– Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: “She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.”
I used to say that older parents are more neurotic than younger ones, because they are more aware of life’s risks.
When my son was very young and went on his first field trip I obsessed about the things that can go wrong on the bus – from “What if he needs to go to the bathroom”, all the way to images of a horrific accident and certain death.
That day was the day that started me thinking of all the dangers in life. However, and counter-intuitively – focusing on ALL the risks shifted my energy from fear to a place of letting go and surrendering.
From that day on, including the time when my sons started driving, I practiced the by then long-followed mantra of, “There’s nothing you can do. You have no control, so you can just relax.” This was helpful most of the time, with a few exceptions here and there.
I realized throughout the day of the first field trip, that life is full of dangers, and that whenever my son wasn’t under my supervision, something could happen to him. I realized that – in a way, every day is a miracle of survival.
I became aware that he could fall off the swing, or get thrown off the merry-go-round while playing with friends. He might be pushed by a child and fall and break his head. He could play in the sand box and someone could throw sand in his eyes … or someone who’s highly contagious with some unknown disease could touch him or…
Need I say more?
I could go on like this forever, conjuring up parental nightmares; and I do the same (obsess about potential disaster) about myself, but you’ll have to read further …
There were many years when I thought I was invincible.
When I was in Jerusalem during the Six Day War, we were instructed to stay in the bomb shelters at various times, but I dragged my roommate out so that we could see what’s going on.
I went to work the day of the Northridge earthquake, only to realize that all my clients had cancelled their sessions.
I immediately went to work after hearing the news about 9/11, not even stopping to check my messages to see who might have canceled. The parking lot of my office building was deserted. There were three cars there including mine. The other two belonged to our Hispanic maintenance man; and the other one to an Israeli dentist who was probably trained just like me – i.e.:
“You don’t let terrorism interrupt your life, this is how they win!”
Everyone cancelled of course, except for a Middle Eastern client who told me the Americans “deserved it”, but that episode was already described in a previous blog…
Lest you think I’m brave, dear reader, based on the last couple of paragraphs, please modify this impression. Sometimes I’m stupid and I engage in magical thinking (“nothing will happen to me”), but most of the time, I consider life quite dangerous.
Remember the Ten Plagues God brought onto Pharaoh and the Egyptians? Well, here are mine:
- Let’s start with cars: Accidents happen all day, every day. We have the 405 and the 101 freeways. Enough said.
- Illnesses: Disabling and terminal.
- House: Plumbing, roof, termites and leaks … and this is the short list.
- My family: Anything less than optimal is a cause for anxiety.
- Natural disasters: Come-on, I live in LA! Earthquakes, my friends.
- Political hazards: Terrorism, chemical warfare and wars.
- Neighborhood Crime: Until joining our neighborhood watch, I was not as aware of all the thieves, robbers and killers nearby.
- Relationships: People can hurt your feelings and you can hurt theirs!
- Global Warming: I should probably move to Colorado or Alaska, as it’s getting warmer here by the minute!
- 10. Poverty: I could lose all my money and subsist on food stamps.
And there you are – My Ten Plagues.
How much time do I actually spend thinking about the above? Hardly any.
As mentioned above, I know that there’s not much I can do, except to bug my husband when he’s driving, and he’s a really great driver : )
But because I spend the bulk of my life surfing the internet instead of doing something useful, I happened to read the quote from Mrs. Dalloway, and it reminded me of how dangerous life can be when you stop to think about it.
And that, my friends, is the best reason to stop thinking so much. And yet, it’s a great reason to write a blog.
Which reminds me of my mother (hey, I’m a therapist!)…
When I was a child, I used to sit and ponder the fate of the world, mankind … why people hurt your feelings and so-on. And, then I would get moody. My mother would look at me impatiently (and I don’t blame her for that), and say: “Why don’t you help me wash the floors and stop thinking, and I can promise you that- if you’ll clean the house, your mood will change instantly!”
She was probably right.