For years after the shooting I would play, what I call, the “What if” game. The rules of the game are easy. All you have to do is constantly run different terrible scenario through your mind then try to determine the outcome and what your response should be. It’s a wonderful game if you’re trying to drive yourself crazy. It can also make you not want to do anything because, lets face it, everything you do could have some negative outcome. I thought playing this game would make it easier, to cope with “that thing” that could and might happen, if I had already mentally played it out. Guess what? It doesn’t work. No matter how hard I tried to foresee and prepare for tragedy it would always sneak up and bite me in the butt. Life has an interesting way of giving surprises, both good and bad. Following the shooting this game has fluctuated in intensity throughout my life. What if I spin out of control and crash over the edge of a bridge while driving on slippery roads? What if my husband falls off the roof and is paralyzed? What if the theater starts on fire and everyone tramples me on the way to the door? What if the ice cracks open while we are ice fishing? What if someone decides to push me off this mountain I just hiked? This game can make you a prisoner.
After having children I found that playing the “What if game” was becoming more frequent and encompassing. I could feel the doors of living and enjoying life closing on me. Everything we did had some sort of threat attached. Beyond the fear of being shot at when I went to the store, movies, mall, or library, I was playing the “What if game” for me, my husband, and three children. I knew it was getting bad and I knew I had to make a decision. Live life and enjoy it or become a recluse. I didn’t think becoming a recluse was fair to my husband or children and I didn’t actually want to become one either. I wanted to have fun and experience life. So what did I do? I made myself do something that I was totally uncomfortable with, that held a lot of unknowns and possible threats, but would also be fun, rewarding, and adventurous. My husband and I booked a trip, flew with our three sons aged 4years-10months to the Bahamas, swam in the ocean, took a ferry, wondered streets we weren’t familiar with, rented a car and explored the city, got lost on the way to the airport and had a wonderful time. I did something that I wasn’t comfortable with and reminded myself life was worth living.
There are no guarantees of safety that come with life. I could have chosen to become a recluse and had a plane crash on my shack in the mountains, or a comet squish me flat. I could home school my kids, get my groceries delivered, never go anywhere or do anything and I might feel safer but I know that bad things can happen either way and I want to experience life and enjoy it. The risk is worth the reward. Do I still have fear and anxiety? Yes I do, but I know that when it comes to safety there are no guarantees and I accept that. As Taylor says to Landon in Planet of the Apes, “It’s a fact, Landon. Buy it. You’ll sleep better”. It’s true. Once I was able to say to myself, “You know what, someone may shoot you, you may get in a car accident, you or someone you love may get seriously injured or even die. All you can do is be smart, be safe and make good choices and leave the rest be.”, once I was able to let go of power I did not possess and accept my vulnerability, life became easier and more enjoyable to live. Sometimes we just have to say to ourselves, “It’s a fact. Buy it. You’ll sleep better.”