My Brain Needs An Overhaul

A few years ago, I used to watch a show on television called Overhaulin. The show was basically about stealing a friends beat up car, handing it over to an expert and letting them either restore it or modify it to be better than when it came off the showroom floor. It was a brain drain of a show, but I like cars so there you go.

Post midlife crisis, I need someone to do the same thing for my brain. Like the people on the show I obviously can’t do it on my own and just keep running along with the same worn out thoughts and feelings as the damage slowly worsens. If I keep going like that I’m going to end up in the junk pile.

What brought this up is a conversation with my fiance. I won’t go into the particulars, but the main concern was that I was presented with a situation that I’d been quite a pain about in the past (yes, THAT word) but the situation is different because it’s different people, in a different time and I supposedly have this new mind-set less encumbered by all that baggage – Except that my “auto-pilot” mouth spouted an old rule – forcefully…

… and this is a  problem because it’s childish, self-centered and mean. It was one of the contributing factors to my mid-life crisis – that point that I reached when I looked in the mirror and thought, “I really don’t like myself very much.” In fact, I hated my life, and had finally realized I had no one to blame but myself, I’d inflicted every wound I was feeling either actively or just by going along with whatever was going on around me. I was not an active participant in my own life, and God (even though I preached differently) wasn’t exactly called upon apart from prayers to change it. Passive faith, passive life – and I could count on no fingers the number of people that were happy about it. I hid it well. Except that everyone who knew me knew better – I was lying to myself about that too.

So, I hit “reset” on my situation. In the past two years, I’ve finalized a divorce, moved and then moved again a hundred miles away and changed professions (again).

I “swore” a whole bunch of things that I was never going to do again. And added that to my list of things that I’d never do again from previous experiences. More rules, adding to my list instead of knocking them off. My list of rules for me, and those around me, kept getting longer and longer and what I failed to realize was this was a continuation of the negative pattern – a life needs rules right? No – a life needs order, structure, but set tropes keep you from thinking and when confronted with a new thing, tend to respond in the “old” way, which was for me negative.

Some of them were simple, “I don’t like this… unless it’s this” kinds of things. I don’t want a birthday party because people never buy me good gifts and I don’t particularly like cake. But what that says to other people is, “Hey, I’m a jerk that doesn’t want you to show me love, and I’ll evaluate your gift, given in love, to see if it meets my “this is stuff I want list.” I thought the solution to people saying, “You’re impossible to buy a gift for” was to give them a list – but then I realized, the real solution is being grateful, genuinely for someone taking the time to pick something out. Last year, someone gave me guitar picks, the precise brand/color/thickness that I prefer. Do you know how petty that is? But more than that – do you know how hard it was for that person to find out that information (given that I have a thousand picks laying around of all sorts of styles?) about the two I like. That’s almost stalker-esque, looking at pictures to see “oh, he must like those orange ones and the ones with the eagle, let me find them and make sure they’re the right shape, and this is a .6 and these are a .63 – that must be important. It takes a lot of love to figure that out – and I must be a pretty particular type of jerk to require that level of obsession from someone just to pick out a less-than-twenty-dollar gift. Do I put that much effort into others?

Or how about someone that knows about the only green thing I’ll eat is broccoli, and that I don’t like most kinds of cake. So, for my birthday, a cake was made, intentionally tasting nasty, in the shape of a broccoli sprout. A way of saying, “Here you go, you crotchety old man, a cake I know you won’t like in the shape of a vegetable. Again, a lot of thought and effort for a joke – and it was hilarious, and I found myself laughing about it- while wearing a party hat, and in the back of my head on some level, the rule about cake, birthday parties, gifts… still lurked in the rust of my brain. I actually had a good time at my small birthday party.

What I need is a bead-blaster (or sand-blaster) to get in there and scrape all that rust off, take it down to bare metal,. Because that auto-pilot that runs my mouth is constantly spewing misinformation that other people listen and think of as my “final thought” when it’s actually “before second thought” which was the name of my original blog for a reason. And one of the reasons that this is titled something different is because I really need to keep those “before second thoughts” out of the world until I repair the damage and repaint my brain.

I imagine most of us, if we’re honest have the same difficulty – some call it “baggage” and some call it “don’t someone else’s time” (when you hold a new significant other responsible for the damage done by a previous significant other)…

… a couple years ago, I decided to drastically change my life, and I have. But one of the next steps is to get in my head and clean it out a bit. Starting with the rules. So, it’s time to take a look at these rules because as I’ve tried to list them four times it comes down to one simple foundation – trusting others and allowing myself to feel loved. Who knows, maybe they’ll help me get rid of this rust…

1 thought on “My Brain Needs An Overhaul”

  1. This story came to mind:
    Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.
    One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.
    The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”
    The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”
    I’ve been reading a book “Empty Your Cup” by Yong Kang Chan. It’s a relatively short paperback. There is an Audible (but … not my favorite reader). Some good gems re: emptying your mind of the old junk that has filled it over the years.


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