I had to run an errand on the way to work this morning that took me one exit on the interstate further than I usually go.
As I sailed past first one and then a second exit that would lead me to work, I had this overwhelming urge to just keep on driving.
It was warm in my car, with the Morning Edition people chatting quietly in the background. I had a cup of coffee. I didn’t want to stop.
It didn’t help that I woke up grumpy. It was pouring rain and I didn’t have any exciting or pressing project to attend to at work. I didn’t want to get out of bed, so maybe the cozy car was just a substitute for my blankets.
I’ve had this fantasy of disappearing before. I’m taken with the idea of just leaving, vanishing from existence. Sometimes the fantasy includes bringing those closest to me along, i.e. my mother and my cats, but sometimes, like this morning, it’s just me. (Sorry, Mom!)
This daydream must be similar to the way people sometimes imagine their funeral. (Other people do that, right?) You wonder who might attend, who would cry, who would say that you were great and everyone loved you even though it’s not true. “If I disappeared,” I speculate, “who would notice that I’m gone and who would lead the search to find me?”
I don’t ask these things in the “Woe is me, nobody loves me” sense (When I was young and feeling sorry for myself, my mother sang that eating worm song. Nothing is more annoying than listening to a song about eating little squirmy worms while trying to wallow in self-pity.)
I pose the questions with a strangely academic detachment instead. Have I made a lasting connection to anyone? And, more practically, who would be the first notice I’m gone?
Of course, my mother would notice right away, but who else besides her who would look for me?
I’m sure folks at work would wonder where I was, but they’d likely assume I was at a meeting or taking the day off and they’d just forgotten my schedule. Or I’d forgotten to tell them. That would probably last a couple of days.
My friend Nan would miss me, but we don’t touch base every day and sometimes go weeks without talking, so it would take a while before she noticed I was missing.
The same goes with other friends. (I should probably make an effort to be in touch with people more.)
But, on the positive side, I’d have quite a bit of lead time before I had to worry about someone hunting for me. Unless I had a meeting or urgent work deadline, I think I’d have at least a few days. That’s good news if I do ever decide to make a run for it.
A therapist would probably have a lot to say about my vanishing fantasy. (I also enjoy envisioning what a therapist would think of me and how my mind works, although not enough to ever go to a therapist.)
First, I imagine they might say it was the indication of some deep seeded sadness or grief that I can’t escape. But, unless it was something I experienced in a past life, I don’t know what that would be. (I’m also fascinated with past lives. I’ve always wanted to have my past lives read, but haven’t done it yet. I don’t know that I believe in them, but I like the idea that this isn’t it.)
The other option, my imagined therapist would say, is that I’m overwhelmed by obligations.
This seems more likely. Although I don’t have children, I do occasionally feel pressured by demands made on my time and irrationally resent the people who are relying on me. The first sign that I’m giving into stress is my desire to tell people to piss off and leave me alone.
Maybe that’s the appeal of driving off into the sunset, chucking all the crap and having time alone. Even though I don’t have a large family or office, I get very little time by myself except for my drive to work and back home. I’m an introvert so it’s no wonder that I don’t want to get out of my car sometimes.
Fictional psychoanalysis aside, the most likely reason behind my escape fantasy is my overactive imagination.
I have this romantic image of being on the road, alone and unencumbered. Driving through small towns and chatting with the local colorful characters. Getting lost in the crowds of the big cities. Stopping to waitress in a diner, in either big city or small town, when I run out of money, staying just long enough to gather a little cash before heading out again. Leaving a wake of people behind me wondering what mysterious past made me unable to settle down and stay in one place.
It sounds like sappy novel or Lifetime movie, doesn’t it? But kind of fun too. Who doesn’t want to be perceived as mysterious?
Well, no matter what the reason I don’t expect I’ll hop in my car and disappear anytime soon. Like it or not, I’m reliable not mysterious. I could never leave my responsibilities or loved ones behind. Even if I tried, the guilt would pull me back home before I reached the Massachusetts border.
And, even though I’m a self-proclaimed loner, I have the feeling I’d get lonely pretty quickly. Within a couple of miles I’d see something on the side of the road or hear something on the radio that I just had to share with my mom so I’d call her up. Or text her.
So today I got off the interstate at the next exit, ran my errand and went to work. But I’m not guaranteeing the urge won’t strike me again. So if these blog posts stop appearing every day, don’t worry about me. I’ve just decided to live out my fantasy and disappear!