I assumed for years that everyone lives in their heads like I live in mine. I don’t think linearly; I think in weblike thoughts. One thought goes in three directions. And each of those takes three more turns. Sometimes my consciousness stays with one or two while my subconscious continues to build the web. Sometimes I sit still, watching the twists and turns my thoughts take. I marvel at and love the infinite possibilities of thought and idea.
I suppose this is one reason why one of my favorite things to do is just sit and listen to my thoughts. This is also why I have about 20 journals at any given time, in my home, purse, car and office. When a thought comes to me that I want to remember, I write it down wherever space on a page exists.
I was in high school when I started to realize not everyone was like this. I began to understand that my stream of consciousness felt like random, sometimes confusing thoughts to others. I could see how my mind went from thought to thought, with a few (or several) unspoken thoughts in between. It might not have made sense to others but it made perfect sense to me. As an introvert, I often wasn’t eager to put my thought process out there. And so I got used to being labeled as weird.
In my 20’s I became increasingly deliberate about what to share. It was easier to keep my thoughts mostly in my head. I didn’t have to explain. And it felt somehow less painful to assume someone wouldn’t understand than to know that for sure. But in doing so, I spent less time hearing my thoughts. I thought I was listening, but I wasn’t listening very well.
In my 30’s I was ready to find my words. I was increasingly okay with not being understood. I wanted to be my authentic self whether I was likable or not, whether I was acceptable or not. It took time though because years of neglect had dulled my abilities. I had to learn what was truly my voice versus the voices of others playing on auto-repeat in my head.
In my 40’s I perfected my ability to listen and worked on crafting my thoughts into coherent sentences. This was sometimes for the sake of sharing with another. But more importantly it was my process of understanding what I was thinking and feeling. For a linear thinker, this is probably a little more straightforward. But for me, each strand of the web has a purpose of providing stability to the overall structure. Some strands are more important than others, but serves a purpose nonetheless.
A byproduct of hearing my own voice was learning to hear others better. I learned how to distinguish between what someone was communicating and what I wanted to hear or how I was trying to interpret those words. This isn’t always easy, particularly when hurt is involved. But I have developed the tools that improve my ability to do so.
At 50 years old and looking ahead, I wonder what the next decade will bring. I have often thoughtfully assembled the components of my life – responsibilities, relationships, hobbies, etc – to accurately reflect my values and priorities. I have a full life, personally and professionally. But fullness can sometimes become a bit too full. I suspect it is time to prune a bit here and there. I am feeling the need to bring a bit more spaciousness to my life. I want both fullness and depth. The space will create the time to do the work I find most meaningful.
We should all know or seek to learn what we are good at, passionate about, and uniquely gifted in. I believe my way of thinking is part of that. My thought process brings an infrastructure to a space without defining or confining the space. My thought process enables exploration versus explanation. And I absolutely love that about me. I want to use what I have learned, what I love, what is uniquely me.
I may never get paid as a writer. I may never develop an audience. But my writing is about neither of those things. It is the process by which I make sense of my thoughts. I guess what I am now seeing as I step back from this web of thoughts, is that the spaciousness I seek is intended to make room for my writing. I want my writing not to be another thing in my life, but rather the stream which runs through all parts of my life. If just for my benefit, that is okay. My voice is no more important than another. But my voice, my thoughts, my words are uniquely mine.