I have been thinking a lot lately about things that are, if not universal, at least pretty widespread, but which don’t come up a lot in conversation. Part of this was response to blog posts, part of it was a painting or two I’ve done (The Boar God’s Gift is the one I’m thinking of) where a whole bunch of people wrote in to say “Whoa, I do that all the time.”
Mostly this is stuff inside our respective heads. We are often not good at describing the insides of our heads. (For all I know, this is a failure of English and there are elegant words in French and/or German that sum up these feelings perfectly, but there you are.) Sometimes it’s things like dreams that we don’t talk about much for fear of boring the ever-loving crap out of our loved ones. This is a fair concern.
Many of these are bad or unpleasant or anxiety-inducing. Them’s the breaks. It is astonishing how many of us, while we would deny strongly that we are special snowflakes of mind-boggling uniqueness, are nevertheless willing to believe that our gloomy mental ploddings are not shared by anyone else and that we are alone in our miserable freakhood.
I don’t think that’s the case. My experience is not terribly vast, lord knows, but the longer I live, the more we all seem to be in this together. We may each of us live in our own private hells, but the Devil gets a bulk deal on wallpaper.
I’m not going to say “most” or “all of us” because the minute you say “all” an exception will pop up in the comments, and even “most” implies a statistical majority of which I have little or no proof. So let’s go with “many” and “lots.” Some of these will probably make you go “Well, duh, everybody does THAT!” because they seem obvious. I have gotten e-mails over the years that make me think many of these are not quite so obvious as we think.
Mostly I just felt like talking about it.
Many of us have that dream where your teeth fall out and you can’t find a dentist anywhere.
Many of us also have that dream where there are animals starving to death and it’s all your fault. There are variations on this particular theme—sometimes they’re in cages dying horribly and you can’t find anything to feed them, sometimes you forgot they were there, sometimes it’s fish in aquariums that haven’t been cleaned in a hundred years and goodness, aren’t you a monster?
Many of us have that dream where things are chasing you that won’t die, no matter how many times you chop them apart or drop boulders on them. Plenty of us also have the corollary where you cannot actually fight back and your attempts to hit the monster seem to be going through molasses.
Lots of us have arguments in our heads with people, some of whom have Done Us Wrong, some of whom only might at some point maybe Do Wrong, and it’s good to be prepared. You’d think that since this is entirely in our heads and we get to control the script, we would inevitably win these arguments. You would be wrong.
Lots of us tell ourselves stories of past traumas in long rambling repetitive monologues when depressed.
Many of us have a near-constant “Hey, remember that time in 1985 when you said that incredibly stupid thing and everybody looked at you?” drone in the back of our heads. Memories of past faux pas are on auto-stream. Arguments that nobody else on earth remembers said stupid thing do not make much impact on the drone. (I have attempted to expiate this by assigning a charitable donation to every embarrassment, so that when I start thinking about that really stupid thing I did sophomore year, I can go “No, I gave a chunk of change to Bat Conservation International for that, damnit, I can stop worrying about it.” Sort of an anxiety equivalent of a swear-jar. It would work better if I had a bigger budget and if my subconscious weren’t convinced that every moment of stupidity should cost about a hundred thousand dollars or so. It would also work better if my supply of past stupidities did not so nearly approach the infinite.)
Lots of us lie awake at night contemplating what will happen if we get Nameless Horrible Disease, our spouses/kids/pets/whatever die horribly, what we will do, how sad we will be, how miserable it all is, etc. I have gotten better at going “This is not productive” and working through book plot-lines, but I still catch myself doing it.
Lots of us are scared to look out windows at night, for fear there’s something looking back. Mirrors are also iffy, because what if there’s something moving in there that isn’t you?
I will also confess that despite having written “Irrational Fears” I still occasionally go in fear of the monster under the bed. I am thirty-four. I would be very surprised if I was alone in that.
Anyway. That’s probably a short list, but it’s what I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own (within reason!) We are, after all, all in this together.