Remember that song from the 90's that goes, "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a magazine, I'm a washing machine, I'm a pear, it's a bear" or something like that? Or the Ani DiFranco song about being 32 Flavours and Then Some? I understand the message that no one is one thing, that we are all complex humans being (see how I did that?), but the lyric I always add to songs like that is, "I'm the worst at fun."
Case in point: I am going away for a week starting tomorrow! I'm going to weddings, seeing family, seeing friends, hopefully enjoying some warmer weather. I booked this excursion months ago, saved up money so I'd be flush with cash, have made great plans with some great pals. Yet tomorrow morning's early, early flight has me absolutely fraught with anxiety. I worry that I'll be unable to sleep tonight, and though part of me has made peace with this eventuality, part of me wonders if what the experts say is true: if I write down everything I am worried about, worry won't consume me at bedtime, and I'll sleep like a baby and wake up alert and ready to vacation.
Dream: Get a great night's sleep by obsessively cataloguing all my worries.
Goal: Achievable. Besides a good sleep, the benefit to articulating the worst-case scenario is that, in the very act of predicting it, I somehow make it less likely to occur.
Plan: Lay out complex, detailed possibilities for any problems that might arise tomorrow.
- The Doc and I both oversleep. Somehow, despite setting two alarms for the ungodly hour of 4:30, we ignore them both and arise refreshed at 1 pm. We scream at each other for two hours, search desperately for another flight which we cannot find. We miss my cousin's wedding and are no longer invited to family milestones of this sort.
- We miss the stupid airport shuttle bus. Airport shuttle buses seem like the greatest idea until you realize how inefficient and uncomfortable they actually are. The hotel by our apartment is one of the first stops on the route, so I always get on thinking, "Ooh! I have this whole prison van to myself! We'll get there in no time!" And then we stop at every single hotel in the city and pick up fatter and dumber people with more and more luggage and I become so squashed and resentful that I begin to wonder why I didn't just set aside six hours, get my suitcase with the wheels on the bottom, and just fucking walk to the airport.
- We can't get on the plane. Have you ever seen that show Locked Up Abroad? It's this harrowing doc series about being imprisoned in a foreign country. The main reason these imprisonments usually occur is because some poor sap decides he's going to try to smuggle drugs out of the country on an airplane. LET ME CLARIFY THAT I HAVE NO PLANS TO DO THIS! But I saw one recently where a panicked trafficker put a brick of hash into a lady's purse while they were waiting in line for security. She didn't even notice, got caught, endured a crazy ordeal. What if someone puts drug tablets in my manpurse, or tapes a bag of weed to my leg while I'm peeing beside them or something? I get pretty single-minded when I'm urinating, I probably wouldn't catch it. Also, I'd like to add that my cousin Jessica and a friend of hers want to start a series where young women find themselves pregnant in a foreign country and call it Knocked Up Abroad. I just think that's clever.
- We never get off the plane. I know the plane is not going to crash, but what if it DOES, you guys? It's weird, I thought fear of flying would naturally lessen the more I flew, but it's actually getting worse. I remember as a kid being SO AMPED to get on a plane! It was so much fun! Now, any little airpocket and I'm a mess. Also, this is the first time Doc and I have actually taken the same plane at the same time. Because of his schedule or mine, we can never show up to the same thing at the same time on the same day, and in seven years, this is our first plane trip. It seems like the stuff morbid anecdotes, but it probably means we're going down.
- I don't sleep a wink and am rendered completely useless. My tiredness will give me the judgement and articulation of a drunk. I'll curse at the airline desk agent, or throw up on the shuttle bus, or mumble something transphobic while buying a magazine. My behaviour gets me thrown out of the airport, off of the flight, out of the wedding.
I don't want to play this game anymore. I really wonder what the hell is up with self-sabotage. What impulse within us makes us so neurotic that the prospect an extremely enjoyable experience is terrifying? I recently read about the concept of Defensive Pessimism in David Rakoff's excellent book, Half Empty. Those of us who can't be bothered with the fallacy positive thinking, he argues, might be a bit gloomy at parties, but in predicting negative outcomes, are better equipped to deal with them as they occur. We bring the umbrella! We have Tylenol on hand! We get there early! If the trade-off to this negative thinking is that I'm pleasantly surprised when things go well, then I can certainly handle that. The tremendous relief I feel when all my worries are for naught? That's my vacation.