I’m the master of dwelling. I can think about the same situation over 1,000 different ways and still not move on. It reminds me of a quote by Jonathan Foer:
“Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world, it wasn’t the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”― Jonathan Safran Foer
The last 72 hours have been filled with dwelling in a way that I know isn’t constructive or worthwhile. I can’t seem to shake it though. The result? Let’s think about why I think I’m dwelling! This made me realize that a big part of the problem is the recording of all things written and posted online. Whether it’s emails, posts, pictures, texts, etc., we all have at the click of a button or two access to information that only facilitates dwelling. Even as a 9th grader, I remember one day completely erasing hundreds of blog posts on blogger.com that I had written over the three years prior. I’m not a typically impulsive person but I remember feeling oddly relieved after doing this:
Moreover, by deleting those posts I no longer have access to those direct feelings, memories, words said etc. because the record of them are gone. This facilitates letting go. That previous year I was very upset about leaving my soccer team to play on a new one and, by deleting these posts where I was debating leaving vs staying, I was able to better move on. There are times now when I wish I had access to those posts still but, all in all, I really think that by removing them online I was able to move on in my real life. Sidenote: I truly do believe your social media persona is an extension of who you are purely due to the time spent maintaining these only profiles, sharing with friends, reading through feeds, etc. It only makes sense that by removing access to these “saved” and stagnant memories, you can better move on in your real life.
I remember how much more I missed college when I first moved to SF and was still on Facebook . I would scroll through people’s feeds who had stayed in Chapel Hill and thought about how much I wished I was there. It was completely unproductive and just made me, well, dwell. The challenge for me now relates to dwelling with work. Whether it was an unhappy customer who wrote in a nasty ticket telling me to f— off or an internal thread heading in a poor direction, I have access to it all and can read & re-read it at any time. I found myself checking things in the same way I used to with social media or with old blog posts. This isn’t to say that I think reflecting isn’t helpful but there’s a big difference between reflecting and dwelling. It’s easy to forget that though and let reflection turn into dwelling. Beyond that, the ability to search massive amounts of information can only help send you down a rabbit hole of dwelling. Unlike with a written notebook/journal, I now can search every single post for a mention of a name, place, topic, etc. and get an entire list of search results. In some ways, knowledge is power but it can also corner you into a certain way of thinking/being as you pick through parts of your past. It seems I’ve managed to do that in the last 72 hours and I’m finally reaching a point where I know it’s best to pick myself up/let myself move on. I’m at a standoff with my emotions though as I feel a tug to look back and try to understand more what went wrong.
If there’s anything I’ve learned to help myself move on though, it’s that you have to dig your heels into the present and point your focus towards the future. Here’s to doing just that. Here’s to stopping re-reading and to instead creating something new with this post.