How To Be Introspective

This article first appeared on melaniekristy.com

Recently a friend commented on how introspective I am. She marveled about my ability to put my recent relationship into words and speak from a distance where, in certain points of view, I understood. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, trying to locate when I became introspective. Looking back on my life I feel like I wasn’t the most self aware person, especially not in grade school and high school. And college? Maybe that was the Becoming of me. But anyway, this is what came out of those internal thought ramblings.

Write a letter to yourself and date it for five years in the future. Write a letter to your past self and tell her it will all be okay even if it isn’t. Read a lot of self help books — but only the ones that call to you. Think about spirituality in a way that’s more than just organized religion. Read. Read. Read. Read fiction in genres you aren’t familiar with. Read non fiction about health and nutrition and your body. Read blogs about everything but especially about life and love and magic. Dance at night when no one’s watching. Do yoga. Spend a lot of time with yourself. Surrender to the fact that you are born alone and you will die alone. Learn who you are when you have no best friend. Learn who you want to be when you are married, or not married, or traveling the world. Venture outside of your comfort zone and sit there in insecurity. Date boys who don’t understand you. Date boys who understand you but can’t handle how amazing you are. Write in your journal nightly. Tell it how sad you are. Talk to paper like it’s your best friend. Ask it questions and write the answers. Think about something you may have said or did and try to contemplate why. If you can’t figure it out, give it time but keep thinking. Consider a situation you don’t understand. Write. Write the alternate side to that situation. Practice empathy. Walk a thousand miles without shoes, then find someone elses’ and walk in theirs instead. Draw a map of all the places you frequent regularly, then refuse to go to any of those places (okay, except home and work) for a month. Talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Asked to be surprised by the cake pop flavor you ask for at Starbucks. Be alone. Entirely alone. Think about death. Talk to those you know who have passed. Sit and meditate and ask for forgiveness. Imagine God as a spirit inside a tree (Like Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas). Imagine there is no God. Live outside of the moment. Live in anxiety about the future and the present and your health and the state of the world. Live in nostalgia of the past and when things were easier and less complicated and your favorite band had more poetic lyrics and you were soaking in sunshine in California. Look at old photographs and try to remember. Make up stories about your past. Make up lives for strangers. Find solace in sitting in Starbucks surrounded by strangers. Make friends with people all over the world online and dream about going to visit them. Plan a trip to Australia in your mind. Dream about the beach. Write letters and e-mails to people just to make sense of your life. Take what is bothering you and sit on it. Write about it. Be creative with it. Make art.

Do all of these things. Do none of these things.

The most important part is to sit with yourself, no matter what way. Think to yourself. Spend too much time in your head. When someone asks you what you’re thinking and you’re supposed to be mid-makeout session but you’ve paused to wonder about dandelions or The Future or what would happen if you sneezed, just smile and apologize and go on with your moment. Read nonfiction memoirs and more technical books about your “problems” and learn why you might eat too much or spend too much money or shut people out.

I think for me, what really turned me into the person I am today is a huge combination of reading and writing fiction, practicing empathy (which is a natural personality trait for me) or sympathy, and spending a lot of time alone and inside my head trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and how to make myself right.

I often can’t put words and emotions into ways that will make sense out loud unless I write them down first. I can’t contemplate all of the workings of the world and my mind and be okay with it all unless I sit and write first. I’m like my own therapist, but I can’t figure out how to change my actions. Just why I have these actions and thoughts.

This is why I need to write. This is why I should journal more often. This is why I turn to online friends states away to make sense situations I find myself in. This is why it’s easier for me to meet someone online and date them in real life once they have some sense of who I am inside my head.

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