thought scroll

I heard this theory that we all only have about 20 thoughts, and we just scroll through them all day long. Pretty depressing, no? The author argues that this deadeningly repetitive internal life is the reason people need to travel, have a diverse population of friends and acquaintances, read books, and generally be in the world.

In short, we all need to get out of our heads a little bit before we drive ourselves insane.

Here are my 20 thoughts... I think... it's really hard to ask yourself what you think all day long.
I know for sure I think each of these things daily, and most multiple times a day.

1. Check the to-do list to see if today is going well.
2. I should eat fruit.
3. I want cake.
4. I should do laundry.
5. What is Chicken going to eat for (insert next meal here.)
6. What am I forgetting right now?
7. I'm so fucking good at my job!!!
8. I'm so fucking terrible at my job.
9. Am I a good wife?
10. Am I a good friend?
11. Fuck. What was I just going to do?
12. I'm tired.
13. I'm about to lose it.
14. Easy girl. Everything is going to be okay.
15. Am I pretty?
16. Oh shit, we need (insert one grocery item here.)
17. I feel guilty because (insert thing I messed up here.)
18. Am I fooling everyone?
19. Well... this is pretty much as good as it's going to get. (While looking in a mirror.)

Ugh. I am apparently a total downer. And apparently also super uncertain, insecure, and guilty. AND, worst of all, boring. I mean, if you're going to be an insecure downer, at least commit to it. At least go 110% insecure downer.

"My soul is as cold as the dirty brown fursicles on a polar bear's hamstrings."
"Danny's not here right now Mrs. Torrance. RED RUM."
"Where am I going to bury the hobo's ear?"

But no, I'm like a 65% committed, totally shallow downer.

Am I pretty? Seriously? Is that what I'm dedicating mental energy to multiple times every day? A question that doesn't even really have an answer, and whose answer couldn't matter less in the grand scheme of things?

I can't tell you how disappointed I am in myself, and how guilty I feel about letting down all the teachers and directors and editors who did their damnedest to instill some interest in solving, or at least recognizing the unique puzzles of the world and the human experience. Nope. Not me. If I counted up the minutes, I'm betting I spend years of my waking life thinking about if I'm pretty. Yeah, that's definitely a great use of my limited time on Earth. Instead of, say, planning to start a non-profit, or writing a novel or learning Mandarin.

Seriously, this list reads like a high school girl's generic anti-affirmation loop. OK, a teen mom's anti-affirmation loop. I imagine putting on headphones and listening to myself saying this aloud on repeat all day every day. It makes me sad. Because it's so boring. And because the person who thinks these thoughts has forgotten to pull her head out of her ass and be in the damn world.

That being said...

I don't want to deus ex machina myself here, but you might have noticed that there were only 19 thoughts on that list.

There is a 20th thought that I think all day, every day. It's the first thought that came to my mind when I asked myself what I think about all day long.

It's also not a thought that can really be verbalized.

It's "happy."

And "love."

And "wonder."

And "moved."

It's when Chicken comes into the dim, quiet bedroom while I'm rocking Buster. He has his plastic red chair in one hand, bumping along the ground, and a book in the other hand. "Mommy read dis? Pweese?" I shift Buster to make some room, pull Chicken into my lap and read to him. He says "read dis 'gain, pweese? Mommy?" He lays his head on my chest.


It's when Ryan and I have both the boys in the car and they're serenading us with a perfectly cacophonous duet of screamy whine cries, and Ryan reaches out to take my hand. I look at him and we're laughing because we're both thinking, "we've made a huge mistake," and that shit has GOT to be funny so we just hold on tight to each other and laugh and listen to our boys stretch their lungs.


It's when Buster smiles in his sleep. When Ryan strokes his cheek and whispers, "all of your skin is as soft as an eyelid." When Chicken says "thank you mommy," without being prompted, or spins in a circle until he falls down. It's curling into Ryan for our 90 minutes of sleep and knowing it feels as good for him to be the papa spoon as it does for me to be the mama spoon.


I might not be in the world, but I am in a place so profoundly good no words can do it justice, a place so profoundly perfect I can't help but want to use all the words I can to tell you about it, to invite you to join me there.

It's happylovewondermoved and safewarmlighthomemyheartdelightcomplete, and fallonyourknees and agoodcry and worthit. Come on in. You're welcome here.

So 19 of my 20 thoughts are neurotic, dull, and shallow. 19 of my 20 thoughts are pedestrian and depressing. But #20... If I counted up the minutes I'm betting I spend decades of my waking life in this wordless state of total happiness. Yeah, that is definitely a great use of my limited time on this Earth.


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