Word of advice: decide within your family (ahead of time) what constitutes "bad news." My mom called me today while I was working at a friend's house. I answered the second time. It's unusual for her to call during the day since she's a teacher and typically gives me shit for making her look bad when her phone rings in class. I asked if it was lunch time and she sort of mumbled. There was something a bit off in her tone - either she was waiting to tell me something I didn't want to hear or she was having a momentary lapse in sanity and thought I was five years old again. I asked if everything was okay and she said no.
I don't remember if it was her who suggested it or me, but I said I'd call her when I got home; I only had a few things to finish up and didn't live too far. I told myself I was fine. And I was, except for the feelings that rose like smoke signal from my gut. I couldn't help it. I imagined what I was going to do when she told me something had happened to my dad. Who would I call? Where would I go? Would I get on a plane? Could I finish my work? I imagined how hard I would cry and my vision immediately blurred. But wait, they don't even speak, how would she know if something happened to him? The last time he was in the hospital, they called me directly. So was it my brother? He recently dislocated his shoulder, maybe he'd injured himself again. Oh god. I think of all the tough things I can handle in life, something happening to my brother just isn't among them. So my fears got the best of my brain and stopped those synapses in their tracks. Maybe it was my cousin. But why wouldn't she just tell me? I tried to snap out of it. I told myself to enjoy these last few moments of ignorance. The sky was beautiful, the trees were reflecting light off their melting branches. But just as soon as I would take a deep breath, another smoke signal would set off and collect like a fog in my mind. I tried to find a cheery song on the radio. It only made me want to push John Mayer down some stairs.
I started dialing before I even got up my steps, timing it so I had just enough time to open the door and take off my boots before I'd hear the news... It was Leeloo, my cat. I started to laugh and cry at the same time. I couldn't tell if I was actually feeling anything for poor Leeloo because I was so relieved I wouldn't be attending any funerals in the near future. Leeloo has pretty much been my mom's cat for the last seven years, so it's no surprise she'd project great upset at her loss. The darn thing barely said hello to me when I'd visit, yet she slept on my mom's head every night. I'll miss her though, most especially next time I go home to visit and won't see her hopping sideways down the stairs to greet me.
Still, as I mourn the loss of my little friend, and feel for my mom as she adapts to a quieter household, I learned something very valuable today: We are f-ing crazy, and it's always better to know the truth than to entertain our fear-fueled fantasies. To be honest, I remember thinking of it as a small challenge when she said she had bad news. I pretty much always want to know things right away - I want to open presents before Christmas, I want to know what people are saying when they're whispering, I just like to know. So I thought I was doing the responsible thing. And maybe I was. It's just so fascinating how our fears can so quickly take over when we think something's wrong. How from one moment to the next, the slightest hint of vulnerability can turn the world into a scary place. I don't know, maybe I'm too dramatic, maybe it's an actor thing, or maybe I'm actually really lucky to have had the opportunity to feel those things without them happening in real life. Maybe if we used our minds to build compassion that way, it wouldn't be so scary when it actually happened. Maybe, just maybe, we'd even make better decisions in the present.
I don't know, it's just a thought, but I think I'll go call my dad and my brother now.