Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When Imagination Attacks

I didn't set out to be brave. I didn't even think to be scared. I was only trying to get out of the house.

My kids are visiting their grandparents this week, so I am having a one-woman vacation here at home. I sleep in, I see friends, I don't cook. It's been good.

I've gotten a lot of yard work done, read books, and visited with friends. Without needing to cook, pick up after little people, or manage the bedtime process, I have gained multiple hours each day. When I don't have a friend to play with, I'm filling those extra hours by going places and seeing things locally.

View of Hanging Rock - Flotsam of the Mind

Yesterday afternoon, I took a hike (and by hike I mean mostly level walk in nature). I was excited by my plan because I'd been meaning to explore this area for years. But first I had to get there.

My destination was forty-five minutes away and, like many things in Rhode Island, required me to drive over a bridge. Heights are not my thing. Anytime I drive over a bridge, I head to the inside lane, grip the steering wheel tightly, and focus on getting it over with. Strangely, I prefer to be a passenger. Then I can look out and enjoy the view without freaking out; when I'm driving, my mind sees only hypothetical cars crossing the center line and forcing me off the bridge.

Two-lane bridges cause me the most anxiety because there is nowhere to go--no room for recovery if that hypothetical car veers over the center line. Just a plunge. Yesterday's bridge was of the two-lane variety. I white-knuckled my way just past the mid-point when traffic came to a halt for road work. I perched at the top of that bridge for no more than five minutes, but I hated all five of them.

Stuck on the Bridge - Flotsam of the Mind

I got over the scary bridge, commended myself on my bravery, and readied myself for exploring. About five minutes into my walk, I stepped off a wooden foot bridge and back onto the path. Over a snake. No one said there would be snakes. I am terrified of snakes.

I took a deep breath and tried to slow my heart rate, then passed a second snake about five feet after the first. For the rest of my hour and a half in the woods, my repeated mantra was: "There are no poisonous snakes in Rhode Island." (True.) It kept me walking, but everything on the ground looked like a snake to me for the rest of the excursion. Not so relaxing.

Tree - Flotsam of the Mind

I was in this snake-based state of anxiety when I realized the basic problem with my plan. I love to be outdoors, but I'm not outdoorsy. I've never camped, and I know little-to-nothing about the wilderness. This makes me a bit of a ninny when I'm out in it alone, because my imagination can get the better of me. Every bird or squirrel moving around becomes a dangerous beast waiting to prey on idiotic middle-aged women wearing backpacks.

Then I encountered the turkey. Right there, in the middle of my well-maintained footpath, was a giant wild turkey. My first thought was, "Do turkeys attack?" The snakes were behind me, the turkey was in front of me, and there was no way this wilderness novice was leaving the path. Fortunately, the turkey sauntered down the path in the direction I was heading before flying away. (I thought turkeys couldn't fly. I was wrong.)

Turkey - Flotsam of the Mind

After the turkey, I remained jumpy but enjoyed the rest of my outing without additional panic attacks.  I'm glad I went. I wouldn't say that I conquered my fears, but at least I was able to enjoy my day despite feeling like this guy.

Chicken - Flotsam of the Mind

I think I will reward myself with another outdoor day today--a cocktail by the pool.


  1. haha, I love your internal monologue in writing! :) I totally second the cocktails thing. <3

  2. Great post! I absolutely LOVE that tree with all the carvings! Gorgeous!!

  3. Hilarious! Beware those scary beasts, the squirrels! I hate snakes, too - and, in fact, was praying today while gardening that I wouldn't meet any (we do have poisonous snakes here). You have earned a cocktail, for sure!