I’m not sure if I was one of those kids who asked “why” incessantly. I do know that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know what it all means.
Some of that is just a delight in patterns or the payoff of a really well-constructed mystery. Some of it likely comes from being raised in a religious tradition. Mostly, I think it comes from being deeply uncertain about my role in the world, but still faithful that I could figure it out if I just tried hard enough.
I am one of those people who, left unchecked, will turn a memory or the words someone told me over and over until they make sense. Until I know what it all means. Or until I’ve made up a satisfying enough story about it.
Part of my mindfulness journey has been to challenge that internal story-telling. I’m getting better at catching myself in the act and focusing more on what is than what I tell myself about it. It’s not easy though. It leaves things feeling unfinished, unresolved, without purpose. Then, a couple of weeks ago, a teacher told me this quote:
“One of the important things to remember about thoughts is that you can put a period at the end of them.” – Heather Martin
Put a period at the end of it. It doesn’t have to mean anything. And even if it does, it’s not your job to figure it out. When you find yourself stuck in a train of thought, don’t beat yourself up, don’t wonder about it. Put a period at the end of it. Move on.
Maybe there are people out there who could do with a bit more self-examination, but I bet there are more of us who would free up enormous reserves of mental energy by simply letting the thoughts, emotions and memories be. “Putting a period” on them allows them to feel finished and, strangely, makes it easier to let them go.
Try it the next time…
… you get cut off in traffic
… your feelings were a little hurt.
… you had a weird, puzzling dream.
… you’re frustrated. About anything.
Feel the feeling. Think the thought. Don’t worry about what it all means. Don’t make up a story to make it make sense. Just put a period on it. Period.
Photo by me, via an iPhone and Instagram