Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last night I had a nightmare and woke myself up yelling, or trying to yell: I was dreaming we were still in California, where there were six inches of snow on the ground from a climate gone awry, and I was driving our old Volvo through the snow, braking by sticking my foot through the broken bottom of the car. I had Lula with me and was trying to get home as quickly as possible because Joedy was leaving on a work trip; as the car skidded and slid in the snow a family ran across the road and I hit one of the children.

That should have been enough, but the dream continued: we got home, and after trying different doors and stairs it became clear that the building had turned into a maze--Joedy and Malko were in there somewhere, but we couldn't find them. I started up one stairway that looked vaguely familiar, and came to a room where three men stood. They eyed Lula appreciatively as we walked by, and--horror of horrors--reached out for her, grabbed her...I tried to yell, but I couldn't--my voice was trapped in my throat. My daughter was in danger, and I couldn't save her; I couldn't call for help, I couldn't tell the men "NO!"

When I woke up I just lay there, shaken, wondering why my mind would pile so many horrible things into one dream. Then I realized it was a pretty good reflection of my life, or at least my inner life, because I'm constantly imagining horrible scenarios, thinking about the "what if's"--all the awful things that could happen to a kid, parents, a family...

At the gym: We'd better not let Lula and Malko stay in the (unlocked) Supervised Play Area. What if a crazy person walks in there with a gun?

While driving: Better not drive in the center lane of this road. Any of the drivers coming toward us could be drunk and crash into us.

At home: The doors and windows should always be locked, and no one should ever be alone at home without the dogs, because a psychotic meth-head could drop by for visit!

Still at home: These flies seem to be getting smarter. Do you think they're evolving? What if they start attacking us?

Glimpsing the news, by mistake: Wow, that oil spill sure is gigantic. I guess this is it, eh? The environmental disaster that will kill untold living creatures, catastrophically disrupt the food chain, and end the world as we know it?

As I lay awake thinking about these things and my propensity for dramatic, depressing thoughts I began to feel silly and sheepish. Very few truly bad things have happened to me; my life is filled with love, beauty, and happiness. I recognize, on a daily basis, how lucky I am. Why should I always feel like disaster is around the corner? What a waste of time and energy, what a waste of thought; I could be putting all this effort into something productive, something that helps people who really need it!

Maybe I'm a bit overly-imaginative, or maybe this is just what being a parent is about: constantly imagining the worst-case scenario so you can have a backup plan, an escape route, a way to deal with the awful things that can and do happen. In the end, it doesn't really matter why I'm a paranoid worrier, I guess--what matters is that I try not to let it get out of hand. When I look at the situation objectively--when I see myself scan the inside of stores for exit signs, prepare to grab Malko by the feet and shake him upside down if he chokes--I think about Sapporo, the rabbit we left behind in California. Sapporo, and all the other rabbits I've had, were always looking for escape routes. It's their nature, it's their way of protecting themselves: in a sense, it's their way of fighting for survival.

Although I can get carried away, I accept my anxiety-based, rabbitlike qualities; to a certain degree, I'm even proud of them. If yelling "NO!" isn't always an option--if you can't wake up from the nightmare--it's good to have an alternate strategy in place.

Once the escape route's been determined, we rabbits can settle down, chew some grass, relax and think happy thoughts--until nighttime, that is, when anything goes...

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