I think about death a lot. Probably way more than I should or way more than a normal person. I may have mentioned this briefly before but it happened again today so I figured I’d write about it. At night, maybe twice a month, I have these pretty horrific nightmares. Mostly they’re about people I love dying and then I’ll wake up and not be able to move because of petrifying fear about five to ten minutes. I hate them and I don’t know what triggers them. You would think that’s bad enough but it’s not. My brain during the day can manage to come up with much, much worse.
My imagination has always been on steroids. As a child, I would sit in the bathtub forever and play with my toys. Have full on conversations with them and make them talk to each other. I loved my dollhouses and could spend hours playing with them and coming up with scenarios for my dolls. Sometimes life is very difficult for me. People don’t follow a script and it bothers me. I’ll imagine saying something to a person and then I’ll imagine every single thing that person could possibly say but the bottom line is, other people don’t follow my script. I think the only surprises in life should come in the form of Christmas presents. I like to know what’s coming. I like to control what is going to happen in my life. I could control my toys and my dolls, I could control their lives and circumstances with my imagination. As an adult, I control the characters I write because at least they follow my script…most of the time.
My imagination can give me incredibly vivid scenarios and play them out in my head over and over again. It chooses to center around death a lot of the time. I don’t know when I started thinking about death so much. I think when I was a junior in high school, all of our summer reading had books with dead mothers: The Secret Lift of Bees, Out of the Dust, and The Elephant Man. Dead mothers galore. Then I started reading more and more young adult books with dead parental characters or suicidal characters. I think because not only did I love to read but I was also fascinated by psychology and I wanted to know why people feel the way they feel, why they do the things they do.
Then a year later my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the whole possibility of a dead parent thing became a lot more real.
This morning on my way to work, I started crying. I honestly don’t know what set me off. One second I’m just driving down the street passing by a big building I like to pretend is Wayne Manor and the next second, I’m picturing calling my best friend Chrissy and telling her my Mother is dead. And I’m screaming and crying and I can’t leave her bedside and Chrissy has to come and pry me away from her. Why did I think that? Why? Where did it come from? And why, oh jesus Christ, WHY can I see it so fucking clearly in my head? I can see everything about the hospital room, I can smell it, I can taste the tears on my lips. And all of a sudden, I’m crying softly and slowly in my car on the way to work. I have to tell myself over and over again, it’s okay, she’s alive. She’s at work. My Dad’s at work. David is at work. Everyone is fine, they’re fine. But it doesn’t feel fine; my imagination makes it feel very, very real. As if it’s already happened and I’m remembering a situation from the past. It’s not my past, I don’t even know if it’s my future and yet it’s my present in the car at that very moment and I can’t control it. I try, I try to stop the thoughts as they come hurdling to the fore front of my brain but it’s too difficult. They come and they burry themselves until I can’t do anything but play out the scene in my mind and wait for it to end. Wait for the script to run out. But this isn’t my script. This is an involuntary script being forced upon me by my own brain.
There’s been a lot of death in my life, directly and indirectly. I’ve lost two Grandpops, one step Grandpop, I watched one of my best friends lose both his step-parents, I’ve watched people lose their grandparents, parents, friends. I’ve watched my Mom lose person after person, family member after family member, friend after friend. My Dad lost almost all of his friends and his father, shrinking his family to a very small size. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. Too many funerals. And there’s so many more to come. Maybe that’s why I think of these things so much? Because I know death is coming eventually and maybe if I know it’s coming, maybe if I can see it all in my head first it won’t be as horrifying when it actually happens. Wouldn’t that be nice? Of course, it’s not like that. I can think of 800 different ways I could lose someone I love and chances are not one of my predictions will be how it actually goes down.
I love my imagination for so many reasons. It’s how I create characters, it’s how I enjoy movies and books and life in general. I rely heavily on it to get through a boring day. Then there are days like today, days when I wouldn’t wish this imagination on my worst enemy.
Days when I picture my loved ones dying.
Days when I picture their funerals in perfect detail.
Days when I can picture the burial, the casket, the crying, the heart wrenching loneliness of losing them all.
It’s hard to talk about these things with people. I’ve tried and I’ve been called “negative” or they look at me with this face, this face that says “What a weird morbid person you are”. No one wants to talk to me about the death of people who aren’t sick or dying. No one wants to see me cry over something that hasn’t happened and isn’t even close to happening.
What people don’t understand, what I WANT people to understand is, I can’t control these thoughts. No more so than I can control the weather. I hate not being able to talk about this with people. I hate that I bury it away because it makes me feel like I’m in the wrong when I know I’m not. So here I am, talking about it. Even if I’m just talking about it to a website that maybe 3 people read. These are my thoughts and sometimes they’re scary and sad and involuntary and I hate them.
There’s a bright side though (for all of you who think I’m so negative).
The good thoughts always come back. It might take a day; it usually takes me writing out the horrible thoughts first. But they do always come back.
The good thoughts always come back. I just have to wait.
*I'm horrible with coming up with titles so this one is courtesy of my friend Bonnie, also a writer. We were torn between Patiently Waiting and Patiently Morbid so I wanted to mention both. Thanks, Bonnie!