Now I don't know if there is a formal definition for a thought worm, but I figure that it is related the ear worm. If you are not familiar with an ear worm, well it happens when you have "that song" running through your head that you just can't seem to out of your head. Replace "song" with "thought" and you have the concept. Anyway, the thought worm occurs for me, on rare occasion, when I have a thought/problem/idea that just keeps borrowing through my head like an earthworm through a pile of dead leaves. Basically we are talking about something that I just can't seem to let go of, no matter how hard I try.
How did I get this particular thought worm? Well I'm not going to get into the specifics of the thought, but near as I can figure it happened in part because I was so mentally tired from three days of off-site meetings. These kinds of things typically take a lot out of me...I am usually very focused, very conscious of my surroundings, very much "tightly wrapped". Of course eventually the tight wrapping comes off, then everything just mentally seems to just fall out. It's then that the thought worm seems to start its boring.
This particular thought worm was especially insidious because it hearkened back to a situation where I was faced with something I just really could not understand. To this day I still can't understand it, truth be told. The fact that it was wrapped in a lot of emotion made it all that more difficult for me, as I find it especially difficult try to "process" some emotions. "Process" is an important thing for me, as I'm a problem solver at heart, and understanding the nature of a problem is the first step to resolving it. All well and good except for the fact that there are some things in life that you encounter that simply defy analysis...they can not be processed...they simply can not be "solved". Beginning to see the nature of the thought worm now?
So yesterday evening my head is full of the thought worm, and I accomplished basically nothing. I became this obsessed blob of nothingness that was locked into trying to figure something out that my rational head knows is impossible to figure out. No wonder I was up until 1am, and what sleep I got was filled with thoughts and dreams that all centered around the thought worm.
Where does this all end? Well I suspect that the truly insane have thought worms that manage to take up a permanent residence side the skull. As for me, well I am many things, but being truly insane is not on the list. My day began with the thought worm still in control, but getting back to the routine of a day in the office helped to create some order out of my personal chaos. Hitting the gym also further diminished the power of the thought worm, as for some reason physical exercise has this way of sorting and ordering my thoughts. Finally the thought worm was mortally wounded this evening, as I had the opportunity to talk about all of this to a dear friend who mainly just listened. It's amazing the power to be found in a pair of open ears.
So now my thought worm is on it's last gasp, holding on to a tiny fraction of my mental process. It may take a few days to truly eradicate the power of the thought worm, and I do know for sure that it will probably never truly disappear because the dirty little secret here is that I'm going to carry this particular situation with me for the rest of my life. It reminds me of the scene in the movie Rocky III where Adrian confronts Rocky over his inability to get motivated for the rematch with Clubber Lang. Rocky is afraid but will not admit it. The actual scene goes like this:
Can I talk to you? I wanna ask you something important, and I want you to tell me the truth. - What? - Why'd you come here? I just don't want it no more. - If it's over cos you want it to be, I'm glad. - I do. It's just, you've never quit anything since I've known you. I don't know what you want me to say. I mean, what happened? How did everything that was so good get so bad? What's so bad? Tell me. What? I wrecked everything by not thinking for myself.
Why couldn't Mickey tell me where it was really at from the start? He didn't have to carry me and lie and make me think I was better than I was. - He never lied. - Those fights weren't right. I never fought anybody in their prime. There was always some angle to keep the title longer than I shoulda had it. Do you understand? You've gotta understand, he loved you! That was his job, protecting you. Protectin' don't help nothin'. It makes things worse. You wake up one day thinking you're a winner, but you're not. You're a loser.
So we wouldn't have had the title as long. So what? - At least it would have been real. - It was real! Nothing is real if you don't believe in who you are. I don't believe in myself no more! When a fighter don't believe, he's finished. That's it. That's not it. Why don't you tell me the truth? What are you puttin' me through? You wanna know the truth? I don't wanna lose what I got. At first, I didn't care about what happened. I'd go in the ring, get bust up. But now there's you and the kid. I don't wanna lose what I got! What do we have that can't be replaced? What? A house. We got cars, money.
We got everything but the truth. What's the truth, dammit?! I'm afraid! All right? You wanna hear me say it? You wanna break me down? I'm afraid. For the first time, I'm afraid. I'm afraid too. There's nothin' wrong with that. - There is. For me, there is. - Why? You're human. I don't know what I am. I know I'm a liar, and because of that, Mickey ain't here. You didn't push him into anything. He was a grown man. He did what he had to do.
And you have no right to feel guilty. You don't! You were a champion. You did what you were expected to do. You did what everybody thought you should do. And you wanna tell me that those fights weren't real? I don't believe it! It doesn't matter what I believe. You've got to carry that fear inside you, afraid everybody'll take things away, that you'll be remembered as a coward, that you're not a man any more. Well, none of it's true.
It doesn't matter if I tell you because you're the one that's got to settle it. Get rid of it! Cos when the smoke clears, and they stop chanting your name, it's just gonna be us. And you can't live like this. We can't live like this. Cos it's gonna bother you for the rest of your life. Look what it's doing to you now. Apollo thinks you can do it. So do l. But you gotta wanna do it for the right reasons. Not for the guilt over Mickey. Not for the people, not for the title, not for money, or me - but for you. Just you. Just you alone. - And if I lose? - Then you lose. But at least you lose with no excuses. No fear. And I know you could live with that.
You can link to the script for Rocky III HERE. The moral of the story, at least for me, is that sometimes you just have settle the things that bother you inside, even if you don't completely understand them. You have to use them or in a very real sense they will use you up.