If Only I Could Turn Off My Head

Do you ever play the mental game of “what if … “?

I spend a lot of time in my own head and tend to overthink things … eventually drifting into an inevitable “what if” scenario.

What if I won $50,000?  $500,000?  $1,000,000?  Who would I share it with? What would I buy … if anything?

What if we decided to move? Where would I want to go?  House vs condo?  City vs country?

What if I could go back to school? What would I want to study?

The questions go on and on in my head.

Recently, Sammy D at Bemuzin wrote a post about the human need to find our sense of place … a feeling of belonging.  It really struck a chord with me because I had just come out of some significant head time thinking about “where did I belong” – except not in the usual sense.  I had became obsessed about trying to figure out where I belonged after I died.

It all started with Gilles heading off for a day of cycling – a normal occurrence – however I was in a somewhat dark frame of mind and before long my brain fired up into ‘what if’ mode. What if Gilles didn’t come back?  What if today I became a widow?  (Did I mention I was in a dark frame of mind?)

Eventually I started thinking about burials vs cremation.  Well – that’s easy.  We had both decided a long time ago that we wanted to be cremated.  The problem however is that I realized we’d never discussed what we wanted after cremation.  Forever on the mantle just didn’t seem right. Burial? Ashes scattered? … but where?

That’s when the feeling of ‘where do I belong?’ started to resurface.  I’ve always had the feeling of being an outsider and not quite fitting in wherever I’ve lived … but I came to terms with that a long time ago.

…. but not knowing where I belong for all of eternity?!  Now that’s a question that makes my head feel like it might explode.

Do you know where you belong?  Am I the only one who gets lost in the mental rabbit hole?

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
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79 Responses to If Only I Could Turn Off My Head

  1. ChristineR says:

    Oh, back to the main subject … In my family history research, looking at cemetery data and the recorded fate of the ashes … rose bush 6, niche 7109, taken by funeral director, posted. I liked ‘scattered to the four winds as requested’ the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ChristineR says:

    I loved reading the conversation here. A switch would be handy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. treerabold says:

    I have gotten lost in so many rabbit holes!! I recently turned 52…my dad died at 53. I have been a bit obsessed lately with the reality of death. And I’m always wondering what will happen after death. I have absolutely no answers….she hope of something else! Great post Joanne

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Tree – I think it’s the curse of thinking too much.

      The problem I have is that I simply can’t wrap my head around the concept of death. There simply isn’t enough information to really understand it … and I can’t imagine *nothing* *forever*.

      I have the same reaction when Gilles talks science stuff to me … especially astronomy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • treerabold says:

        I have a hard time with science too….especially biology. I have a hard time processing things I can’t simply see function. I tend to “glaze” over.

        I’m also challenged by the afterlife (or lack of).
        What if I’m not done?
        What if after all these years of being promised we’d see our loved ones (and pets) we find out it was all a lie??

        Like

  4. We all get lost there from time to time. There’s a huge industry of casinos and lotteries built on people’s habit of getting lost. The “what comes after this life” industry is booming too: with churches, mosques, temples, suicide bombings, safety measures against suicide bombings, liberties being taken away as precautionary measures against suicide bombings and/or for the fear of the wrath of a non-exisiting deity, etc, etc. The list is endless.

    Anyway, for me it’s not a problem. I don’t believe in a life after death, or any form of existence after this life. We die and that’s it. We don’t meet up with old friends and relatives, we don’t go a happy place. We just stop existing.
    Cremation versus burial is a simple one too: a burial is more friendly to the environment.

    Like

  5. Hi Joanne, sorry I missed this post which is an excellent one. Isn’t it interesting to observe that feelings we think make us unusual or suspect in some way are ones that everybody else seems to have too? At least occasionally. I have conducted many funerals in my head as I fall asleep complete with musical selections and what I would say for a eulogy. And you think your head is dark. I think this is the curse of us over-thinkers. BH would never go there. He’s of the mindset we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Thank God for some balance in this life or I could really be morose. Berkley’s ashes are still in a little box on the shelf. I can’t for the life of me know the right place to sprinkle what’s left of him, at least not yet. My parents – in their eighties – have such a healthy outlook on it all. There’s a veterans’ cemetery in my county and they say put us there in the filing cabinet.. There’s a word for it, but I can’t remember it right now.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Oh Barbara – you always manage to make me laugh out loud! I haven’t got to the eulogy or music selection part yet. I thought maybe we could go straight to the wake and drinking part 😉

      I’mI glad I didn’t hit the delete button on this post – which I almost did. I didn’t want to come across as morbid but I think these are things we should be able to talk about. It’s part of life and it’s always interesting to hear what others are thinking.

      I know what you mean about the filing cabinets though. I’ve always thought of them as little cemetery condos. I think you and I share a fascination with cemeteries.

      Like

  6. Interesting things to ponder and I must say I have never thought about anything beyond cremation … Where to spread the ashes? As garden fertilizer I think! Hope your dark frame of mind has passed.

    Like

  7. Mrs. P says:

    There are times my mind doesn’t want to shut off but rarely with worries. I’m more the adventurer-er planner type and I am working out the plans for something. It is not unusual for Rick to tell me to turn off my brain as we are getting into bed.

    But in this situation I was the one who brought up the subject when my dad started getting older and I felt I needed to know what his intentions were on his own death. I realized Rick and I had no plan either. We both wanted cremation but what next? I believe that we live again and we have enjoyed our connection so much that we decided we’d like to see each other again. But, how would we find each other…where would we look…where is our place?

    We decided on a spot in our favorite city that is very appropriate to the things we enjoy in life. I won’t say where because I’m not sure what regulations might discourage our resting spot. We have told our daughter where this spot is and she knows what to do.

    Now, having taken my dad’s ashes and spread them out along the Chesapeake, I have come to realize that there are a lot of ashes in those urns. Too much for what we were thinking of doing. I think only some of the should be scattered there…I haven’t decided about what to do with the rest.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Death is such an awkward subject and I hesitated to bring it up but it seems to me the best time to talk about it is when it is hypothetical … like you have done – and very well I might add.
      I must say you have given me something new to reflect on ❤

      Like

      • Mrs. P says:

        Death is best discussed when you are very much alive and worse discussed when you are close to it. People near to dying do not want to talk about it and some pretty angry words and looks are often the result. Planning is a good thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. 4wallsnaroof says:

    Easy. You belong wherever the people you love are. 🙂

    Like

  9. Heyjude says:

    I have enjoyed reading this (is it OK to enjoy a dark post?) and especially all the comments. I have had similar thoughts, it must surely be a female thing, and after attending yet another dismal service at the crematorium some two years back when my brother had died I decided there and then that I was not ever going to attend another one. No. Cremate me, yes, but I don’t want any service of any description. Same goes for the OH. Celebrate my life if you want to, scatter my ashes in the Indian ocean (although I have a sneaky suspicion that those ashes are not retrieved after each cremation, they happen so quickly so an urn probably contains bits of all those cremated that day). Sorry, is that too much? But as I won’t be around to organise it I guess my family will do what they want. And maybe that is for the best.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      whoa … iit never occurred to me that the urn might not contain what we assume it does.

      I have to agree with you about the funeral service. I’ve been to emotionally dreadful ones and others that really were a celebration of life full of laughter. I like the idea of the latter.

      Death is one of those awkward taboo topics and I was somewhat unsure about this post and how it would be received. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and have really enjoyed the lively comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The Widow Badass says:

    Well, I DID become a widow about 18 months ago and my life now is all about figuring out what I want to do with the rest of it (my life, that is). I feel like this is my chance to finally live for ME now that the kids have flown and I am alone for the first time as an adult. I don’t even have a pet to care for at the moment and I have to say the freedom to just be ME and only be responsible for ME is a bit intoxicating.

    Like

  11. Oh Joanne, I was just writing a similar post, and then deleted the thing because I thought I was “over thinking” it all. You are not alone down that rabbit hole – previous comments prove that! Yet, funnily enough, I am quite confident about where I belong in the after life. I guess my spiritual connection is stronger than my physical existence lol. As for burial vs cremation? I’m sure as hell not being burned (again)! 😉

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      It’s funny you should mention deleting the post, because I almost did too. Then I decided that surely there were others who also get bogged down into this mental contemplation.

      I smiled at the reference to burning (again). It might explain my issues with fire … and drowning.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Helen C says:

    I appreciate your post… so I know I am not alone 😉 Nowadays whenever I have those thoughts, I would remind myself that I had been doing it for so many years and each time nothing useful came as a result, so I should stop wasting my time this time. Sometime, it worked. Take care.

    Like

  13. Lynn says:

    I think not being able to shut your brain off could be a female issue, we tend to worry & think about things to come, playing scenarios out in our heads. As far as the “death” conversation, it is a very important conversation to have with your family. Regardless of what your wishes are, if your next of kin is not comfortable with your decisions, it is all for naught. Cremation is definitely my choice, beyond that I honestly don’t really care. Hopefully my loved ones will go on some marvelous journey & toss me to the wind!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      You are so right Lynn … in the end, it really doesn’t matter what happens because it’s not about us anymore. It took me quite a while of pondering to come to that conclusion.

      It’s funny – and sometimes more than a little aggravating – to have to play out these scenarios in our head to re-evaluate our feelings and opinions on stuff. An off-switch would be really nice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn says:

        Ha! If you find the off switch, let me know please:)

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          I read once that for those of us who have struggled with our weight all our lives, it may be caused by a certain DNA switch that’s stuck in the ‘on’ position. I want to find and fix that will bastard first. For that I’m sure I would win a whole handful of Nobel prizes 🙂

          Like

  14. Cremation for me and a party with wine. I know wher you are coming from with the deep dark thoughts. I have been going through similar thought lately. Maybe it’s getting older or just wiser but it’s there.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I call it monkey-brain and it’s so hard to shut down when it kicks in. I think I need to spend more time paying attention to what I’m doing rather than letting my mind wander. It tends to end up in stupid places 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. NancyTex says:

    Cremation = definitely. As for my ashes, I’d like them spread at places I’ve visited and loved, as well as places I dreamed of going but didn’t make it to before I died. Ed is praying I don’t die before he does if I haven’t yet trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or climbed Kili, because he knows he’ll need to get there to spread a little bit of Nancy in those parts. 🙂

    Like

  16. First of all, let’s get this question answered: has Gilles returned from cycling? He has? Good. 🙂
    I have a somewhat similar tendency to “awfulize” – hubby reports a stomach ache and I instantly brace for my widowhood. I am still recovering from that stupid flu or whatever from early April and every lingering twinge and tingle has me thinking “I’m having a stroke.”
    But after I die? I believe that “I” will return to the primordial soup from which “I” sprang. Maybe to return some time, some place, in the future.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Oh yes – awfulizing is a whole category of monkey-brain that I seem to excel at!!
      I admit I’ve even cranked it up a notch and gone into full crisis mode a few times when Gilles has been late. It drives him insane.

      … and after I die, there is no question I plan to come back! There is simply too much to do 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I am THE MASTER at thoughts like this Joanne! Seldom a day goes by when I don’t have some scenario mapped out in my head and walk around pondering how I’ll get through it. As for what to do with your ashes…..it’s quite obvious to me…can’t believe you didn’t think of it yourself! Your survivors will have to take your ashes on your final adventure….one you can’t do while you’re alive…..something like that skydiving you shy away from or something like that! Easy! Might as well find your eternal rest like you live, right?……another NEW THING! Hooray!

    Like

  18. You are soooooo not the only one. Do it all the time. In my case, I am prone to the “What if…”s that follow with “….I hadn’t done/said such-and-such.” Or it might be a “I had done/said such and such.” I don’t like making mistakes, particularly ones that upset or hurt other people, so they have a tendency to stick around in my psyche.

    I had a health scare a couple of years ago and as I waited for the test results, my ‘end of life’ thoughts went along the line of “what will I leave my kids?”. I don’t mean in a concrete material sense such as a house or money but I thought maybe it was time to record that CD of my songs or write that book so they had something of me.

    The tests were negative. Wanna bet whether I’ve recorded that CD or written that book?

    Guess I wasn’t scared quite enough….

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I wonder if it’s a curse of introverts. After social engagements I relive every conversation in my head – pretty much the same scenario you laid out.

      It’s great news that your test results were negative, but I understand why you haven’t taken action yet against leaving a ‘legacy’. i’m assuming that – like me – you don’t really want to dwell on the negative. That stuff is emotional quicksand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, following through on that stuff makes the idea real which no parent truly wants to contemplate.

        I got in (minor) trouble at work on Monday and I’m still replaying the incident and ways I could have handled it better (or, more ideally, how I could have not made the mistake in the first place). The ‘what if’s and ‘if only’s. They’ll get you every time. :-/

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          Gahhhh – you have my sympathy! As if you weren’t already hard enough on yourself!
          I take everything so personally … even the stuff that’s not my fault because I maybe I could have prevented it.

          Liked by 1 person

  19. Purpleanais says:

    Oh dear God, no, you are definitely not the only one! I’ve had quite a few friends taken in the bloom of youth in the last 3 years and apart from the obvious devastation, it got me thinking that we never know when our time is up so we should really be prepared. A lot of people refuse to think about these things and I’ve been told I’m just too young to do so but the thing is, I am a bit of a control freak and I hate the idea that my close ones would decide on what happens to me “after” – so I had to think of where my ashes (definitely cremation) would be scattered. And I have no idea really. I genuinely don’t know so it’s something I must think more about.
    What a lovely think to be writing about as I’m having breakfast 😉

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I’m laughing at the reference to breakfast conversation … as I sit here with my morning coffee 🙂

      It seems that some topics – like death -are avoided because they make people uncomfortable but I can’t help it … my head goes where my head goes.

      Like

  20. Su Leslie says:

    I know what you mean about not being able to turn your head off; only I haven’t got as far as wondering about post-death. I hope you work through this one, and don’t stop living life to the fullest.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      My husband calls it monkey-brain and when it kicks in the middle of the night, I’m guaranteed not to be able to sleep. In the light of day however, whatever was obsessing me never seems so important anymore.

      … but if monkey-brain kicks in during the day, that thought can stick like glue for days. I’m hoping that writing about it can exorcise it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Su Leslie says:

        Monkey-brain; what a good term for it. I seem to have a lot of it at the moment; and mostly in the middle of the night. Sometimes I get out of bed and try to deal with something, anything, to make me feel that I’ve made some sort of progress out of the muddle I feel I’ve made of life. But come morning, it still feels a bit overwhelming, and in the meantime everyday concerns have to be dealt with too. Writing certainly helps me work through things; but I do wonder if (in my case) it’s also a distraction from actually dealing with some of the issue that trouble me. Lovely to talk to you as always Joanne. Take care.

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          I sympathize with the sleepless nights. I get up too and try to get stuff done. It’s a lot easier now that I’m retired and don’t have to get up and function through a work day. Afternoon naps have become my friend.
          I hope your issues are resolvable. Best wishes.

          Like

          • Su Leslie says:

            Thanks for your comments and good wishes Joanne.
            It’s turned cold here, and the thought of getting out of my warm bed in the middle of the night is a bit unappealing, so we’ll see how it goes in the next couple of months. I feel as though I am taking baby steps towards changing what I can and learning to live with the rest.
            I’ve made a huge step forward, in deciding to resign from an organization that has been a source of stress. The letter is written and I’m about to hit “send”. I feel lighter already. Cheers, Su.

            Like

  21. You have so encapsulated what goes on in my head ALL THE TIME. Except thinking about Giles, of course. We could both do with some mindfulness training. In trying to remember that word what popped into my head first was mindlessness. But I’m already good at that.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Although my first reaction was to laugh at your comment about mindlessness, on reflection that’s exactly the problem. I think I tend to do a lot of stuff on auto-pilot leaving my monkey-brain time to wander off and cause havoc.
      I wish I had a dollar for everytime someone has told me I think too much!

      Like

  22. Sue Slaght says:

    Jo it sounds like you are definitely in a reflective mood. I find myself thinking about these things fairly often, habits of being a nurse I suppose. Usually after a few minutes I consciously change my train of thought because I could easily go down the rabbit hole.
    Cremation for me, ashes in the mountains and one heck of a party with an open bar. 🙂

    Like

  23. Mama Cormier says:

    Wow. I thought I was in a dark place with my husband’s recent illnesses. I wonder about being a widow more and more even though I try to remain positive that my husband will win this battle as well. Doesn’t help when you have a friend who tells you to expect the worst. I can’t do that. We have agreed on cremation as well but have never made any formal plans. We did promise our children that we would make those difficult choices long before our passing. I guess this comes with age but I’m in denial. I can’t even decide on a date to retire and I could have done that more than three years ago. I need to focus on what makes us happy……gardening, teaching, making art, travelling and looking forward to being grandparents in the fall.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      My dark mood was purely hypothetical and the result of lack of sleep. When you’re dealing with serious health issues, it’s much more tangible. I think I would be like you … preferring to focus energy on the positive and happy things … and a grandchild in the fall is certainly one of those!!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Sammy D. says:

    Joanne, you pay me the ultimate blogging compliment by saying something I wrote triggered something in you. Thank you. Even if it stirred up difficult thoughts, that’s what we’re all doing this for, right? – to point out and share humanity’s dilemmas.

    What struck me (and I don’t find your cremation thoughts the least bit premature or morbid because it’s part of our cycle of dust to dust and (naturally) we try to control what happens even after death) …. anyway, what struck me is perhaps you need to adjust your ‘where do you belong’ paradigm – you have traveled and lived many places and obviously contemplate many ‘what if’s’ that take you additional places. Perhaps you are one of what I call ‘citizens of the world’. You aren’t settled anywhere because there are pieces of you everywhere. It might leave you feeling ‘scattered’ but you’ve touched places and people those of us who are more settled never reach. The world needs all kinds.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      As with any serendipitous moment, I found the timing of your post so interesting relative to my recent monkey-brain 🙂

      Now that the mental energy has dissipated, I’ve discovered what I think I knew all along … I really don’t care what happens afterward. In the end, it’s no longer about me at all. It just took me a while to remind myself of that fact.

      I really like your thought about being a citizen of the world and belonging everywhere! Some people have roots, others have wings. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I decided on cremation some years back but had no idea about my ashes. My daughter — I only have one child — asked what she was supposed to do with them. I told her she already had her cat and dog ashes. Why not one more? The subject came up again and she said the best darnest bestest thing anyone can ever expect to hear. She said how about my ashes be buried with her. It’s in my will. The best place I can belong. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Like

  26. Wow, I’m looking at the comment above…where I want my ashes spread is a bit far in advance to me as well!! I suppose wherever whoever has them wants to scatter them. I had a will made up which I think is very mature of me (ha, ha)! Dealing with burial just brings the concept of death too close to home. My husband’s father got spread on the Pacific Ocean…well some of him. The rest is sitting on the dresser in my bedroom. My daughter once picked it up and said ‘what’s that?’ ‘That’s your grandfather dear.’ We’re lucky we don’t have a dog.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      … which reminds me, our will is horribly old … it might be a good idea to revisit it some day 😉

      Since I tend to rattle around in my head a lot, it’s fairly easy to get lured into the rabbit hole. I have to admit that in the end, I came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter what happens afterward. It’s not going to be about me anymore 🙂

      … but since you mentioned not having a dog, now I’m going to have to start thinking about my cat Theo. Oh, an introvert’s work is never done ….

      Like

  27. Joe says:

    Joanne first off I think you should have a couple of drinks, LOL. Just kidding but my wife is always amazed at how I can just shut my mind off when I want to. She used to say I have a clear head (and I do) but I also find it to stressful to try and think too far ahead.

    At this stage in my life I have no mortgage and I don’t owe anybody a dime. I would love to move someplace a little warmer but not Florida warm. I would also love to buy a condo or possibly a Tiny Home so I can just get rid of a lot of things and live a simpler life. I would love to try living someplace in Europe for a while.

    Cremation sound good to me too with my ashes spread in the Atlantic Ocean but that’s thinking a little too far in advance for me 😀

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      LOL …. a couple of drinks have solved many ‘problems’ caused by overthinking 🙂

      You are soooo lucky you can it turn off. I have to invest a lot of mental energy to finally get to the conclusion I really don’t care 🙂

      I like the idea of a winter place and a summer place … and Gilles promised that someday we could live in France for a while. I suspect he said that simply because it was easier at the time to agree with me 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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