Understanding that this can seem difficult to wrap your head around as it can seem like you're faking or denying what's real. We got into talking about the idea of facing fear and instead of thinking of how to create a more positive scenario, that instead, we play out the negative scenario to the nth degree.
So,what if her fear came to fruition? Then what would happen?And if that happened, what would happen next? And after that? And so, on and so on, until...
At this, Nikki, my co-facilitator, shared that at the end of this process, she always comes up with "And then I'm going to die."
The group responded with a laugh, which was actually the appropriate response. If you play out any fear, at the end, the worse thing that could happen is that you'd die, and this makes all the worrying and fretting pale by comparison.
Anyway, after the laugh died down, I turned to Nikki, and said, "I can take that further. Wanna hear it?"
“And then my dog is gonna eat my face.”
Well, the reaction was a pause, and then they all laughed.
Looking at me like I was crazy, Nikki, then asked, “How the heck did you come up with that?”
So, I explained.
About a month earlier, at my standing Tuesday morning coffee date , my friend Rick told me the story of one of the regulars at the coffee shop.
This young woman had been in a relationship with a man for a long time, but had broken up with him some months back. He suffered with bipolar syndrome and she realized although she loved him, she just couldn’t go on with the relationship. They remained friends and spoke off and on, and realizing he was very lonely, she surprised him with a little dog for his birthday. It turned out to be a great idea, because he fell in love with this little dog.
So, Rick goes on to tell me that a couple weeks earlier, she had called to see how he was doing, They usually spoke every couple weeks or so and had since they broke up.
When he didn’t answer his phone, and days went on without having heard back from him,she got worried and decided to go to his apartment to see what was going on. He did have his dark periods when he cut himself off from other people so it wasn't all that unusual not to have heard from him, but she was afraid he had gone off his meds again, and she was very concerned.
Anyway, she went to his apartment and when he didn't answer the door, she let herself in with her key and to her horror, found him lying dead on the couch. But the real horror was that since he had apparently been dead for quite awhile, his little dog had started to chew the flesh from his face. The dog she had given him for companionship.
Now, this is one of the most horrible visuals I had ever imagined and it haunted me.
So, when this conversation came up in teacher training, and Nikki said "And then I'm going to die", this vision popped into my head and and then, I said “and then my dog is going to eat my face."
Now, although it got a laugh, this was not my intention.
I don’t happen to believe that death is necessarily our biggest fear. I think death of the ego, or death of the image we project can be worse if we are overly attached or identified with them. Some people would rather kill themselves than face shame or rejection, losing face or facing punishment, or simply just not wanting to face another day of hopelessness. I understand that most suicides happen on Monday morning, for example...the thought of another week of the same old thing is just too much to bear.
Anyway, for me, in this case, behind the fear of my dog Gracie eating the face off my dead body, was my fear of dying alone.
Now, for those with families, and regular jobs, this is probably not a big fear.
But for me, it is, and at this point in my life it is a real possibility.
You see, I live alone with my dog Gracie. I live in Indianapolis, and the closest of my immediate family, live in Chicago. I have friends scattered all over the country, most in Chicago and San Diego where I lived for 9 years. I am not in a relationship so there is no significant other that I see on a regular basis.
I have a civil, but not close relationship with my neighbors, so I could feasibly go days without talking to one of them, especially in the winter months. I have friends here but like everyone else, we get busy and don't touch base as often as we'd like.
I work in a job that takes me to different places, and am only expected to show up once a week at each place. So, if I didn't show up to class one week, although it may seem unusual, this could be blown off as a misunderstanding, that maybe I forgot to tell them there would be no class that week. So, most likely the second week when I didn’t show, one of the students might take it upon themselves to call me. And then, maybe another few days could go by when they might realize I had never called them back. Now, most of my students don’t even know where I live, so God knows when someone would actually come and find me.
I haven't quite figured out what to do to prevent this from playing out in my life. It would be great it I could find a great guy and have that constant witness to my life as one solution. I guess I could ask one of my friends to start calling the authorities if they haven't heard from me in a few days, or take on a 9 to 5 job where I'm expected to show up, but that is not likely.
I like my life. Yes, I get lonely at times, but who doesn't? I've made choices that have set up my current circumstances, and being physically alone much of the time is one of the downsides. However, I do realize it is better to be alone that to feel lonely in a relationship that isn't really clicking. Or at least that's the story I'm telling myself at the moment.
So, in the end, taking it to the nth degree for me is to just keep living in line with my principles by choosing happiness, kindness, generosity and gratitude as my guiding forces. To choose connection over impressing others, meaning over glory. This way, at least I can look myself in the mirror while I'm still breathing.
After that, it really doesn't matter after that. Not to sound morbid, but if eating my face after I'm dead is what my Gracie needs to survive, she can have at it. That, too, lines up with my belief that we are all here to serve.