Treading the rough waters of over-thinking
Several years ago, a few friends and I had set off on a bivoauc-ing adventure in the most amateur fashion possible. We had packed up our tents, drinks, and a rushed assortment of other non-essentials to spend a night on a small, remote, and considerably isolated island on the North Western side of a large lake situated in a nearby national park.
We had a drive arranged — so we wouldn’t have to leave an unoccupied car unattended overnight and tip off park rangers to our presence. We had our recently-purchased used canoe, garbage bags full of our frenzy-packed gear, and the exhilarating trepidation of adventure.
It had only been about an hour long canoe ride before we had turned a few corners and found our secluded island in our sights, an island that we had scouted several weeks prior. A wind suddenly kicked up — a fury of a wind — and our canoe began to rock. Due to hysterical re-positioning, we all found ourselves in the water within moments.
“Life is a series of waves to be embraced and overcome. “ — Danny Meyer
Underwater, I recall having seen different items float into the dark abyss below — one of which included a silver flip phone that drifted between my fingertips as I desperately, and hence ungracefully, tried to grasp it. It didn’t take much time before we had righted the canoe, pulled ourselves back in, and began taking stock of what we had lost.
It had been a material tragedy. Casualties included everything from condiments and sunglasses, to a nifty zippo lighter and the aforementioned flip phone.
Recounting what had happened, we realized that there had been a few things working against us. Poor preparation, over-packing, and a frantic response to an unexpected external event. Correspondingly, this isn’t much different from how some of us tend to respond towards a stressful or unexpected circumstance.
Life tends to be full of these windy, turbulent moments. Depending on how routinely prepared we are, and how we’ve compartmentalized our emotions or our baggage can certainly impact how we react to gusts and waves of the unexpected.
Accordingly, we must only pack the essentials; go about our day not worrying about the past or being apprehensive about the future. We must be mentally prepared for the types of events that will undoubtedly find their way before us. And, though easier said than done, we must stay composed (or as composed as possible) in the face of unexpected predicaments, lest we risk tipping and going overboard.
“To think too much is a disease.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
If we were to delve into specifics, one particular tendency to target would be practice of over-thinking. Over-thinking leads us to over-analyze certain situations — or, in keeping with the above-stated metaphor, over-packing. While over-thinking can prompt us to prepare adequately, it can also stifle composure in this process and jumble our plans. Of course, over-thinking a particular situation may also lead to damaging responses or unfavorable reactions that do nothing but escalate matters or cause needless grief.
Over-thinking allows for the creation of baseless or unsubstantiated assumptions. It can turn instinctive and assertive decision making into agonizing ordeals of misguided determination. Over-thinking can also penetrate and sprout turmoil into the parts of the day we ought to set aside for ourselves to relax. It is ultimately a form of turbulence that can cascade into a momentous infiltration of our mental balance. Ever-present and unavoidable, waves can and will rock the boat, but it is ultimately the state of the boat that decides whether or not it is susceptible to these waves.
“It takes just one wave to capsize a boat, and one more to take it down.” ― Federico Chini
That night, despite the lack of toiletries, dry clothing and other luxuries that had not been needed in the first place, I still had a memorable moonlit foggy swim out in the lake, company around a roaring fire lit underneath sopping clothes, and a soggy nylon roof over my head. The lake surrounding us, now tranquil, serene, and still as glass.