Fed up with the cold and holed up inside, I was blathering on the horn with my dad. I blathered about This and That and The Other Thing, and whether This and That and The Other Thing would turn into More Complicated Things, which would then turn into Worse Things and then Worser and Worstest Things, and whether I should stop these Worstest Things from happening before they’d even started.
My dad listened quietly. He’s good at that. When he talks, he talks like nobody’s business — full-on streams of no-shit truthiness — but when he’s not talking, he just clams up and waits while I Blah Blah Blah. He’s done this the whole time I’ve known him, which is pushing 37 years now. (I met him not as a newborn, when I wasn’t yet monologuing, but as a banged and squinty 13-year-old.)
At one point, I paused mid-blather for an inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide. My dad used this life-maintaining instinct to save me from myself.
“Stop thinking so much, Ames,” he said. “You’re over-thinking everything.”
He was right. I’d been over-analyzing everything, training my high-powered telescoping lens onto every little dust bunny in every little corner of my mind; if only I trained this same critical hyper-zoom on actual dust bunnies, my home might land on the cover of House Beautiful. But the problem: After he said this, I started over-thinking my tendency to over-think everything, leading me into a vast, churning sinkhole of useless solipsism. I became like some sad and deathly pallid Dostoevsky protagonist, except I hadn’t murdered a pawn broker and wasn’t exiled to Siberia, although this ass-freezing Albany winter just might count as such.
Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking altogether. Wouldn’t that be handy! If only I had the cognitive ability of, say, a gallon of milk, I could idle away my time in silent refrigeration without spending one single millisecond worrying about it. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go anywhere, or do anything, or solve any problems, and when my dad called me on the phone, I’d be like, “Yeah, dude, so I’m in here chillin’ with the Chobanis,” and then he’d be like, “Sounds good, Ames,” and then I’d be like, “And the kosher dills just moved in, and they’re excellent company,” and he’d be like, “Can I come and visit?”
Except there wouldn’t be room for visitors in my fridge. And, lacking sentience, I wouldn’t be having conversations with anyone, my splendiferous non-blood dad included.
So this morning, I aired out my head and went for a walk. That helped, and here’s why: it forced me to a) deposit a shitload of checks that had been piling up; and b) chat with neighbors. One of the mundane, not-so-minor joys about living in the same house for 20 years is the accumulation of time and people — and the widening sense of connection that goes along with them. It always pulls me out of myself and into the world at large.
On my short walk I swapped hellos with the mailman, the young dad, the smiling guy who offered me leaf bags last fall. The bank tellers, the old friend from church, the sweet neighbors’ kid working a shift at Stewart’s. The mom of two who, driving buy, rolled down her window to talk. The woman looking in on her elderly parents. The neighbor scraping slush off the sidewalk.
Seeing him, I grabbed a shovel and began to scrape my own. Spring is coming. The Worstest of winter is over — and with it, my over-thinking. I think.