The Overanalyzed Life

I think it was Plato that said an unexamined life isn’t worth living.  Or maybe it was Socrates.  And maybe he said that life without philosophy isn’t worth living.  In any case, some famous philosopher once said that we need to examine our lives, and in doing so, we will find meaning.

I have no problem examining my life.  I am more than happy to engage in a discussion with anyone, at any time, examining the purpose of life, our individual qualities, where we fit into the big picture, what is meaningful, what is not, what to do to make our lives more meaningful, and then talk some more about the purpose of life.  It is fun, intellectually stimulating, challenging, and – dare I say? – meaningful to me to have such discussions.  It lights me up.  It makes me wonder, gets my brain spinning, and makes my imagination run free.

It’s also terribly stressful.

There is one main subject that I have analyzed repeatedly throughout my life, and it is this:  What should I do with my life?  There have been times when this question is quite simple – for example, when I was in high school, I knew that learning was the only thing I really had to or should be doing, so I threw myself into my education.  I also had a validation system that was perfectly set into place – the grading system – and if I got all A’s, I was doing a good job.  Done!  Easy peasy!

Life got more complicated, though.  During my college years, I knew that I should still be attending classes, studying and getting A’s, but I wasn’t so sure what classes I should be taking, or what career I should be preparing for.   I chose a major that seemed practical enough to satisfy my parents and exciting enough to satisfy my creative desires.  I aimed for a 3.5 GPA.  I did my best to fit in socially.  I could measure my success by looking at my report card and the number of parties I was invited to.  Then after college, I got a job, and I could know how I was doing at my yearly performance review.  I still didn’t know if I was in the right career, but I knew I was doing it well.

Now, things are less clear.  I’m a wife, a mother, and an adult.  Where’s my report card?  Where’s my performance review?

I’ve been plagued by this giant question – “Am I doing the right thing by staying home with my children?”  I wonder if I’m using my talents to the best of my abilities (does it matter if I’m a creative person when I’m folding laundry?)  I question whether it’s even good for me to be here for my kiddos.  Mommy Wars are real, people, and I think it’s because we truly don’t know what’s best for kids.  Is it better to have a stay-at-home parent, or two parents that work outside the home, or a single parent devoted to his/her children completely, or extended family living in a house all together to help raise the children, or two separated parents that can offer unique homes and double the adventures and the gifts of flexibility, freedom and fun?  There are so many options, and with each option comes another question.  There are so many ways to be right with parenting, how do I know if I’m doing it the right right way?

To add insult to injury, these days it’s not just a question of whether I am doing the right things.  Now, I’m also worried about whether my children are doing the right things.  Are they in the right activities?  The right number of activities?  The right schools?  Are we spending our time doing the right balance of structured and unstructured things?  Do I need to start foreign language classes now before they lose the innate ability to learn language, or should I be pushing them to pick up golf clubs (they are already years behind the age when Tiger Woods first started!)  Are they progressing as they should?  Do I need to push them in one area or another?  Should I back off a bit and let them grow, or do they need more structure?  Do they have enough friends?

It can all be overwhelming, and what’s worse, it can also be immobilizing.

I think I’ve incapacitated myself with over analyzation.

I don’t know the answers, so I think about things.  I think about things All.  The.  Time.  Every second of the day, my mind is whirring, and it’s not about what the next best step should be – it’s about whether I’m on the right path at all.  Wondering/questioning/analyzing whether I’m doing the right thing stops me from doing anything well.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

I get what Socrates was saying – philosophy makes life meaningful.  We shouldn’t blindly go through our lives aimlessly doing whatever everyone tells us to do without thinking things through, and we should always be striving to understand our place in the world and in doing so we will make meaningful lives that are worth living.  I’m on board with Socrates.

I just also wonder whether analyzing can do damage sometimes, too.

I’m tired of thinking about whether I’m on the right path.  I can’t accept my life as it is if I am constantly questioning myself.   I, quite simply, just need to let myself realize that the things I’m doing are good enough.

I’ve made the decision to stop the overanalyzing for a while.  I’m joining the mindfulness movement.  I am committed to being present in the present moment, rather than worrying about whether I’m doing the right things in the right ways at every given moment.

Maybe Socrates was right, and the unexamined worth is truly not worth living.  But an over-analyzed life has its downfalls, too.  I’m ready to stop overanalyzing, and start living.

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