Fingernails or How John Green Will Save Me

When I finally broke my habit of biting my nails, I was thrilled!  No more weird looks from my Dad.  No more tears down to the quick.  No more gross stuff entering my mouth – by my own doing! – out of a strange compulsion to control something.  My nervous condition was no more!  It had ceased to exist!  Yay!!!  And the minstrels celebrated!

Or had it……

Now that I have fingernails, I enjoy painting them, trimming them, having them readily available to scratch any and all itches.  I also use them to pick….at loose skin, calluses, bumps, ingrown hair…..I use them to pick at EVERYTHING!  Where I once bit my nails to deal with nervous energy, I now use my nails to pick at whatever is available.  That action, that desire to pick and tear things apart, is very much a manifestation of how my mind works.  It wasn’t until I had fingernails that I realized how much so.

I am very much pro-thinking.  If anything, it’s one of my top goals for my students.  I want them to be able to articulate their thoughts and use those wonderful brains of their to think things through, solve the problem in front of them.  Next to thinking, I want them to learn that problems have multiple approaches to their solutions.  It’s about finding the path that works.

Okay, that may seem simplistic – and it is.  You don’t want my Teaching Statement…or my Artist’s Statement….that’s not why I’m writing this during the commercial breaks of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (I’ve been working on this all day, having written this post no less than 5 different times…but more on that later).  I am writing this because stopping one bad habit has lead to discovering something more about myself.  In my case, stopping myself from biting my nails didn’t take away my nervousness.  If anything, it just gave me 10 more ways for all those nerves to manifest themselves.  Instead of chewing on those nails, I use them to pick at all the parts on me that cause annoyance….the loose skin, the calluses, bumps….you get the idea.

This picking at things didn’t become the automatic, and instant, replacement for my nail biting.  Over the summer when I had to job hunt….AGAIN…it picked up a bit, but that was swim season and I’m a little self conscious about huge hollows in my skin, so I maintained my calm.  Lately, though, my insistence on flipping, picking, and tearing has increased…big time!  Thankfully, I’m recognizing it and hope to stop the mindless habit I’ve developed, but I have to attack the source: the nervousness.

My nervousness doesn’t affect my day to day life.  I’m not huddled in a mass, unable to work or live.  My nervousness is totally from my own head – my wonderful, over thinking to the point of stress, brain.

It’s amazing how the mind works.  I can flip through a hundred ideas, a thousand memories, and outline my day while drinking my coffee.  I can read a book and my imagination will give the characters shape, the settings dimension, and transport myself to the time and place the author wants.  Through practice, I’ve become pretty adept at being able to transfer ideas in my head to paper via a variety of media.  The mind is amazing and I don’t claim to have the faintest idea how it works – but I know that it can also be terrible.  My brain sometimes goes into overdrive.  When I’m overwhelmed, it is because my mind is running with wild abandon.  It jumps from scenario to scenario, following many possible outcomes.  It can also be a very harsh critic.  It’s a shame when your mind attacks itself – mine does it pretty often. Bad, brain, bad! It questions what I’m doing, where I’m going, what the future will be….questions, questions, questions.

Where are the answers?!  Well, they are in there as well.  It’s time to find a creative solution to the problem because using my fingernails to mutilate myself is just not cutting it any more.  I’m tired of pulling too deep, and tearing past the epidermis.  I need to stop pulling at all!  Meditation has been helpful for me – just calming down is helpful.  I need to remind myself that what I’m doing, running free with my brain, is not how it is.  Life isn’t planned.  You can only control so much of life, everything else happens and you have to deal with those situations as they pop up.

To be honest, I’m just trying to live my life.  Figuring it out, well, I don’t really think that is possible.  I think it’s more about dealing with what is in front of you to the best of your ability.  If the only way for you (me, in this case) to handle the pre-meltdown state of your mind is to take a power nap, take the power nap.  When you wake up, tackle step one and keep moving.  If you need to nap again later, go for it.  Maybe doing some Star Wars Dance Off, Zumba, drawing, playing guitar, DO SOMETHING!!!

So, I mentioned before that I have tried to write about this current state of my mind affairs.  I have tried so many different approaches to this topic and all of them were lame.  This one might not be any better, but at least I like writing this so, I got that going for me.  Part of that reason is because I finally got out of the house today.

As most of you, I’ve been in the middle of Polar Vortex 2014.  It has been freezing here and that means I have not left my house since Sunday.  I went outside, briefly, and that was enough.  Monday was productive.  Cleaning took place, dinner was cooked, Lego Marvel Super Heroes was beat – I was rolling!  Then the thought train took off….and this has been a rocky ride.  The upside to all of this is that at least I recognize it when it’s happening and can stem the flow of self doubt and questioning that occurs.  I know what’s happening, I know why it’s happening, it just gets a little overwhelming sometimes.

Now, my Dad is an amazing man.  I realize that a lot of my tendencies to over think come from him.  He, too, can get a little bogged down by what could happen.  Anyways, he also gets fixated on getting certain things done – like making sure he can drive up and down our long driveway, which goes up a hillside at about a 45 degree angle.  Well, he made it happen today and came to get me for a visit.  Normally I’d just walk, but he gets worried that if the road is icy someone will drive on it, lose control, and possibly hit me (see what I mean…over-thinking, but well intentioned.  Daughter like Father).  On the bar in the kitchen was my new issue of Mental Floss (fantastic magazine – I strongly suggest you subscribe!) with John Green on the cover.

I admit, my knowledge of John Green is limited at best.  I know he’s an author that my cousin and a several friends really enjoy.  Okay, that’s about it.  Still, I was excited to see him on the cover because that meant there was an interview with him inside.  I read that article with glee and feel like I’ve discovered a kindred spirit and an inspiration.  Now that my knowledge of Mr. Green is now growing (I’ve checked (one of?) his YouTube page and hope to make it a regular viewing stop), I hope to join the ranks of nerdfighters everywhere and aim to “don’t forget to be awesome!”.

I like that mantra. It was what I needed to get moving again. It may sound silly to say that an article on a magazine would be enough to shake me loose, but it was a smart article. At any rate, it touched me. Now, I’m partway through Mr. Green’s book, The Fault In Our Stars, and it is a wonderful story. I had to put it down only because my nook kept falling on my face (that happens more than you’d believe).

So, I hope we all remember to be awesome – that we all learn how to deal with our stresses in less destructive ways. I know I’m going to take this day as it is, be myself, and not be so worried about how others will react to me or over think it. I’m just going to be me….good, bad, I’m the one who has to live with it.

Today, and everyday, I am going to be awesome. I’ve got this.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lyle
    Jan 08, 2014 @ 14:09:36

    You most definitely are awesome. If you ever forget, you need only come back to this blog post to remind yourself. 🙂


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