(Don’t) Follow the White Rabbit

Sometimes I think I’m slipping. Now, don’t try to give me reassurance. Once you hear this tale, you might just agree with me.

I was heading to work. I wasn’t late but I was still hurrying. I needed to get there as soon as possible. I tossed my lunch into my lunch bag and then remembered my jacket was in my bedroom. I hung the bag by the door, where it resides every night. I knew I was taking a risk – my lunch had been left hanging there many times before. But I was just going for my jacket. Surely…

I shrugged into the jacket as I headed back to the front door. There, I grabbed my purse and a folder I needed after work that I had deliberately left by my purse so it wouldn’t be forgotten. And then I slipped out the door and headed to the car. Without my lunch.

This isn’t what has me wondering about my sanity though. If that were an indication, I’ve been losing it for years. Besides, I would remember the lunch before making it all the way to work.

Reaching the car, I sat down and placed my purse and the folder in the passenger seat. I adjusted the seat forward a bit and then the mirrors. I tried to call Jane but the car’s bluetooth was connected to her phone rather than my own. I hadn’t realized the car’s range extended to her bedroom. I sat at the end of the driveway and mucked with the bluetooth settings until I was able to call her and pass on some piece of information or ask some question that I can’t recall now.

About halfway to work was when I realized I didn’t have my lunch. I called my husband in frustration. I had a meeting that morning that I still needed to prepare for. I didn’t have time to return home.

“I can bring it to you,” he said helpfully.

“But I’m in meetings all morning,” I responded. “Just forget it,” I sulked. “Just put it back in the fridge. I’ll just go hungry today.” Which was silly – we have a cafeteria.

“I can put it in an insulated bag and leave it in your car,” he said. “Oh, but wait. I don’t have a key to your car.”

“I’ll leave it unlocked for you,” I said, relieved that I’d get to eat my planned lunch after all. “And then you can lock it after you put the food in there.”

It was a deal. (Imagined) disaster averted. I finished the drive to work without incident.

Once there, I parked the car, gathered my purse, and opened the driver’s door. I glanced down as I did so and noticed an empty Coca-Cola can in the cup-holder of the door.

I’m going to have to talk to Jane about leaving crap like that in my car, I thought to myself. Something felt off, but I couldn’t think what. The important thing was that I get into work and prepare for the meeting. I locked the door and began the walk in, texting the location of the car to my husband.

Several parking aisles later, as I finished up the text, I realized I had locked the door. Idiot, I thought to myself, turning around to go unlock it. The kinder, gentler part of my brain complimented me for remembering it was locked before it was too late.

There was a problem though. When I got back to the aisle I knew I had parked in, my car was not there. I scanned the handful of cars. None of them was mine. I focused in more closely to the exact spot I thought I had parked in. There sat, not a sea-foam green Prius, which is what I drive, but a rich dark blue Prius.

The puzzle pieces all fell into place. I was looking at my husband’s car. I shouldn’t have had to adjust my seats or my mirrors if I had been in my car. I shouldn’t have had to connect my phone to the bluetooth. I should have noticed both the different exterior and interior colors. I should have noticed how much dustier and more cluttered the car was. I should have remembered, when I gazed at the Coke can, that my daughter can’t stand Coca Cola. She’s a Dr. Pepper girl, through and through. My husband, on the other hand… And, I realized incredulously, I should have noticed the large wooden rabbit with chipped and faded white paint that he keeps on the dash, right in front of the steering wheel. But I hadn’t. None of that had sunk in.

I turned back toward the building. No need to unlock the car now. So I called him.

“I just made your life a whole lot more difficult,” I said, not amused at all. “But at least you can get into the car to leave my lunch.” After a brief pause, I finished with disdain dripping from my voice, “I drove your car to work.”

Now, my husband has a joyous, life-filled belly laugh. This laugh burst through my phone and continued for – I swear – a good thirty seconds. I imagined he was having to wipe tears from his eyes.

“That’s OK,” he finally said. “I can just drive the truck.”

“I’m really getting worried about my mental stability,” I said. It had only been a few days since my daughter had surprised me (on his behalf) with three roses in a wide mouthed vase one morning. At the time I had thought, but not stated, that they looked rather forlorn – just three lone roses sagging to their respective edges of the vase. One for each kid.

That evening, when I came home from work, I commented on the baby’s breath and greenery now in the vase. The arrangement looked lovely.

“Where did you get the baby’s breath?” I had asked her.

“I haven’t touched those since last night,” she said.

“That other stuff wasn’t in the vase this morning,” I tried.

She looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m telling you mom, that stuff was there. I haven’t touched it.”

My mind was blown, but not nearly as blown as realizing I had managed to drive the wrong vehicle to work. Same make and model, but still. The wrong car.

In response to my stated concern, my husband said, still chuckling just a bit, “I think you’ve got a lot of miles left in you yet, babe.”

“Seriously, honey. My brain is kind of our livelihood. If it goes, we are in trouble.”

I told my story to some coworkers, who kindly told me they hadn’t noticed any problem in the meeting. So maybe it’s just what everyone else seems to think – I’ve been going at it too hard for too long in too many different areas of my life. I’m exhausted and it’s starting to show.

Maybe that’s it. But we all have our most deep-seated fears and I know what mine is. It’s the fear of losing my mind. Losing my grip on reality. Not being able to trust what my brain tells me. I know there are probably worse fates, but that’s the one that makes all the blood drain out of my face. Even worse knowing that, if it happens, I probably won’t even see it coming.

I’m still a little stunned. I remember taking a situational awareness test in a training class once. We were instructed to count how many times the people in the video passed the basketball to each other. While they passed the ball, a person in a gorilla suit jumped into the circle, waved its arms around, and then jumped out. I was one of the very few people in the class who had even noticed the gorilla. Everyone else was so focused on counting the passes that they had tuned everything else out. I now understand their disbelief when showed the video again. I now understand why some insisted the second video was different from what they watched the first time.

I can tell you one thing though. Whether I’m losing my mind or not, it’s one dang funny story to tell!

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