Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nine-Foot Sea Slugs and Other Irrational Fears

We all play the genetics lottery when we are born, and among the many prizes I won was anxiety. It's a nebulous label and it manifests itself in many different flavors - usually it comes in a variety pack of three or four or ten behaviors.

One of my anxiety superpowers is that I can drum up the most irrational fears in my brain and actually convince myself they are true. Picture yourself fully believing that a piece of the MIR Space Station is going to drop from the sky and crush you. You'd walk around all day in terror, wincing while you look at the sky. Maybe you'd even make a cement umbrella and wear a suit of armor. To the rest of the world, you look crazy. But in your head, you totally buy into your death-by-space-junk theory.

(No, I've never had that fear. But now I am considering it...)

Because I spend a lot of time around sports, some of these superpowers get channeled into athletic performance. I refer to it as "race anxiety" but it isn't limited to a specific day or date or event. It can be a big blanket of irrational worry - should I go meet my friends for a run? What if I can't find parking? What if no one shows up? What if part of the space station falls on me while I'm running?

I've spent, by now, a good handful of years digging into these crazy thoughts, and luckily I've got them on a good leash. But every now and then the superpower cannot be contained. Which brings me to last Sunday night's 3am triathlon. The one in my dreams.
The first part of my dream was about one of my ironteam teammates trying to kill me. Actually lunging at me with a knife. I was intensely afraid, and actually continued to believe it for a moment when I later woke up.

The second half of the dream had me at a triathlon. I was very unprepared - threw together my gear, but did not check to make sure I had everything. I arrived late, and could not find parking in a giant parking structure. Did not know what time my wave started, and since I haven't been open-water swimming this season, I was concerned that I would not finish.

I ran back and forth between my car, the faceless spectators that were there to cheer me on, and the transition area. I felt very confused and unprepared. I realized my wave was a few minutes from starting, and was told to get into a truck - they were driving the athletes to the swim start.

As I get in the truck, I hear a scream (from 'off screen'). It's coming from the lake where we were to swim. And then I hear someone next to me say - "Sounds like the sea slugs got her. They are nine feet long."

Something like this...

AHHH! So no longer am I concerned about my goggles. Or sharks in the lake. No, now I am afraid of getting eaten by a sea slug. And to make matters worse, the truck drives by a big fish tank full of sea slugs - just for show! It's like the biggest, grossest, palest, living hot dog you have ever seen.

And if that's not enough, one of the sea slugs in the tank JUMPS OUT, GROWS FEET AND STARTS CHASING THE TRUCK.

And then I wake up.
I've yet to decipher the lesson behind this little, unconscious freak out. Perhaps there is none. Or maybe it's just a little memo from my id to my ego reminding me to chill out and not worry so much. Whatever the meaning, I've no doubt this crazy memory will be with me when we take to the open water later in the season. My superpowered brain would not have it any other way.

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