Nothing To See Here

2011 November 29

“What are you thinking?”


This was a game my travel partner and I played a hundred times last week. Late at night, over dinner, during long stretches of flat road, on the last few miles to our next destination. A close cousin to “Why are you looking at me like that?” The object is to make the other one crack, to admit that they were thinking something terrible or scandalous or just plain silly. I’m very stubborn, which makes me very good at the game. And while there may have been rare moments when I just didn’t want to share what was on my mind, for the most part, it really was a blank. Eat, sleep (or try to unsuccessfully), drive. I didn’t think about work. I didn’t think about coming home. I didn’t fixate on the fact that I couldn’t doze for more than an hour or so a night. I stared out the window at the alien flatness of Nebraska. I braced myself to merge into interstate traffic. I petted dogs and peeled apples. I laughed. I ate (vegan) ice cream. And I hardly spared a minute to analyze any of it.

You can only fret for so long before you simply wear yourself out. Until you can’t muster one more ounce of angst. Like pulling an all-nighter to write a college term paper and then suddenly, at 2:00PM the next day, all of the adrenaline wears off at once and you’ve never felt grubbier and queasier and more tired in your life.

That was my week. A whole seven days spent at the point where the reserve tank of energy you use to police your own mind and assemble and reassemble your plans is completely dry. We all end up there at one time or another. And it’s really not such a bad place. In fact, it’s liberating –  that quiet when the record ends and no one gets up to flip it to the other side, that juncture at which you don’t worry about having the right words, because there’s really no need for words at all, those moments when you can hardly muster a first guess, let alone a second one. There’s a comfort in this, in the feeling that you haven’t snapped the band of your mind so far and so hard that it can’t bounce back if you just leave it alone for a few days, if you loosen a few buttons, open the gate and let it wander, stop trying to wrap your arms around all of its moving parts as if it were a squirming toddler. Just let it sit.

Sometimes, when someone asks you what you’re thinking,  not only is “Nothing” true, it’s the best answer of all.

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