The Pleasure, Pain, and Peril of an Overactive Imagination
THE PLEASURE, PAIN, AND PERIL OF AN OVER-ACTIVE IMAGINATION
Please excuse this for being two days late. I needed an final answer to this before I published it!!
I am quick to imagine things based on—well—often—nothing or almost nothing. I was an only child in a highly dysfunctional family, and I was often lonely. It didn’t take me long, however, to find a solution. I invented an imaginary friend named Plain Pillow. I no longer have any idea where the name came from, but Plain Pillow was my constant companion for longer than I care to admit. We went everywhere together. We could talk to each other about anything. And Plain Pillow never told my secrets. Of course, as I got older, Plain Pillow turned into journals and poems and stories.
My tendency to imagine things that were not there persisted into my adult life. Some of it was positive. I imagined stories and poems and plays. I could sometimes come up with creative solutions to problems. Some of it was less positive. I imagined that people were mad at me when they did not call or stop by only to learn later that they were simply busy with their own lives, and it had nothing to do with me. It was a rude awakening when I recognized that I was not actually the center of the universe and not everything had something to do with me. It was a good lesson—but not always an easy one.
Even at seventy-two, I have lessons to learn—and I learned an important one the other day.
I have been struggling with lower back issues and so far exercise and medication have not improved it, so I had a MRI. When I got the results of the MRI, it turned out that it in addition to the bone scan, I have a cyst on my ovary. Tests were scheduled.
In the meantime, I did what I always tell everyone NOT TO DO. I went to the internet to read about ovarian cysts. Of course, I quickly moved on to ovarian cancer. Suddenly I realized that I had every—not one or two—but EVERY symptom listed. Needless to say, I had never noticed any of these symptoms before—but NO—in retrospect they were clear and evident. It took me about sixteen seconds to decide I was clearly dying of ovarian cancer—and I figured I had only a few weeks to live since I was sure it was quite advanced.
So I started trying to think of all the reasons dying would be a good thing.
When one retires from work, she should do so when she is at the top of her game. That way people are sorry to see you go. If you wait too long, people start talking about how you have slowed down, are not as intellectually sharp as you once were, etc. So maybe it works the same way in life—die while you are at the top of your game—and do it quickly. People will remember you when you were at your best and before you can’t get around so well and forget who people are.
I just had the best year of my life. Maybe I should go before the next year could disappoint me.
OK—maybe not ALL the reasons—these were the only two I could come up with.
Next I decided I should plan the memorial service. I would be cremated and have my ashes thrown in the ocean. It would only be the family. They would gather on our beach and play songs like Aime by Pure Prariee League and Angie by the Rolling Stones and Born to Live on Sugar Mountain by Neil Young. There would be no speeches—but someone would read Mary Oliver’s “In Backwater Woods.” Everyone would dance on the beach. I would have had lots of helium balloons, but they are appropriately prohibited on Nantucket for ecological reasons—so no balloons. They the whole family would go out to dinner at Lola’s or Nautalius and have have a fabulous dinner in my honor.
Ok—I was done.
All I needed to do was type up my instructions for the family and start a collection of things to take to the Take-it-or-Leave it.
About that time, I got the test results. EVERYTHING WAS FINE!!!!!.
So now, I could stop thinking about dying and get back to the business of living!
And I did—but with a deeper appreciation for every wonderful moment of life. All the things I want seemed less important than they did before. Today when I walked on the beach with my granddaughter, when we found heart stones for the first time, when we picked strawberries at Bartlett Farm, and when we played backgammon and uno, I relished every moment.