Stuck in a Snowment

My driveway 2.png

Crazy Weatherman says it might snow this weekend.  

That’s not his real name. His real name is David Tolleris, or DT to his hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. DT is a... spirited... meteorologist who runs a website and Facebook page called WxRisk  He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and he’s some folks’ cup of arsenic. He cusses detractors and insults TV weatherpeople and describes their forecasts in terms of moose genitalia and inspires in some followers a sort-of Branch Dravidian cultishness.

He’s also gone from a couple thousand followers to several hundred thousand followers in just a few years. Entertaining guy. Again, not for everyone, but I enjoy his posts and value his forecasts.

Anyway, any time DT starts talking about a potential snow event (and when he does, he starts talking about it seven or ten days in advance), I get obsessed. Every day for more than a week, I find myself checking his site two, three, ten times a day for updates. DT paints a vivid picture of the potential snow storm (while always caveating that this is not a forecast and things may change (and they often do) and that, while the TV mets are dancing monkeys with their heads up their Dopplers who refuse to acknowledge the clear direction of things, he himself isn’t saying it’s definitely going to snow, BUT LOOK AT THIS LAST MODEL RUN)…

OK, that last parenthetical was so long I lost my point. OH YEAH, I get obsessed with checking DT’s page for updates, and I think about the snow and I wonder how much we’ll get and I imagine having to shovel the North Face cliff that is our driveway. In short, during these days I live most of my life, or at least my mental life, in that future blizzard and not in the present, where I have a list of crap I need to get done and the dog would like a walk now and then and that guitar isn’t going to learn to play itself.

Seems to be a pattern, weather or not. I have OCD, and I’m medicated for it (see my column about mental health, btw), but I don’t think I’m the only person who gets wrapped around the axle of a speculative idea to the detriment of my life in the present.

I do the same thing about death, particularly of those I love (pre-OCD diagnosis and medication, I would obsessively worry about my own mortality, but now I ruminate on the loss of my parents, siblings, kids, Stacy, dog, etc., so I guess that’s an improvement?). I’ll get so up in my head in my worrying that, even while I’m with these people I love, I’m not really with them. Instead, in my worrying, and perhaps even as a defense mechanism, I am distant. Not really living with them now out of fear of losing them in the future.

I worry incessantly about getting laid off in the future (maybe even the near future!). And in the process, I don’t live the life I could today.

But I’m no one-trick pony! I can miss out on the present by obsessing about the past as well. When I crossed the Atlantic on a 51-foot sailboat (have I ever mentioned that? yes? how many times? are you sure?), I was so love-sick, missing the girlfriend I’d left weeks ago in the West Indies, I did not fully experience where I was right then: on a sailboat in the Bermuda Triangle.

Turns out, as a girlfriend she wasn’t worth missing the Bermuda Triangle for (and as her boyfriend I wasn’t worth missing either at that point in my life – we weren’t the best match, medium- to long-term).

Doesn’t matter. I didn’t get the full experience of that trip, didn’t learn everything I could, didn’t appreciate the time I was spending with one of my best friends (who has since died).

As Seth Godin talked about in his podcast this week, and in his book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn), I often create a world in my head out of my worries for the future, or my longings for the past, and then I climb in my head and live there instead of living here, in the present.

What to do?

It’s easy to say: live in the present. It’s hard to do. I find that one of the best ways to loosen the grip of future or past worries is to simply acknowledge them. Not in a recriminating way, getting upset with myself, but a simple noticing. Hey, how about that? I’m worrying about losing my parents instead of talking to my dad who is sitting right here in front of me.

Take it from OCD Man: You can’t drive a thought out of your head. DON’T THINK ABOUT DONALD TRUMP KISSING MIKE PENCE. See what I did there? You’re welcome.

When it comes to the hurricane of an obsessive thought, the only way to deny it the power to strengthen is to notice the thought. Acknowledge it. Realize it’s there, but don’t try to banish it. Trying to stop that thought is like heating the water under the hurricane - it fuels it and makes it stronger.

A few ideas:

1.       Meditation - try Tara Brach’s podcast (free) or the Headspace app (it’s free for 10 days I think, and you may even be able to get a year subscription for half-price right now).

2.       Taming Your Gremlins – a great book by Rick Carson about noticing and naming the gremlins that are trying to pull you from the present.

3.       Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast, especially the January 8, 2019 episode.

4.       Notice.

Now that we’ve covered that, I need to check the forecast.