2019 – I wonder if he picked something up, some tropical disease. But he just won’t go to the doctor. Maybe his sister could persuade him, since he doesn’t listen to me. Then I’d have to talk to her about it and warn her not to mention that I asked her to talk to him, and she’d probably tell him that I said that. This is so crazy. …Oh fuck!

Thinking.

Breath in. Breath out.

Maybe while I’m with them at Thanksgiving, I can get out and do some walking. Maybe I can take my niece, who has become the “problem” that needs to be solved, with me. I am a good aunt and a good listener. It seems like she probably has enough people telling her what to do, maybe she just needs a good listener. Of course, that’s just another way of trying to fix her. And why would I put myself in this position; I’m always The Fixer, the person who keeps things moving. Maybe it’s time to stop playing that role: at work, at home, with family, with friends. I don’t really enjoy that role. It just feels natural because, when I was a little girl, I was the one who kept the family moving. And now I’m stuck in this rut. And I’m tired of it. …Grrraaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Thinking.

Oh this sucks. I’m so out of it today and I’m out of it everyday. I can blame work and blame my husband and blame the cat and blame myself, but the truth is that I am accountable for my own actions. Maybe my brain is broken, and I can’t let go anymore.

Learning a new behavior is like taking a shortcut across a healthy lawn: if you look back, you can barely see the footprints you left. The more often you walk that same path, the more your footprints become visible: first, as bare patches on the grass. Eventually the bare patches form together, the grass killed by the constant repetition. Then you have a dirt path which, if you continue to use, you may as well pave. Now that becomes the main path and you take it automatically as you walk.

Then it’s a habit. It becomes challenging to change because you have to become very conscious of what you’re doing. You have to demolish the pavement (throw away the cigarettes, stop buying junk food for the people you live with, delete the Solitaire app from your phone) so that walking on that path becomes a choice.

You have to become very aware of when you’re making that choice.

Of when you’re thinking.

Oh.

Thinking.

This is exactly what happens to me at 3 a.m. I can’t seem to shut off my brain. Shut off my –

Thinking.

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