My very dear friend and I often sit together over a cup of tea and process the tough moments of our lives. I remember many occasions when she has told me of something big going on for her, usually a situation that gave her a sense of impending doom that she did not yet have all the facts about. And as she was waiting on facts, she would say every time, "I'm just not going to go down the rabbit hole yet". Not YET. Because she knew she was still waiting for facts and she didn't want to drag herself through a big emotional mess without really knowing all the facts.
I understand that idea of the rabbit hole. I have spent some time down there. It is quite a ride to the bottom. It can be a swirling and whirling ride that starts with a statement like, "I think your child may have a serious illness. We'll run some tests today and I'll call you by the end of the week." The brain starts asking "What if?" and "Then what?" and "How will I ever survive that?". Or perhaps someone says something and I find myself hurt and angry. Then the swirling thoughts look something like "She must think...", "If she loved me, she wouldn't...", "I don't see a way to move beyond....". And then there's the arrival of "bad news", a situation that I think at the time could be nothing but bad. That ride is just like an elevator ride to the bottom floor, a quick descent to a very dark place.
I think my friend is brilliant to choose not to go down the rabbit hole before it's time, and yet I find that I am usually at least half way down before I even realize where I'm headed or I wake up in the night to find myself already at the bottom. At this point, I feel like it's a win that I can recognize where I am and find my way back out, that I can have a sense of humor about the time I spend down there.
This weekend I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. This part in particular really stood out for me: "Fear to a great extent is born of a story we tell ourselves." All of my observations from the rabbit hole lead to this. Most of the pain I experience in the rabbit hole is a result of my mind jumping many steps beyond where I am at the moment. Just nearly always I am imagining horrible outcomes that never even come to pass. In fact some of the "bad news" I receive, turns out to bring many blessings I never saw coming. If fear is only a story, it seems possible to tell a different story, or to at least pull out of the story and recognize what is real right now.