i’m fine, me too, we’re fine, and how are you? hello.

Phil was at the club, the beans in “kids club,” and I was at home with a cold. I took a shower. As soon as I stepped in, once the water slid through my hair, I imagined a man with a navy blue ski cap pulled over his head holding a knife. Or maybe a gun. It wouldn’t matter. An intruder. I have thoughts like that a lot. Not so much that it makes a noticeable impact on my life, but every now and again. Walking down the street in New York, I sometimes imagined a bullet being shot through the back of my head.

I haven’t learned my house yet. In the house of my childhood, I knew every step. I could walk the house in the dark and know when a banister would end, if there was another step up. Where the hinges were on the door. I could race through that house, weaving between furniture, chasing through rooms, and I loved its sounds when it was time to sleep. I thought I heard the attic sometimes. Not that anything happens in an attic, besides storage, but I thought I could hear the wood.

I could feel the garage beneath my bedroom. In the morning, when I heard Poppa march down the stairs, deactivate the house alarm, and open the front door, I knew it was 6:30AM. I heard his steps crunch in our pebble driveway, and I knew how many steps it would take back inside the house from there, where the morning paper had been. I’d still have a few more minutes in bed before my alarm. I’d try to remember my dreams. They were never of being shot in the head. I dreamed of an enormous fish the size of a whale with fangs, somehow coming after me through the faucet in my bathtub. I didn’t dream of death, though.

In my house now, I don’t know the steps. Sometimes I worry I’ll miss one, fall down them and die. Then last night, while falling asleep I thought, “When I die, if they have to cut me open to do some kind of autopsy, I hope they remove some of the fat. Grab at least four handfuls. It’s the least they could do.” But I’m dead. I’m not even in there anymore, why would you even care? Because I don’t want to be remembered as fat. What do you want to be remembered as then?

Then I turned over and tried to think of something else so I could get some sleep. But I couldn’t. I want to be remembered for my cooking, I thought, for the way I sing, maybe, how strong I made my children, to be remembered as the woman who wanted to give Abigail the middle name Brave. As someone who touched others lives in a way that rendered my time here worth it. My time here necessary. That I was a small, but crucial cog in the universe. I want to be remembered for my creativity, I guess, but it’s okay if no one thinks of that first. What would I want them to think of first when thinking of who I was? To those who knew me well, I’d want to be remembered as someone who loved them unconditionally–no, I’d want them to know it in their bones, that they were loved fiercely. For those who knew me peripherally, I’d want them to think, in a strange way, that I made their life better. That I inspired and gave someone a little hope. That I lived life passionately, without stops. To be remembered as someone who enriched the world around her. Enlivened it. I have never, not even once, thought “I want to be remembered as someone beautiful.” Who cares about that?

And on what do I choose to focus while I am here? My double chins. My external appearance. And I’ll admit it, when I learn of someone successful, someone who does enrich the world around her, who brings integrity and humor at the strangest of times, if I see her photo, and she’s fat, it somehow means less. That’s so messed up.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I think, today could be my last day. I could get hit by an out of control car, and the car would go over the cliff. We have cliffs here. Windy roads with ledges. Or I think, what if I hit a deer. What would I do? Who do you call if you hit a deer? Do you get out of your car to see if it’s okay? I would assume so. Of course you do, you idiot. These are the things I think about, a lot, or maybe just every now and again. I suppose it’s relative. I thought it was normal, but when I asked Phil if he ever thought these things he looked at me like my teeth were made of corn, and my eyes were maybe hubcaps. He’d never seen anyone so strange, with a mailbox mouth. I’m not normal. But we all know there is no normal. Still, I’m fine with being not normal.



  1. I have such thoughts on occasion too. I think it might have something to do with being a woman and therefore more vulnerable. My husband travels a lot for work and it drives me crazy with worry. Sometimes I think, is this the last time I will see him? But, we all could be hit by a bus (I actually know someone who was fatally hit by a bus near their house) and there is only so much control over life we have so you might as well live your life to the fullest.

  2. Actually, I didn't hit the deer – he hit me, and no I didn't get out to check, I heard the "thump" of him hit the pavement and then heard him running in the woods, but you better believe after I saw the damage he did to my car, I did drive right back down the road, and to my dissapointment did not see him dead on the side.

  3. I really thought I was a bit crazy for thinking things like that too. I think, what would I do if my husband died in a car wreck on the way home (since he is usually driving home from work around 1:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings)? Or what if I were kidnapped while walking my dog? Specifically I think about what the kidnappers would do with my dog. Would they take her with me or leave her? I, too, tend to only do this when I am alone. I've never really told anyone about these thoughts because I don't particularly like them so I can't say if other people I know think it is normal or not. But, you aren't the only one.

  4. Funny you should mention the deer thing. Hubs and I hit a deer on the way to an anniversary dinner, needless to say, it ruined the evening- I could not eat. All I could think of were images of the deer on the side of the road, writhing in pain. I made him call the local police to "take care of it". I made him call back to be sure they were handling it. It was horrible and still haunts me to this day. The following day, hubs drove by to see if the deer was there, for my peace of mind. It was gone.

  5. I know the feeling of thinking you're not quite normal (in a good way). I can be looking at a floor and out pops faces! The floor has to be marble or textured and I see these faces in the patterns. Should I be telling people this?! The other day I saw Carmen Miranda with the full head-dress of fruit on her head! Anyway, I think of it as an artistic perk! not really abnormal at all.

  6. I totally think of that stuff. Case in point, my husband was working till 3 last night and I kept picturing waking up with a crazed person standing above me. I picture myself being tortured, raped, kidnapped because that is basically my biggest fear or actually having all that stuff happen to my little sister is even scarier.
    Men are different. I'm sure Phil is frightened that something terrible may happen to you or the beans but I don't think they worry as much as women. Where as I'm sure a good 95% of your readers will say Amen sister, I hear ya. Of course there will be those few crazies calling you out as always.

  7. I always have morbid thoughts like that. As I drive home from work I think to myself, "If that truck hit me, could I pull my legs up so they wouldn't get crushed?"

    I also think horrible things are going to happen when my boyfriend or a family member is driving somewhere long distance. I have those thoughts because my mom was killed by a drunk driver when I was 7, but I think a lot of the other morbid ideas just come from my weird imagination.

    A little from column A, a little from column B.

  8. I think about the car crash stuff all the time. When I'm driving long distances especially. I think about how we could get in an accident at any moment and be gone. I don't try to dwell on that stuff too much though, an overactive imagination is not always a good thing.
    When I was young I used to wonder, if I died, what my funeral would be like- who would come, how sad would they be? But I think that was just an adolescent popularity wish type thought.
    I agree with Leigha- Men are different, that don't overthink as much or even really think as much about the specific ways accident, death, pain can happen.

  9. Oh, and to Jane…I see pictures and faces in wood panels all the time. My niece does too. We used to play "I see a ____. Can you find it?" It's kind of fun. My Gram's shower has faux marble stuff and I always see the "naked man from behind…just from the top of his back to his ankles."

    Ok, two comments is a lot for me. Plus, I don't want to expose all of my weirdness. =)

    FROM STEPHANIE: I write about this in Moose. I did that and still do all the time. I call them everyday psych tests.

  10. I have random scary thoughts frequently too so you're definitely not alone. Not sure why..it's probably not very productive…oh well! :)

  11. You're certainly not alone in concocting these doomed mental scenarios. I think it's something we do maybe to prepare for the worst in some way. Many people have a sense of morbidity. As awful as it is to think of such things it's sometimes inescapable. Why do we read news stories about unspeakable crimes? Not to delight in others pain. We do it because on some level we realize the randomness of it all, of life, and we are enthralled by. It's like standing on the edge of a scenic cliff while holding onto a guardrail.

    I will say this: I believe in the power of our thoughts. On some level we attract what we think about so I am careful not to get too distracted by my morbid 'Mad Libs' version of 'what ifs'.

  12. I have similar thoughts as well, and I actually thought that I was the only one.
    I hate taking showers when I'm home alone, sometimes I leave my bathroom door open and my dog waits for me right outside the bathroom but then i think to myself " great I just made it easier for him to get to me".

  13. i, too, had those thoughts. often. step in the shower and suddenly the man who has been hiding in the house has his moment. irrational but there.
    sleep deprived from thinking of my own death and how i'd be remembered.
    must be a woman thing. wanting to create those ripples in the world, yet wanting to be overlooked for them now. vulnerable enough to love, but not so vulnerable that we're hurt.

  14. This is geared more toward the first paragraph. I do this all the time. I actually devise escape plans. One of those plans involves a chain ladder from under our bed, it attaches to the third floor window of our house. The only catch is how do I hold onto my 60lb dog as I climb down. Yikes, my hands are sweating just thinking about it.

  15. When I was a little girl growing up in Texas, my dad and I were driving somewhere together when three deer hit his truck. One landed on the hood and shattered the windshield. Glass was everywhere. My dad made sure I was okay and pulled over to check on the deer. Two were dead and the third was gravely injured. The policeman arrived but refused to discharge his weapon to put the animal out of its misery. My dad was so angry with him. He couldn't bear to see the deer suffer so he took his knife and killed the animal himself. My dad is a gentle soul. I was so proud of his quiet strength.

  16. Those of us who are introspective or philosophical are often not considered normal because we can't help but analyze what others consider life's minutia.

    I've learned to love those areas of my life that I'm a bit 'different' because I look so standard from the outside. Someone told me that I looked pretty and one-dimensional and then I open my mouth and the other 12 dimensions appear. I chose to take it as a complement.

  17. Oh my god, I think about that kind of shit all the time, driving down the street in south philly – I'm always afraid i'll get hit with a bullet through my car window. Or yes, someone will break into my house while I'm in the shower. Or, when i'm on a plane it will suddenly explode. Okay, that's a little extreme but i do think of that..then i make a funny face like it's actually happening to me. I think i watch the news too much.

  18. I have some really wacky thoughts if I have alot of time to think. My biggest fear of death is having a plane crash into my home…… You are like this because you are very creative and have imagination, that's why you are so talented!

  19. I do think that its very interesting that we focus in THE NOW, so much on our appearance, calories, love handles, etc. but everything that people who know and love care about has nothing to do with any of that. And you're right when I die, I would NEVER ever want to just be remembered for nice hair, pretty eyes or toned legs. I would want ot be remembered for my heart and my integrity, my passion,creativity. etc. Maybe if those things were things everyone could SEE we would realize how important they are everyday, beyond the surface.

    Great post and you, absolutely inspire me.

  20. This reminds me of my older sister. Growing up, we often took trips to town with our grandma to do some shopping, and I always got an Icee to drink on the way home. One day as I'm enjoying my frozen drink, my sister looks at me and says, "What if we got in a carwreck, and the wreck didn't kill you. But the straw your drinking out of went straight through your head and killed you?" I was afraid to drink in the car after that. Still to this day I think about that straw going through my skull. Thanks sis! This same older sister is also the one who made me read her Green Eggs & Ham everytime she took a bath to occupy her mind from the alligators and sharks living down our drainpipe.

  21. I drive my husband crazy with these kind of thoughts. He says that my nickname is 'noid, as in paranoid. I am always thinking that he or all three of our children will die in some horrible way. I don't know why I do this but I do.

  22. Since we are on the topic of death. I've got a gruesome secret to share. This is going to sound horribly weird and morbid, but I'm fairly positive I'm going to die in a car crash. I'll get T-boned by a large truck or SUV. I told Derek this and he got really upset and said he didn't want to talk about it. It feels weird to type it – like I just sealed my fate. I hope I'm really old when it happens.

  23. My semi-crazy everyday thought is that I will trip from my high heels and smash my teeth. It's always the teeth.

  24. I always think about that stuff. Forex, this could be the last election year I witness. Probably not, but one of them will be. BTW, I read your blog but don't usually comment. Love your writing and photos. Congratulations on the beans and books!

  25. I had to stop reading the comments, I was getting too many new scary scenarios stuck in my head.

    I do this too. It started when my first daughter was about three months old. These horrible thoughts, created entirely by me, were driving me crazy (I thought). My husband's advice was to say "that's not going to happen" every time one came creeping up on me, and eventually that worked. It's started again this year (my daughter is nearly 10) and I think it's because everything is going so well in my life, I'm convinced the bubble is going to burst.

    I agree with ATX who commented above about the power of our thoughts, so I'm back to repeating my mantra… that's not going to happen, that's not going to happen. Sometimes I say it out loud.

  26. Having recently (within the course of my current pregnancy) been treated for cancer, I can tell you I think about this stuff all the time. There is always a chance the cancer could come back, and so it hangs over my head all the time. And if it's not cancer, it's other scenarios. I envision the many way an intruder could get into our house. I wonder if I would have my son in my arms or if he would grab him and use him as leverage against me, if I would scream or try to talk him out of it, if I would beg for mercy as a pregnant woman. And it's not just me. If my husband is late coming home from work, I start to imagine the police coming to my door. I imagine how I'd react, who I'd call first, what exactly I'd say. How I'd get our son to bed that night, what I'd tell him.

    And then I begin to imagine being gone – the day-to-day logistics of it. I wonder if my husband would be able to follow my recipes, if he would be able to follow the filing system I set up for our bills and papers, if my sons would remember me, what would happen to them without a mother. It's incredibly heartbreaking for me, now that I'm a mother, to imagine myself dying before I'm old.

    I like to think it's probably healthy to harbor some sense of our mortality, but this just feels morbid sometimes.

  27. my parents rarely flew together because they didn't want anything to happen to both of them. strange, but i suppose it gave me lots of other morbid food for thought.

    occasionally i'm driving along and i'll think, 'what if i don't make it home?' … or i'll wonder who will take care of my dog, whether my parents will go through my cell phone to tell all the contacts in my address book that i'm dead. i'll wonder which friends will come to my funeral.

    twisted stuff, but i'm convinced it's all normal. the thoughts don't pervade my daily life. yours don't sound like they do, either.

  28. It's amazing and a little eerie how you sometimes write about what has been going on in my head.
    I really started to have impending death thoughts after my daughter was born. Now, ten years later, they still happen.
    I prefer to believe that they come as a reminder of what is truly important, beyond the dramas that occur in our day to day lives.

    You have lived what seems to be a pretty interesting life and from that,you have a wonderful legacy to pass on to your beans.

    Here's hoping, though, that you have a long life with your family and friends.

  29. My fear of intruders is so strong that I can't even imagine living in am actual house, with so many possible points of entry (front door, back door, deck, garage), plus all of the potential hiding places – attics, basements, garages, closets, and (the creepiest of the creepy) CRAWLSPACES!

    Where does this come from? I think it might be that "Who's watching the children?" movie from the '70s. All I can say is, thank God I live in a doorman building with multiple locking doors between me and the outside . . .

  30. You do make a difference or we all wouldn't stop by so often.

    And you shouldn't get out of the car to check on the deer. It may bolt up. Just pull to the side of the road and ook out the window instead.

  31. I have those thoughts, but I'm bi-polar and it's just part of the manifestation of my illness. When I'm stressed out, those thoughts get worse, when I'm chill, they go away. I didn't know everybody had those thoughts. My husband, like yours, doesn't think like that. I wonder if it's a gender thing?

  32. In our house in LI, I knew who was coming up the stairs by the sound of their walk on the steps. I could walk around that house with my eyes closed, no problem.

    In Florida when I was driving to work, I once accidentally ran over a squirrel. I called 911. She very politely tried not to laugh and told me it was okay. I was very frazzled by it, as it was a Monday and just that weekend I'd been told a relative had hit a woman with her car and the woman had died.

  33. Lately I've had to consciously force myself to stop thinking of "what if"s. I'd walk across a room, visualize myself tripping and falling directly on my face and breaking my nose, knocking out teeth, imagining the texture of the sounds.. I'd imagine that brief two-second period after sustaining a serious injury when you don't realize anything's happened yet, and then the pain sets in and you realize your leg is twisted backwards, or something comparable. It had me tied up in knots. I wonder why we do that. Glad to know I'm not the only one who does.

  34. This morning I came across a quote that I want to claim for myself – to let it become me: "What I see are ordinary and some not-so-ordinary individuals willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world."

    ~ Paul Hawken

    I want to restore grace, justice and beauty to this world. Period.

  35. I am so glad to know I am not the only one to have those thoughts! My husband travels three days a week for business and every night when I go to sleep I struggle with the thought of an intruder! Which of my two beautiful daughters do I go to first. My youngest is closer to my bedroom. What if I don't make it to my other daughters room! Where will we escape from. I triple check every lock in the house and then stay up as late as possible watching meaningless tv so I don't have as much time to have these thoughts!
    Then he comes home on Thursday and I can sleep peacefully with him beside me for the next 5 days.

  36. A few weeks ago I really freaked myself out thinking through the whole "if I died alone in my apartment, how long would it take for somebody to find me? who would realize something must be wrong?" You'd like to think it would be fast, somebody would miss you right away, maybe you'd miss a date with a friend so they would come look for you. But then you can think how many people would let it go, thinking "she must just be busy this week…". And so on.
    Luckily it turned out to be a PMS thought, otherwise I'd be a bit worried about my mental state.

  37. thank god am not the only one!!!!!! I thought I was nuts. and when I did share these thoughts with a doctor, she looked at me like I had severe issues and prescribed some meds. never took them though. I stopped dealing with a pretty lucrative client because his office was far and every night before a meeting with him, I would picture myself getting hit by a truck and dying on the highway. fucked up.but one day it all went away. I realized I was watching way too many CSIs and law & order. so I stopped watching violent crap on TV right before bed. and started reading cheesy chick books. the kind with glitter on the cover. and that pretty much did it. I went from staying up till 4am thinking of all the bad things that could happen to me and my family to falling asleep in minutes.
    I wonder why men don't think about this stuff. or maybe they just don't want to admit to it.

  38. I have these thoughts too – just a little while ago I was walking down the stairs carrying the laundry basket, and I thought, "what if I fall down the staircase and smash my face and break my teeth?" I must do 10 loads of laundry a week, and I have the same thought every single time. My 9 yr old daughter has scary thoughts too. If she hears that someone has cancer, she gets scared that she'll get cancer. If she hears that a house in our neighborhood was robbed, she'll worry about our house. My two sons don't think that way, and my husband doesn't either. Maybe it's a gender thing from early on. Oh, and I also see faces in trees. Glad to know I'm not the only one. So, Stephanie, it seems you are normal. Or…maybe we're all certifiable. Great post.

  39. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with crazy thoughts! I've been studying for the bar exam, at home, alone during the day. Before I read this post, yesterday, i thought to myself, what if an intruder came in and shot me in the back while i'm facing the computer and i just die, slumped over at my desk? Sometimes I think these morbid thoughts and I'm really really really glad I'm not the only one. or maybe i just have these really creative fantasies as a distraction from studying??

    I also knew a family who wouldn't fly on planes together…one parent would take some kids, the other parent would take the other kids. But i think their rule was only on long flights.

  40. I always imagine plane crashes, car accidents, muggings on the street. I imagine who I would call, what I would say. I thought I had it planned out.

    Then just yesterday, as I drove home with my music blaring, I tapped the wheel and sang with a smile on my face, just as a truck turned suddenly and smashed right into the driver's side of my car. The force pushed me off the road, and every plan went right out the window. I sat there shaking and didn't call anyone. Luckily, I was not hurt. My car is badly damaged, but I walked away. The ridiculous thing is, I'm not grateful. I don't feel lucky. In some sick way, I wish I had been hurt, then I wouldn't be spending the day on the phone with insurance companies, crying into my pillow, and remembering the sound of my car crunching in. Which is just as bizarre as the original thoughts and plans, I think.

  41. I have a similar steady stream of thoughts too. My husband told me that people that always worry like I do are likely to get cancer. So what else do I worry about now? Getting cancer!

  42. i'm a grandmother now and i remember the torture,mutilation,death thoughts starting when i had a newborn 37 years ago. sorry, young moms, it will only get worse.my m.d.(psychiatrist) husband says its very common, because you suddenly realize you are responsible for more than yourself(isn't he a genius???!!) i have learned to force the thoughts out of my mind, with silly nonsense thoughts. it will NEVER leave you so find a goofy way to remove it. when i read about the molesting bus driver i see my little grandaughter being tortured all imagined —-but it's horrible. i have cried more tears over imagined dangers–not imagined for someone out there. thanks to our instant news,24 hrs/day we know practically every bad thing that can happen. we feel horribly, say thank you up there or wherever , i dodged a bullet, but it DID happen to someone , maybe next time it is me or my kids??? i cried the other day and told every friend that called about a young dad driving on the freeway with 4 yr.old triplets, mom is at home. you guessed it, dad and 2 of the kids gone. i called my daughter and told her to be careful, she called my husband and told him i was going over the edge! i just couldn't think about birthday cakes to remove the thoughts that day.
    now that i'm depressed i'm going to watch american idol!!

  43. I would not check on the deer. When I was a kid a family friend hit a deer. He put it in the back of his truck and came over so my dad could show him how to field dress it and get the meat (wow, I'm revealing those country girl roots). He came to our door, and when he and my dad went out to his truck the deer had run off. So your dead deer might not be dead, and would not be very happy to see you.

    Do you think you have those thoughts mostly when you are stressed? In college I daydreamed of passing out as I walked to class, and how the strangers around me would react. Then in grad school I kept envisioning getting hit by a train as I drove over the tracks on the way to work. I always thought those things when I was completely stressed out and overworked.

    For the record, Stephanie, most of those ways you want to be remembered are the things I notice about you when reading your blog. Yes, the vanity is there (don't we all have those concerns? daily?) but I do think what is really important to you, and at the core of you, comes through. This post really made me think about my own life, whether I live it in the way I really intend to, and especially about how I treat those I care so much about. So thanks.

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