THE MUSEUM OF ABSURD FEARS
EXHIBIT #06 – Subtle Synesthesia

 

FEAR OF THE WEEK: Making a decision about how to color-code my calendar

 

Schedules, like gender, are a social construct that are imposed upon us through a loosely defined criteria that is honestly rather arbitrary. All this to say that that my grand scheme of posting these every Saturday is unlikely to sustain, so we’re just gonna keep aiming for 1 a week, roughly, depending on how everything else is going. This week, let’s go with something a little more light-hearted than last entry’s self-deprecation and personal failures, eh?

When I was growing up, as a homeschooled kid, my curriculum packets were color-coded in a spectrum that happened to match the spectrum that a lot of spiral-bound notebooks come in – red, yellow, green, blue, purple –  and if I needed a miscellaneous notebook, black. Of course, I have always had a very strong sense of #aesthetic,* so I made sure to color-coordinate my notebooks, and my post-its, and my highlighters, and so each particular color ended up being distinctively tied to that subject. In middle and and high school, when I moved from homeschooling to a slightly cult-y religiously-affiliated private school, I continued my original color-coding scheme, despite the fact that it didn’t always match to the textbooks that my new curriculum used. By this point, you see, it was no longer about aesthetic…these subjects were these colors. What I did not realize until much later, thanks probably to the terrifying bowels of the internet known as Tumblr, was not only that other people did this, but took it really really seriously. Like, ugly-name-calling-in-the-comments-fights-about-what-color-maths-is seriously.** So clearly, I was, and am, not alone in color having strong significance.

Now that I am finally out of school,*** the color-association game has manifested itself into other facets of my life. While my physical notebooks are usually now black or purple and serving as catch-alls, I do tend to assign each play or writing project a color that I think of it in, a holdover from when I was still storing all my notes and research in OneNote. Now, as I slowly move everything over to Drive files, the colors still pop up here and there, but less prominently than they once did. However, there is one place where I cannot escape the color-based system…

Google Calendar.

Now, here’s the thing you have to understand about how I use the ol’ GCal: I survive entirely on part-time and freelance gig-based employment, including 3-4 regular employers and an ongoing rotation of random gigs. In a noble effort to make sure I always show up at the right place on the right day at the right time, I generally give each regular gig its own color-specific calendar, plus a few floating options for one-offs, personal appointments, and so on. This entire system evolved out of an attempt to alleviate my anxiety about missing scheduled dates or being late, but it has created a whole new problem in the form of color-coding.

As I’ve hopefully made clear in these silly musings, I very strongly associate colors to organizational structures. It makes it easy for me to understand the concept of synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon where certain cognitive pathways lead involuntarily to alternate secondary pathways, such as perceiving letters and numbers as having inherent colors. I don’t have this condition, but it makes sense to me as I spend hours every week staring at schedules and trying to make sense of them. I would love to choose the easy and logical route of picking colors that match, say, the logos of the institutions for which I work…sadly, they all seem to be red and black, which does little to allow me to differentiate them from one another. Instead, I try to employ a slightly more random system based simply on a color palette that I don’t hate staring at, but even then I constantly question my choices. What if I get more work than I expect from the Green job, and it starts to overwhelm the Blue job? I made that gig Orange because I don’t take it much, so if it suddenly becomes full-time do I risk changing the color or just suck up the glare of the warm palette? Does the lack of Purple bode ill for my social life?

This hangup about calendar colors seems to get right to the heart of the whole idea of absurd fears. It’s entirely inconsequential, and entirely within my own control, and yet I just wrote an entire blog post musing about the level of anxiety it causes me. Whelp, what doesn’t kill me will at least keep me on-time for work, I guess.

 

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* Even if the actual choices I made were dubious – there was a long phase of ribbons worn as chokers, and an even longer phase of long-sleeve shirts under tee-shirts, both of which were tragically photo-documented if you dig hard enough.

** Maths is red, in case you were wondering.

*** For now…

THE MUSEUM OF ABSURD FEARS
EXHIBIT #03 – Over/Under-Analysis

 

FEAR OF THE WEEK: Dealing with the compost/recycling/trash wrong. Or the toilet paper. Or the dishes. Or whatever.

 

It’s an age-old debate: does the toilet paper roll over or under? It seems like an innocuous question, and yet friendships have ended, relationships been broken, wars been waged* over the correct way to place the roll. We all have strong opinions about which way we prefer the roll, and which way is wrong and only used by heathens. And despite the fact that I know I’m right, I dread the day I will be forced to defend my position on appropriate TP etiquette.

Okay, so this was all very dramatic.** Realistically, your toilet tissue roll preferences are probably just determined by A) how your mom did it, B) whether you have cats and/or small children, or C) simply how you slid the roll onto the holder because you’re one of the lucky lucky few who actually doesn’t care. But it’s still something that people tend to fixate on, and something that people are oddly likely to notice in other’s people’s bathrooms. I know I do, especially because I, maybe weirdly, am one of those people who will root around in someone else’s bathroom to find a spare roll if the one on the holder is running low. And if I chance to replace the roll, which I have absolutely no shame in doing, I replace it in exactly the direction of the previous roll, because I don’t want to start a fight over toilet paper.

I do this with recycling and compost too. If I’m hanging out at a friend’s house, or know I’ll be housesitting for someone, I will get almost obsessive trying to pay attention to how they handle divvying up the trash/recycling/compost.*** Do they rinse their cans and bottles before they put them in the bin? Where do paper cups go? Do they separate the colored glass from the clear? How are cardboard boxes handled? Will we get fined by the city if we do it wrong!?!?

This is silly, and I know it. As long as I’m following basic common sense of wet vs dry, biodegradable vs recyclable, and so on, it really shouldn’t matter if I do I slightly differently from the rest of the household, right? I mean, even in my own house, I am nitpicky about different things that my mother or my sister, and we haven’t killed each other,**** so why would it be different anywhere else.

The answer, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is actually a mixture of wanting to avoid conflict, and fear of being judged. In the first place, I don’t want to get yelled at for handling (or rather, not handling) basic adult concepts like “where does the empty whiskey bottle go” in a way that makes me seem, well, unable to adult. (Ask the parents of my favorite cat-sittees about the time they were in Mexico on vacation and I texted them to ask if there was a spare car key so I could move their car to get the recycling out to the curb for pickup and I’m pretty sure they just laughed at me.) And then, there’s just the weird, niggling voice in the back of my brain that says that everyone’s opinions of me with be permanently set to negative based solely on their assessment of how well I rinse the dishes before I load a dishwasher.*****

As is becoming (and will continue to be) a common refrain in these posts – I realize this is ridiculous. It is highly unlikely that I’m ever going to lose a friend, or a job, or the respect of someone I care about, because I don’t always separate the plastic bottle cap from the plastic bottle before I toss it in the bin. So the trick is to find away to allow myself to just…handle these household necessities as I think is appropriate, and if something needs to change, to allow the friend/homeowner/mom in charge to let me know without fearing repercussion. In conclusion, I think this diagram sums up my feelings best:

Toilet Paper Patent

Just sayin’.

 

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*According to the internet, which we all know is 100% accurate all the time.

**OR WAS IT!?

*** For the two people who don’t know me that well, I live in a county of California where separating trash, recycling, and compost is mandatory. Save the planet, y’all; Mars isn’t habitable right now.

**** Yet.

***** I am my mother’s daughter and I scrub dishes with soap before putting them in a dishwasher, which I’m telling you because this blog experiment is about being vulnerable and opening myself up to judgement from others evenifitmeansyouallthinkI’mnuts.

THE MUSEUM OF ABSURD FEARS
EXHIBIT #02 – Dead in a Ditch

 

FEAR OF THE WEEK: Disappearing and not having my family have any idea what happened.

 

“Are you home?”
“Nope, dead in a ditch on the side of the road.”
“Okay. If you happen to stop by a store on the way home, can you grab some lettuce?”

Variants of this are pretty common text exchanges in my family. Given our propensity for generally morbid humor and a generally flippant attitude toward death, anyone who knows us would be less than surprised. Add to that the fact that my parents pretty much stopped checking on what time I would be home when I was seventeen*, and I’ve often joked that I could go missing and it would be days before it dawned on anyone.

Now, on the note of morbidity, anyone who has known me longer than a minute probably also knows I grew up on a steady diet of murder mysteries and crime shows and am very much a “murderino,” the title coined by the podcast My Favorite Murder to describe those obsessed with true crime. However, as with any interest, I have specific flavors I prefer over others:

  • Serial killers? Awesome.
  • Bizarre murders? Definitely.
  • Survivor stories? Yeah, sure.
  • Unsolved crimes? YIKESYIKESYIKES.

Yeah, the unsolved cases are not so much my thing. A few of the more historical ones are alright, but the nearer we get to the present, the more freaked out I get, especially my least favorite variant: missing persons. Sure, they’re fascinating, but I personally find them far more unsettling than even the most bizarrely gruesome murders.

So, as I alluded to in my first post, it was a missing person story that originated the whole idea of the Absurd Fears. My latest listening binge has been a paranormal/ crime themed podcast called And That’s Why We Drink, and the first case they covered that I had never heard of was the case of Maura Murray, a 21-year old nursing student who disappeared in 2001. Since I both pride myself on my knowledge of weird things and I’m apparently a glutton for terrifying myself, I immediately turned down the Wikipedia rabbit hole to read about this case. For those of you smarter than me who want to save yourselves , here is the brief summary you need to understand where I’m going with the rest of this post:

  • She packed up her car and left on an unexplained trip with an unclear purpose and destination.
  • A handful of people met her on a snowy road where she had crashed her car, including one man who called the police to help her.
  • By the time the police showed up, she was gone.
  • To this day, no one knows if she ran away, was abducted, was murdered, or anything else in between. She literally just vanished.

“But,” I can hear you saying. “Going missing or being abducted is a perfectly rational fear. It doesn’t belong in this exhibit.”

Oh ho, my friends, but you see: my great overwhelming fear in this whole scenario is not that I go missing. No, the thing that keeps this absurd is that the really specific fear I have is my family having to spend the rest of their lives arguing over what they think happened and whether or not to keep looking for me.

I think this weirdo fear comes from my type-A personality need for closure – for example, I almost always have to finish books that I start even if I don’t enjoy them, for completionism sake. There’s probably also a lot of projection here, because I myself hate not having all the information I need in any situation (stage manager brain, I guess), and this would be basically the most extreme possible version of that.

But I think the other reason that this oddly specific preoccupation bothers me, is that it’s one of the only components in this scenario that I might not have any control over. Presuming I’m the one who goes missing, there could be any number of reasons why, and in spinning the gears of the 40,000 possible scenarios that have led to my theoretical disappearance in this overblown thought experiment, the vast majority of them have at least the possibility that I can attempt to do something to mitigate my end of the mystery, be it leaving evidence of an abduction, to literally leaving a note that says “I left on purpose so don’t look for me.” However, I can’t do anything about how people respond it it.

So, that’s more or less my theory about why in spite of my overwhelming interest in true crime, I still hate missing persons cases and get the most freaked out by the least likely obvious aspect of them. So I guess on the relative scale of of absurd fears, this one’s not the most unhealthy to manage.

On the other hand, maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something…

 

———-

 

*To be fair, I did not have a driver’s license until I was twenty-three or thereabouts, so if I was out late I was with a driving friend, all of whom were terrified of disappointing my parents.

THE MUSEUM OF ABSURD FEARS
EXHIBIT #01 – Committing Out Loud

 

FEAR OF THE WEEK: Picking a topic to blog about that will last a whole year.

 

One of my goals in 2017 that never quite came to fruition was to get in the practice of consistently blogging. While I will say that I did a much better job of at least making quick updates about various theatrical projects I was involved with, I was never particularly consistent, nor did I ever really achieve the actual intent of my goal which was to generate more writing and share it, both for professional reasons (hi yes look I can words please hire me) and personal ones (committing to writing on a schedule and holding myself accountable by making at least some of it public).

So, in early December, I started spitballing ideas with myself about how to accomplish that goal for 2018. I quickly come to a few decisions that I knew would make things easier:

  • I needed to commit to at least one post a week.
  • I needed to post on a consistently scheduled day.
  • I needed to pick a theme for the weekly blog.

Now, I’m sure this all seems extremely obvious to anyone who has ever accidentally clicked a pretty graphic on Pinterest promising you 10 Hot Tips to Make Your Food/Fashion/Mommy Blog Successful, but I’m usually writing scripts in the darkness of my lady-cave, and the rules are different because A) not one sees them until they’re done and B) they’re fictional stories. So, I knew it was important for me to give myself parameters, just like writing a script on spec, so that I could stay on track. I also knew that, lest the dreaded “writer’s block” set in, I needed a theme so that I always has some baseline idea from which my content could come.

So now, with these incredibly obvious but reassuring guidelines laid out for myself, I spent the rest of December preparing for this endeavour the way I imagine most people would: I panicked.

If the list above was the incredible successful brainstorm I had about the preview of the project, then below is more or less the way every other brainstorm I had for the entire rest of the month went:

  • What do I wanna write about?
  • No not that.
  • Or that.
  • I can’t come up with blog posts about that for an entire year.
  • Actually, I totally could.
  • But nobody wants to read my thoughts about that.
  • Ooh, I love this thing!
  • But there are so many people who are more expert at that than me-

Lather, rinse, repeat 2-3 times a week for the rest of the month. New Year’s Day 2018 dawned, and I had no grand idea to publicly shout from the top of Mount Facebook in order to hold myself accountable.

After a brief interlude on the 2nd to the whole day involuntarily emitting a quiet high-pitched scream as I tried to crank out as many additional pages of a draft due that day as possible, I found myself cycling back around to this idea of a weekly blog. I spun my mental wheels for a few more days, and continued to veto every idea that came up.

  • Too niche
  • Unsustainable
  • Boring
  • Requires more research time than I can guarantee right now
  • There are better experts at on this topic than me-

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then one night, I was looking up a Wikipedia article about a topic from one of many true crime podcasts I listen to. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s got to be one of my worst fears-”

And I stopped myself, because it dawned on me that the part of this case that I found the worst would probably sound completely absurd to anyone else, at least in comparison to everything else.*

So then when Friday rolled around and I realized I was about to miss the first week of the year and I needed to just pick something to blog about for the love of anything, I couldn’t get the idea of absurd fears out of my head. Not irrational fears or phobias, things that are psychologically rooted in a fear response even though there’s no inherent trigger or trauma behind them, but the kinds of bizarre or outlandish or unlikely things that pop up in my daily life and somehow end up becoming a horrifying fixation for no real reason. Like, trying to commit to a topic for a blog that, at best, three people will probably read.**

So, with that horribly long-winded introduction out of the way, welcome to The Museum of Absurd Fears, my new blog project where I explore the stupid, weird, and inexplicably-panic-inducing fears in my life. It’s gonna be gross, and personal, and probably really boring some weeks, but it’s an experiment that I’m committing myself to publicly for a full year, and I invite you to come along with me. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to the root of some of these absurd fears and make them, well…less scary.

 

———-

 

*Yes, I am being purposefully vague because I’m going to write about that fear in-depth for a later post – stay tuned?

** I am definitely watching comments all over to see if I am correct about which three, so please tell me if you do read, I just wanna see if I guessed correctly

It’s been a year.
Lots of good things, LOTS of rough things, and hopefully lots of changes to come, so what better anthem to start off with?

Welcome to 2018 everyone!