As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an over-active imagination. Every little interaction sets off a ripple of frenetic thoughts, convoluted pathways followed to various ends. If my parents were running late, I would imagine in great detail some tragic car accident, how I would feel to have lost them, and how my life would unfold subsequently, down to detailed conversations with fabricated acquaintances in an imagined future. Actually, anytime anyone is running late, I have a variation of that trainwreck of a thought. Boyfriends hit by cars while riding their bikes to work, best friends abducted from bars by evil predators. There are less… tragic..? manifestations; any time I meet someone I imagine the role they might play in my life, flashing from one imagined interaction to the next. Sometimes it serves a practical, albeit morbid, purpose – when I hear my father cough in the way that only a lifetime smoker can, I immediately picture his impending illness, followed by his death, and then: what will my mother do? How will we help her? How will she move on? I suppose on some level I think that if I can carefully consider all of the terrible things that might befall me and my familiars, I will be more prepared.
Despite any flimsy argument I can make for the pragmatism of my excessive and generally dark daydreaming, I have learned to stifle the impulse, to distract myself, so that I end up with the clif notes, rather than giving myself over to it. If I didn’t, I would have one hell of an anxiety problem. You could probably argue that I do have an anxiety problem, but I think I’m mostly fine.
Fiance and I have a constantly evolving 5 year plan. Right now, it contains a lot of knowns – get married, move to the Northwest, work hard, get a cat, save money aggressively. Maybe buy a house. Maybe stay in WA, maybe come back to the Southeast. The plan also contains some more fuzzy details – the biggest of which is that we both want to start a family. I have a range of biological arguments for why I would like to have a child before I am 30 – reduces breast cancer risk, lower probability of complications in momma and child, the terrifying possibility of infertility and the time it would take to wrangle with it. And, we both want kids, kind of a lot. So, that’s on the 5 year plan now. Somewhere in there with making the transition from over-worked post-doc to permament employ, i.e. working my ass off and impressing people until I’m 29, with no time to spare for procreation… But that’s a different can of worms.
We’ve talked about the kid thing – theoretical divisions of labor, how Fiance (the lightest sleeper in the damn world) will survive, the fact that they will have the softest hair ever, and with any luck won’t inherit my immune system. We have thought about how to prepare financially, how we are going to name all the boys Stanley and all the girls Wanda (don’t ask). We talk about having them sooner versus later, pros and cons. We talk about how I will be a pain in the ass when I’m pregnant – I”ll probably have a host of random medical issues, and the weirdest eating habits ever. We talk about how he has to love me even if I get fat, and he says he wishes I were chubbier anyways.
My proclivity for morbid fantasy caught me fully unaware last night. I was watching Bridge to Terabithia on TV, and near the end, a child dies. I wasn’t expecting that plot twist at all, so it was rather like I got punched in the stomach. Suddenly tears are streaming down my face, and I think about all the children lost lately – children in the blogs I read, children in the newspaper. And I am afraid. I am petrified. My own imagination runs me over, runs me through, faster and more intense than ever. I am scared I’m not strong enough to endure even the possibility of that reality.