I explain myself too much.
I explain myself to cover my bases, to be sympathetic and to be empathic. I explain myself even when no explanation is necessary. Sometimes, my explanations are apologies for nothing warranting regret.
Explanations roll off my tongue from an unidentifiable place in my heart. Whenever I feel misunderstood, I dig deep to find a way to be relatable, and I launch into that explanation.
I’m already explaining too much about where this whole post came from.
Recently, I hustled across campus to teach after lunch, running several minutes late. I apologized to my colleagues for having to leave the meeting, and on my way to teach, I drafted the apology to my students. My immediate inclination was to explain my lateness. I value my students’ time and don’t want them to think I am more important than them. I imagined my explanation would include a mea culpa.
As I walked, I also imagined my explanation of the lecture I planned to give–my least favorite of the semester–where I describe historical origins of schooling. It is a crucial discussion to have in a class about schooling, but I have always felt clumsy toggling through dates and ideas. I feel fatigued at the end of it, so I always preface that particular class meeting with an explanation of my own skills as a sociologist and not a historian. I explain too much, and, frankly, my students don’t care.
As I walked to class that day, I was embracing this feeling of lightness. Instead of stomach churning or nerves fluttering, I felt self-assured, unphased by the hustle. I started to wonder if I had finally shaken off the tendency to worry that I’ve been battling for too long.
When I went to grief therapy, one of the first tasks I worked through with my incredible therapist was my inclination to pre-worry about everything. I was in therapy to work through the sudden death of my mother, and all I could do was worry about my dad and sister, about our husbands, about my relationships in my own family and to my married family, with my friends. I worried about the holidays when they were six months out and I worried about family visits and events. I just worried constantly. My therapist helped me to see that worrying was a productive behavior for things I could control, but for (so many) things largely out of my own control, worrying was wasteful. Worrying depleted me, diverting energy from behavior or feelings that could have buoyed my spirit rather than dragging it under.
Explaining myself is an outgrowth of worrying. I have probably always explained myself because I worried about how others perceive me, about whether I’ll be taken seriously, or whether I’ll be liked by others.
But I’m getting to a point in my life where I just don’t have the time to worry about it anymore. Professionally, I’m feeling the most confident I’ve ever been. Teaching and advising are coming easily to me. I feel inspired by what I do and I am constantly learning from my colleagues and my students. And personally, life is like a train rolling down a hill. We have our health and we have each other. Our schedules are chaotic at times but we’re all surviving life and each other.
Even though I could probably draft a litany of things that could worry me, I have to focus on this moment, this day, what comes next. And for some reason, I am simply not worried. I want to be worried, but I can’t put myself through it.
It’s all about the short game right now. No further explanation necessary.