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Self-Narrators Anonymous

I’m gonna go clean the kitchen…. I’m gonna do some laundry…. I’m gonna read the next book for my class…. I’m gonna do my homework at the table…. I’m gonna have another cup of coffee…. I’m gonna…. I’m gonna…. I’m gonna…. My name is Jen Becker and I narrate my life.

There must be some psychological reason for this weird habit of mine. I’m not even aware that I’m narrating my steps throughout the day unless somebody points it out to me. My sister was the first one to bring this to my attention a little over a year ago. I’m gonna go to the kitchen for…. I don’t even remember what I was going to the kitchen for, but I remember her laughing. She’d been staying with us for a couple of days and had apparently heard me do this several times. “Why are you narrating everything you do,” she asked. I had no idea what she meant, and she had to explain to me what I was doing. Ummm… I don’t know, was the only response I could offer.

The interesting thing about this pathological need to explain my every move to whoever is in the room is that, if nobody is present with me, I don’t feel compelled to detail my next steps. True, I don’t realize that I’m running a self-commentary when it happens, but I also know that I don’t go from room to room telling myself which room or task is next. I may talk to the dogs… make up your mind, Misha, do you want to be inside or outside... No, Murphy, leave my coffee alone… but I don’t tell the dogs that I’m going to the kitchen to make more coffee. That important slice of information is unconsciously reserved for my sister or my husband or my kids if they happen to be in the room when I decide I want another cup of coffee.

This afternoon, my husband caught me in the act. I smelled his lunch and my stomach started growling so I decided I should eat something. Setting my laptop on the table in the sunroom I proceeded to narrate… what should I have for lunch? I don’t know. Ooo, I have a potato, I can make a baked potato. That will be good… then he giggled. I wasn’t really talking to him or asking him what I should have. He was sitting in his recliner, minding his own business, eating his lunch, and I was mindlessly detailing what I was going to do next. I didn’t even realize it was happening until he laughed and said, “It’s so cute how you narrate everything like that.” Was I doing it again? And I just shook my head because I honestly have no words to explain myself.

Why am I frequently compelled to chronicle my actions as they happen? Do other people do this? I’ve never noticed anybody else doing that. Of course, maybe I have heard others do the same thing, but it just doesn’t stand out to me because I do it, too. Is it a psychological response to some kind of trauma in my life? I still don’t know how to explain it. Maybe there’s a twelve-step program for self-narrative-recovery. 

I need to go clean the kitchen.

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