It's been a really long time, and I'm sure I've forgotten a lot, but I once read the book Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard.
What I remember most about the book, aside from the ubiquitous anti-abortion theme, was the idea that whatever was bothering you could basically be erased, or at least made impotent, by replaying it over and over in your head.
A parent dies suddenly? Relive the moment you found out - sights, smells, sounds, everything you can come up with - and keep doing it until the shock that was born when it happened has been replaced by something else. Something less intense.
I'm not talking about the kind of shock that happens when you're startled or surprised. The kind where you exclaim, "Oh! My goodness!" and your heart maybe beats a little faster for a while. I'm talking about the shock to your soul that happens when something so bad happens that your mind just won't accept it all at once. It gets shoved down deep, and sometimes it stays there for years. Nagging at you. Whispering at you.
Now I don't agree with a lot of what I remember from that book, but this part I do agree with: The saying is Time heals all wounds but I think what really happens is that we relive and obsess over the bad events, even if we do it subconsciously - and eventually we've relived them so often that our mind is able to accept them.
The worst thing that ever happened to me, at least up to the time I read the book, was the death of my first real girlfriend. It was both sudden and drawn-out at the same time. One night, she swallowed a bunch of pills and then she took three months to die.
It was several years later, just after my divorce, when I read the book, and I found myself trying some of the exercises described in it. What I found, or at least what I think I found, was that what was killing me inside wasn't losing my wife and my stepson, it was losing Jackie all those years earlier. All of the guilt and uselessness I'd felt through all those hospital visits - they were still with me. Dragging me down and holding me back. I was unable to work harder at my marriage because I already felt like a failure.
I was able, finally, to free myself of those demons. Not by trying to control them and keep them underground, but by giving them free reign, by letting those memories replay in my head and my heart over and over until they had lost the ability to affect me.
This was a lesson I learned in my twenties that I really wish I'd have remembered into my thirties. It really would have been handy.
I feel like I'm beginning to ramble here, so I'll go ahead and get to the point I wanted to make.
I believe that the same thing works for stuff that hasn't happened yet.
As I sit here typing this, in early March 2005, I'm a little worried about the future.
In fact, there are two scenarios that I've found myself worrying about:
If you thought I was going to list them here you were wrong.
Either of these events, were they to occur, would simply devastate me. Luckily they're mutually-exclusive, so I don't have to worry about them both happening at the same time, but I still find myself dreading their possibility. I find myself imagining what I'd say, what I'd do, if things went completely to shit.
What's the worst that could happen?
That's what I imagine. The worst. That's what runs through my head whenever I relax too much. Whenever I catch myself imagining the good that's when the bad possibilities rush through my mind and snap me out of my contentedness.
Now, I've never really been much of a worrier. For a long time I was, after all, invincible. Why would I waste time worrying about that which would simply bounce off my impenetrable shield?
Lately, however, my safety is not assured. I have vulnerabilities. I have my own Kryptonite, and I do find myself worrying about it. Worrying about having my own sanity and my own happiness so out of my control. It's like I'm jumping out of a plane, and I'm not sure I trust the person who packed my parachute.
I think it's getting better, though. And that's the point I wanted to make with this rambling excuse for writing.
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
My imagining of these horrible scenarios, as annoying as it is, is actually preparing my mind for their occurance. I know this because there used to be three things that I worried about, but one of them has been castrated. It could happen right now and I'd be able to accept it. I wouldn't fucking like it very much, but it wouldn't be the worst that could happen. I ran it though my head so many times that I actually got a little bored with it.
One down, two to go.
At some point, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now, the time will come when either (a) one of my worst fears will actually come true, or (b) the danger will pass. If one of my dreaded imaginings comes to pass I hope I'll be ready.
I think I will be. If the worst happens, I may not land gracefully, but I think I can avoid a complete crash.
And if the worst doesn't happen? If something good actually comes from all this?
I don't know how I'd prepare for that. Or if it's even possible.