Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Imaginary Catastrophe

Frequently throughout the day, usually when doing something idle when I am given ample opportunity for thought -- in the shower, waiting at a stop light, while doing chores -- I find myself imagining hypothetical scenarios and/or conversations that could possible happen based on the outcome of one small thing. 

I've asked others before and know I am not alone in sitting at the front of a traffic light and imagining what would happen if I just accelerated into cross-traffic.  Or what would happen if I didn't react quickly enough when someone cuts me off.

I tell the boyfriend all the time that I'm pseudo-psychic, one manifestation being that I get feelings about other cars, like, "that guy is totally going to change lanes right into me any second now" with no obvious evidence, and so I am on my guard for it to happen and then it does and I react!  Whether that reaction involves scoping out my "outs" to other lanes/shoulder, or breaking hard enough quickly enough, all with a nice loud blare on my horn.

But that's the off case where these imaginings actually happen.  I also imagine how I'd react in a real car crash -- cover my face/head? Swerve the right way to avoid hitting more stuff/falling off a cliff? Sometimes I even grab my phone and sit on it so it can't go flying in a crash and I can call for help if I need to. Yeah, I'm a little paranoid, but at least I'm prepared.

Ever imagine what you'd do in a crazy emergency, like the building is suddenly engulfed in flames? Or war suddenly finds your peaceful city and you are caught in a bombing? More than once it's involved carrying a stranded child, or wondering if I could actually carry my significant other any great distance in an emergency with the help of adrenaline. I've even struggled with the fact that I have no idea what I'd do with my cats! In a crisis, cats do not sit and wait for help -- they freak the fuck out and get the fuck out of there, using your face as a launchpad if necessary.

Once a few years ago, the fire alarm in my apartment building went off while I was napping (possibly dreaming some kind of "escape from the bad guys!" scenario), and so the shock of the alarm mixed with partial dream-state meant I jumped out of bed, threw on clothes, gathered my necessities (purse with keys and phone and wallet, backpack with computer), and then snatched up my two kittens into their carriers prepared to shove them into the car and flee for safety. Man did I look like an idiot when I rushed out into the courtyard (my roommate was at class or work or something, or maybe she slept through the alarm in her own room) with backpack, purse, and two cat carriers in tow, and was not immediately met by other fleeing residents, nor facing a life-threatening inferno.  I stood there, trying to let my brain readjust from panic mode to "you're awake and life is not that exciting, dumbass" mode. The alarm was still blaring, and one guy came out into the courtyard, probably to see why the alarm was still on (college immunizes you to fire alarms after just so many nights of pranks in the freshman dorms), and I think I asked him what was going on. He shrugged and went back into his apartment. I face-palmed, let my cats back out, and regretted getting so worked up because I'd never get back to sleep.

Maybe I just have an overactive imagination. I did spend most of my childhood playing pretend all by myself.  Frequently toys were involved, but when it was nice enough to go outside, climbable trees would become fortresses, the shadowy deep end of the pool would become a mermaid cave, and ordinary objects would become extraordinary.

Or perhaps I just need more human interaction in my day.

Or perhaps I just worry far too much about things I really don't need to.

When I say "perhaps," I mean definitely. I know that ever since I moved here, away from college to my adult job, I am incredibly lonely and aching for more social interaction, and people tell me all the time that I worry far too much.

I think I just prefer to be prepared for the worst.  I mean, do you have a plan for the zombie apocalypse or otherwise end of the civilized world??

That goes for awkward situations, too.  I always practice potential conversations in my head.  Lots of people do that, right?  Like how to ask out that cute girl or cool guy, or a good come back. I just guess the probably don't continue these theorized conversations as far as I do.

I am a very non-confrontational person.  I avoid conflict.  I like to pacify arguments.  I really don't like to sweat the small stuff when it requires an awkward conversation with someone. But sometimes you need to deal with confrontation; sometimes you need to stand up for yourself.  So if you're like me, you imagine how the confrontation will go, and play out the conversation in your head -- what you'll say, what they'll say, your come back, etc., in such a way that you're bound to come out a winner and look good! That's reasonable, right?

Where it goes off in left field is that I always imagine the conversation going the worst possible way -- people get offended, or angry, or the truth they have to offer is terrible like they killed your pet or gave away your favorite bag or think you're ugly or don't actually love you -- and sometimes end up emotionally distraught over this conversation that never even happened!

Like have you ever had a dream where your significant other cheated on you? Or your best friend tried to kill you? Or you got in a giant fight with your roommate? And then you wake up and the dream impacted you emotionally deep enough that you carry it around with you all day, and you feel distant/angry/hurt towards that person even though they didn't really do those things? It's like that, only instead of a dream, it was a fictional conversation in my head that I had complete control over.

I must be a masochist.

Really, I just want to be emotionally prepared for the worst, which is a great idea in theory, except very rarely do conversations and situations actually turn out as bad as I scripted, so I went through that emotional distress for nothing.

I will probably gray at 25 and die of a heart attack at 40. Why do I do these things to myself?

This habit also takes the useful form of weaving complex, detailed, and legitimate excuses. Because I absolutely hate to lie, and feel really uncomfortable doing so even to mostly-strangers, I feel the need to develop excuses based at least partially on reality, and this makes them very strong and believable.  In fact, I get so stressed out over having to lie, I rehearse the conversation in my head -- complete with responses to their potential questions -- so much and with so many, "well that's practically true" self-reassurances that I almost convince myself I'm not really lying, and try not to feel as guilty. Frequently, however, I don't even get asked or need to give my neatly ironed-out excuses (apparently fewer people actually give a shit that I am missing their party or calling in sick to work than my guilty conscience expects), and I end up disappointed that I never got to use them.  I feel like the understudy in a play who never got to perform.

practice and preparation (in moderation).

(Or you'll end up a crazy like me.)

1 comment:

  1. I like your new blog! I am right there with you on the "what do I do with my life" thinking. Especially having just been laid off from a job I didn't like all that much, it's like...where do i go from here?

    So keep up the blogging, I'm loving your insights and secrets to being a responsible adult. :)