Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Living in the "What If" World

            I spend a lot of time thinking; too much probably. It’s something I can’t turn off and the thoughts sometimes are extremely random. Being able to think in video makes it all the more difficult.

            But shouldn’t being able to see in video picture a good thing? Ha! It would be if it could be switched on and off, but it can’t and it is very tiresome. Everywhere I go I’m playing out situations. Every flight I’m on I’m thinking about what will happen if the left wing hits the ground, the right wing, or if an engine stalls. I play out potential for survival, the amount of pain I might feel, and anything in between that could happen. It’s a flood of thoughts. Yes, I’m sure those that are afraid to fly have similar thoughts as the plane starts its journey down the runway, but I’m not afraid to fly.

            If I walk into a store I subconsciously note where the exits are in case of a fireman or gunman in the store. The thoughts start to the extreme and work backwards. Consider this a sort of self predicting mechanism. If I can think of every possibility I will already know my contingency plan.

            Having a plan for everything sounds great too, doesn’t it. Again, I say “Ha!” as there is no way one can prepare for everything. Also, my mind puts so many resources into thinking about what lies ahead that often times I miss the now. Once I miss the now I have to consider what I missed and then I have to fill in some blanks, and there could be many blanks, and I must consider each blank and by the time all is said and done it’s one week later.

            During the 2004 Summer Olympics I asked my dad, during dinner, “What would happen if someone attacked the marathon leader? Would they give him a medal? Would the race be stopped? Could it happen? What would happen to the attacker?” I have no idea how my dad has put up with these lines of questions because I’ve done this my entire life.

            After dinner, while watching the marathon, my “what if” scenario became a reality. A defrocked Irish priest, who in 2003 disrupted the F1 race at Silverstone by getting onto the track and getting in the cars’ way, broke out of the crowd and tackled the marathon leader, Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil. Shaken and shocked the runner forged on afterwards in an event that cost him nearly 20 seconds. I’m not sure about you, but if someone jumped out of nowhere and tackled me I’d want to find a corner to crawl into and have a crying session. Cry he did not though and he went on to finish 3rd. He may have won gold though, but the organizers did not award him that. They did, in something in my “what if” thinking didn’t realize they could do, award him the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for sportsmanship.

            My dad had adamantly told me during that 2004 dinner that something like that could never happen, but it did. My mind can’t turn this off, and in all aspects of like I typically like to be right, but not when my mind calculates these negative situations.

            These situations can be big, or small. Every conversation I have gets played out during the conversation. Think about the fear I have as I always start with the extreme. The extreme would be that I am going to make them bad and I’m going to be punched in the face, or worse.

            I wonder if other people with an autism spectrum disorder experience this. I think this could be mistaken as an anxiety disorder because it does create anxiety, but only from what could be. Rarely am I afraid of what is, but because I am so bad at knowing what the current social situations are I must prepare and predict for myself.

            I am wrong more often than I’m right because most of the time, well, nearly all of the time my mind doesn’t get to the normal outcome that is most often the case. Anytime I hear “Breaking News” on the television I instantly play out what it could be from the time I hear those two frightening words to when they actually say what it is. I will think “Nuclear war? Hoover Dam collapsed? Terrorist attack? Terrorist attack in Omaha? Duluth? New York? Fiji? Is a comet about to hit the Earth? Asteroid? Was there an earthquake? Tsunami? Zombies? Did the markets collapse?” I remind you I have all these flashes of thoughts in just a split second. I’m often disappointed I went through all the trouble, but often relieved when I find out that their concept of breaking news is a celebrity in trouble with the law.

            I hope I have conveyed just how tiresome it is living in the world of “what if…” There is no off switch and I can see, like a movie, all the events that I said when I hear breaking news. Sadly though, unlike a scary movie, I can’t simply close my eyes and make it go away. In my case, when I close my eyes, I can actually see the “what if…” even clearer. Let me say this again, thank goodness I’m wrong most the time because if I were right, those comets, or zombies would’ve wreaked havoc on us more times than anyone would care to think about.

            If my mind had a movie preview it’d be this, “In a world where tsunami surfing zombies carrying live nuclear warheads…” Wow, what if that’s the oddest thing I’ve ever played out…


  1. Aaron, you are not the only one who thinks like this. I don't mention it often because I grew up the the era of the hippies and have been accused of "drawing bad karma to you, man, when you think like that..." So hardly anyone knows I have an active shooter plan for church, the mall, the freeway, the local starbucks, etc. We have plans for fire, flood, lack of electricity, snow closures, earthquake (Juan de Fuca plate movement as well as smaller quakes), tsunami avoidance when at the coast, volcano, bombs, sheltering in place, bugging out, etc. I took Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and now locate all exits when I am in any building, noting them well enough that I can find my way out in the dark (practice with closed eyes helps), and I don't let the raised eyebrows from people watching bother me. I will be the one they yell to help for when they can't help themselves. Someone needs to have a plan and be in charge. I have used the active shooter in the mall plan with a friend when we were walking and heard a loud bang like that of a gun in an enclosed place. Both of us looked up, located the nearest exit and left. Turns out a large display had fallen over. Being prepared for something worse didn't hurt us. Having a plan means I don't have to be the one screaming when something happens.

  2. And to add to my comment, I sometimes have a hard time turning off the plans. Most of the time I can ignore them or put them in the back of my mind. Running them all the time would be hard.