A funny thing happened on the way to the V Day party…

Yesterday (Valentine’s Day), I had what can only be described as a surreal experience. After taking me out to lunch and dropping me off at the homework club, hubs stepped out onto the club’s back stoop for a cigarette break before heading back out and found a gun in the trashcan out back.

When I called the community center to get someone to take a look at the trash (to be honest, I couldn’t tell if it was a lightweight, but real, handgun or just a really good toy copy – some of those toys are very realistic and it looked to be made out of plastic), the director told me that the cops were looking for it right that moment and boy were they happy to hear from me. Turns out, a guy had just done a runner through the development with the police on his heels, shedding armament and clothes as he fled. It was real (I guess it was a plastic-like composite of some sort), and some of his clothes were in there with it.

What was surreal about the whole thing wasn’t finding the gun. It was that at no time did it actually frighten me, make me worried for my safety (other than a slight concern about the safety for being in the vicinity of the firearm itself – criminals are known to disable safety mechanisms that prevent unintentional firing). Luckily, the gun itself was empty – the entire clip was gone – and the guy was nowhere around. I did lock the doors for the next half hour, but not so much out of fright (which I never did feel) as practicality – I just felt it to be the prudent thing to do under the circumstances since he was, to the best of my knowledge, still under pursuit in the area. Today, I walked through the development just like always and didn’t feel afraid or concerned for my safety at all.

I spent some of my later teen years in a neighborhood where you could conceivably walk out of your house and find a gun in the trash, although that never happened. At least one of the guys I knew fairly well (although never hung out with) went to prison for murder before he got out of his teens. I lived and played around drug dealers, hoods, thugs and back-alley gangs like I lived and played around potholes, broken glass and dangerous playground equipment – they were dangers, but they were known and visible dangers that you just adjusted around and knew better than to mess with.

And maybe that’s inoculated me to some degree. But I think it has more to do with the fact that over time I’ve just learned from my family that the results of living on fears of “what if” and “almost” are often far worse than the the object of the fears themselves.

A good portion of my family (myself included) have anxiety disorders to some degree or another, and my gran especially lives in a world haunted by near misses, extrapolated could’ve beens and imagined terrors. Something like this would have put her in bed for a week from the fear and stress. She frets and worries unendingly about real things that happen to herself and others, even events that have long passed or that the person so afflicted shrugged off as no big deal, and when nothing is going wrong she even sits around and imagines bad things that could happen to her and those around her, and from all appearances she suffers as much from these imaginings as she does from actual bad events.

I don’t want to be her. Or my mom, for that matter, who does much of the same thing just in different ways (when she’s a passenger with me driving, she has to close her eyes or pull her shirt over them, and this is my rule as much as her own preference because otherwise she’ll cause a wreck flinching and yelling about perfectly harmless and distant traffic she perceives as coming down on us like a Sherman tank. Her brain should come with a sticker that says “Objects in this reality are much farther away and going far slower than they appear. And no, they’re not actually in your lane.”).

I decided long ago, in a direct rejection of their dread-filled lives, to live my life in such a way that I would have no regrets were I to die at any given time, and in the interim to do my best to fear only that which presents a clear and present danger, and that only to the extent that it actually deserves and only until I have moved to do something about it. I resolved not to worry about things that were not my responsibility to deal with.Every day I strive to ensure that I leave nothing unsaid that I would regret not saying, and say nothing I would regret letting out. And I am determined to live every day as if it actually could be my last. Every day when we part, I kiss hubby goodbye and let him know I love him, and every day I mean it wholeheartedly. I thank and appreciate and compliment when I feel the urge, even if it feels “silly” or gushy or awkward. I have fun when I can, and care less if others think I’m frivolous or childish (and am continually and pleasantly surprised when they don’t). I have ceased to work for people and purposes that don’t suit my own needs, passions and integrity. I try to focus my energies on accomplishing the things I want out of my life to the best of my ability and to go to bed at night unconcerned about what lies unfinished, knowing that I have done what I could with what I have in the time I possess. Oh, I have plans for the future, sure, and things I’d love to accomplish, see or experience before I go. But these are just sprinkles on the cupcake of a continually complete, fulfilling life. Not so much extras as condiments that add a little extra spice and color to something that is, none the less, quite whole and pleasant without them.

My lack of fear or even much anxiety surrounding this event brought home to me just how far I’d come toward making those goals a reality in my life. In the end, although finding a recently-ditched gun was worrisome to the extent that I was initially concerned about my direct physical safety (until I saw the empty space where the clip would go), my main reaction was relief that hubs had found it and not the kids. Because it was damned cold out and I certainly would not have been out on the back porch for any reason – however the kids did indeed go out to play that day with a volunteer and they all tramped out through the back door where one can easily see down into the cans that sit next to the steps. If hubs hadn’t seen it when he did, one of them would have and then the whole gang would have been all over it before any adult could have stopped them. Once it was found and the authorities alerted, however, I went back to my task of making the Valentine’s Day cake, unconcerned.

And that, as far as I’m concerned, is just how it should be.

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