Some people are constantly in a state of crisis management. No matter what they do, they just can’t seem to get out from under the crushing weight of their own poor decisions—sometimes decisions made to get out of existing messes! They are stressed to the max, always anticipating the ramifications of yet another thing gone wrong. You can’t help but feel bad for them as they exhibit a stout inability to control or even influence the world around them. Others’ lives are just as complication-laden, but they’re oblivious, which sometimes creates the crises around them because they don’t give the proper attention to minor issues prior to their becoming urgent. But that being unaware (which I am jealous of) also preserves their mind, as it shelters them from fully comprehending the gravity of the situation and going into full-on freak out mode.
I had a friend in college that typified the latter group. He really struggled our freshman year to get his S together, and it was so sad and frustrating to watch. The first few weeks were particularly rough for him as he adjusted to this big, new world of schedules and finals and lack of parental oversight. Tardy was his modus operandi, and I was convinced it would be his undoing. We were lucky enough to have a class together that first year, or, he was lucky we did, anyway. On multiple occasions, I joined in and embellished his stories, as if I had been there too, as he tried to explain to our professor what it was that prevented his arriving on time. He passed, and I like to think that was due in part to me embracing my inner thespian.
I helped him out because I knew he wasn’t trying to get something for nothing or shirk his responsibilities, he just needed guidance; he operated on a plane of reality different from the rest of us. What is important to you and me, e.g., responding to texts, showing up if you said you would—time in general—were to him minor details that were overlooked if something of greater interest presented itself. It was infuriating never being able to count on him, but his vagaries, the waiting to see what exactly would happen, were what made the friendship entertaining, like jamming a handful of Mentos into a two-liter of soda.
I’m somewhere between wandering around with my head in the clouds and being mired in tumult; I like to think that puts me somewhere in the range of normal. I like to walk through scenarios before jumping into them because I’m aware that poor planning can lead to undesirable ramifications (waking up half dressed in a house you didn’t start the party in is a good example…a hypothetical one, of course). I have to keep in mind, though, that I can start missing major details if I get hyper focused on one tree and disregard the rest of the forest. So, a balanced emotional and mental investment in an issue is optimal.
That’s what Calm Me says; Freak Out Me is way less rational. My Achilles heel is managing my stress when something unexpected pops up. I’m terrible at it; I go from Gandhi to a whirlwind of terror, doubt, and worst-case scenarios faster than rabbits fornicating. “Woe is me. I can’t take how awful everything is in my life!” I lament to my wife on FaceTime from my recliner in my air conditioned house. So really, my planning ahead stems from, not an affinity for it, but just trying to avoid another panic attack. It would be nice to say that I can go into any situation unafraid, having my abilities to fall back on, but trust falls with myself end up proving myself to be rather wispy.
I wonder if the ability to wrap your arms around and not succumb to your circumstances is a character trait that you must be born with—and if you’re not, you’re screwed—or if it’s a skill that can be instilled and cultivated. Likewise with those who lack cognizance: Do they come out of the womb oblivious, or did they figure out at an early age that there are very few things worth worrying about? They seem to be happier than the rest of society, as if they are impervious to the grinding down of the soul the rest of us endure as we toil through our drudgery. Watching them float through life, leaving a mess in their wake which others clean up, I wonder if securing happiness is more simple than I thought. What if all it really requires is, instead of worrying about all the things I have to do and be, just not worrying at all? “Ignorance is detrimental to your mental wellbeing,” is that the saying? No, no, that’s right: “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe that oblivious bunch is onto something.