"It's 10 o'clock, do you know where your children are?" was a phrase coined in the late sixties to remind parents to keep their kids off the street. I started asking my brain a similar question.
"It's 5 o'clock, do you know where your thoughts are?"
That's the magic hour for me. The time when whatever has happened behind the scenes in my head culminates into one pressing idea, "I need a glass of wine."
This thought shows its face in the obnoxious way a toddler demands attention. It just gets louder until I notice it. It's good at getting what it wants. So good that for awhile I didn't even wait for the nagging thought to speak up.
"Five o'clock?" It must be wine time.
How did that idea become automatic? Why are these urges so demanding, especially at the end of the day? I decided to unpack my brain. All the thoughts, good and bad, dumped out on a piece of paper where I can cast some light on them.
Did you know there are over 60,000 thoughts floating through your brain at one time? Well, floating might not be the right word. Sometimes they are creeping, slinking, dancing or even banging loudly.
They also like to hide.
You might hear a creak or whisper from some back corner in your brain. Subtle background noise that plays a part in the soundtrack of your life.
When I started laying my thoughts out on paper, I saw a lot of trash that needed to be thrown out.
You'll never be able to figure this out.
You're not smart enough.
Nobody understands you.
You're out of control.
You're not strong enough.
Beliefs that just did not serve me and my purpose in life. I needed to let these go.
But there were also plenty of positive thoughts. Evidence of what I've accomplished, how I spend my time, and words affirming who my true self is. I needed to make more room for these and others like them. They would guide my path forward.
Consciously choosing what to believe about our lives takes practice, but it is something we have control over. Thoughts drive the action we take, whether it's pouring a hefty glass of wine, going for a run, watching three hours of Netflix, or completing a task list.
When I unraveled the tight spool of thoughts I had each day, and saw the narrative I created about my life, it became clearer why I was reaching for a drink every night. Why I wanted to tune out and feel numb.
Brains easily run on autopilot, and they tend to favor the worst case scenario. They are hardwired to look for danger as a survival mechanism, and they like to find the easiest relief to discomfort. But they can be trained to think different things, and to respond to stress with new actions.
We can take thoughts in the hard drive and download them where it's easy to click and drag things that we don't need into the trash. Then begins the work of reprograming, rewriting, and updating the software.