So you know how when an experience is new, everything about it can seem totally fantastic and make you feel really happy? Everything is so damn perfect, you’re on cloud nine, and absolutely nothing brings you down. Ah-mazing, right?
But you also know what comes next. After some time, the thrill starts to fade. Not overnight, of course. It happens gradually enough that you don’t really notice it. Until you do. Then you wake up one morning, look around and the question posed by the Talking Heads all those decades ago starts blasting in your brain.
“Well? How did I get here?” (Try getting that song out of your head now. Sorry. Not sorry, it is a great song. And if you are too young to know about the Talking Heads? I am truly sorry for that.)
And when you find yourself pondering why you are where you are, who you are with, or what you are doing in a particular situation, the next logical step is to wonder if the grass is a nicer shade of green somewhere (or with someone) else. And all that uncertainty often leads you to be really dissatisfied with your current arrangements. Then your mind really starts to wander.
It is a vicious cycle, actually, One that feeds off itself. Sometimes is a very strong sign that something is wrong. In which case, you should probably heed your inner voice and change things.
But sometimes it isn’t a sign that anything is wrong at all. Sometimes, all that worrying and wondering is really just your mind playing games with you. Creating a scenario that is a little like Alice’s wonderland world. Where things aren’t always what they seem.
I know this happens because it happens to me. Often.
I am the queen of overthinking things. I am also really introverted and quite content to spend a lot of time alone. Like, A LOT of time alone. I can go days without seeing another living soul besides my dogs and Island Boy (we share a house, so he’s hard to avoid…not that I want to, but you get my point). And this combination of alone time and overthinking? It can be good or bad, depending on the day.
Sometimes it is fine, spurring my creativity as a writer.
Sometimes it is not so fine. When things go off the rails and I start to believe the scenarios in my head, that is where the danger lurks.
Lately, the version of my mind’s story involves constant wonder as to why, as an American expat, I’m living on a Dutch rock so far from all that is familiar to me. And playing the lead? All the unsatisfying aspects of existing here. Yes, even in paradise there are unappealing bits. Sorry to burst your bubble.
These thoughts don’t come alone, either. No, sir. They are unfortunately accompanied by a gradually building sense of dissatisfaction and a steady loss in the ability to see the beauty of life here. The type of visitors I could definitely do without.
And thoughts like these are precisely why, even if you like to spend a lot of time alone like I do, you have to get the hell out of your own head now and then. Put yourself out in the public eye. Perhaps even – gasp! – interact with people. Even if you have to force yourself to do it.
And so it was the other day.
Normally I would decline an offer to help haul a boat out for repairs. I mean, that doesn’t really sound like a fun afternoon, does it? Going on a boat for cocktails and a cruise? Sign me up! Standing around a marina in the tropical afternoon heat waiting for a crane to put a boat on the hard? Umm…no.
But I went anyway. Mostly because Island Boy did the asking and needed a deckhand. Partly because the alternative was sitting at my desk (with no airco, as I am still in sticker shock over last month’s electric bill!!!) trying to beat writer’s block.
So off we went. And something unexpected happened. All the pieces of the afternoon fell into place, and I had a reawakening about why it is so much fun to live where I do. How even the most mundane activities can transform into a collection of fun experiences that end up being far more enjoyable than you could have ever imagined.
This epiphany was spurred by several unexpected events, none of which I will bore you with here. Suffice it to say that enough unexpectedly fun and funky stuff happened to shake me out of my recent self-indulgent thinking about why living here totally sucks and why a move someplace else would just solve every single problem.
And looking back on the day as a whole (and the preceding days filled with dark ruminations), I realized something fairly obvious but often overlooked…
Getting lost in your own thoughts is good. Staying there too long and letting them control the narrative, not so much.
If you’re stuck in your thoughts for so long they are bringing you down, you need to do something about it. And only you can. You have to leave your isolation and put yourself out there. Especially before you make a drastic decision that has long-ranging effects. Like selling all your stuff, buying a plane ticket and heading somewhere else. While that may be the ultimate outcome after some serious soul searching, it shouldn’t be a decision you make based solely on scenarios that exist only in your head.
No matter where you live – dream island, hometown, or an unexpected place you landed due to a job, relationship, whatever – you can only live inside your own head for so long. Eventually, you’ve got to put yourself out there, interact with people, have new experiences. Even when you don’t feel like it.
Because you never know when or where inspiration will strike. The kind of inspiration that boosts you back into the present and renews your enjoyment of and appreciation for the life you’re living in the here and now – wherever that may be.
It also happens to be a wonderful cure for writer’s block. Who knew?
Got questions? Want to know more about island life? Thinking about making a big life change (whether that includes an island or not)? I’d love to hear from you. Check out this post or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s connect.