Always go to the party expecting to have a bad time and you might be pleasantly surprised.
I used it literally when going to a shindig, and metaphorically when approaching almost anything else: math class, the grocery store, doctors' appointments. I was really good at coming up with a doomsday scenario for just about anything, and I'd just tuck it away, right under my sunny disposition, like a spare $20 bill, just in case. It doubtless had its roots in cra-a-azy alcoholic mom behavior: when you never know what to expect, and at least half of the time what happens is pretty bad, you start protecting yourself by expecting the worst.
Through talk therapy and active self-awareness, I've reduced the behavior to where it does minimal damage; most of the time, if I feel the dreaded dread, I can muster an equivalent amount of enthusiasm to neutralize it.
Today, though, I had a phone call I'd been dreading making. My "phonebia" is well documented, and this was a long overdue return call to someone seeking reconnection after many, many years. Just thinking about it made me tired.
Resigned, I called; strangely enough, she answered the phone with the same kind of trepidation I know in my own voice where the phone is involved and caller I.D. is not. Only her issue wasn't caller i.d. (I enable mine), it was that in the five or six years since last we met, she's gone legally blind.
There are two interesting points of irony to note at this juncture: first, that had I known I was reconnecting with a friend who had lost her sight, I'd really have dreaded making the call. How could talking to someone who's gone through something so arduous, so dreadful, ever be something to look forward to? But the second ironic note to all of this is that the hour-long conversation turned out to be one of the strangest, lightest, most uplifting conversations I've had in a long time, on both ends, hers and mine.
Of course, we all grapple with being in the now. It's as easy to look back as it is to look forward, and with all sorts of lenses; it is very, very hard to be here now. My friend is re-learning the meaning of that every day, and she gracefully, graciously gave me a refresher course in it today. Today's installment in a continuing series...
Lesson #7: Dread is writing a future that does not yet exist.