Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sword of Damocles

The Sword of Damocles Are you all familiar with the story of the sword of Damocles? It's a good one in which Damocles is a complete suckup to King Dionysius, constantly going on about how great it must be to be the King, blah di blah blah. King Dionysius gets sick of hearing it, so he decides to teach Damocles a little lesson in politics. He provides him a lavish dinner of all the food and drink he wants, as well as any pleasures of the flesh he desires. Pretty cool night, huh? Except at some point, Damocles happens to look up, and sees a sword suspended over his head, hanging by a single hair. That kind of killed the evening for Damocles. The King successfully illustrated why fame and power isn't all it's cracked up to be, that there are constant worries for the head that wears the crown. (The painting is by artist Richard Westall, 1812.)

Today, it's also a phrase used to indicate any sort of possible peril that is hanging over your life. Our tree on the power line is apparently my sword of Damocles, because I woke up last night with a sense of dread and anxiety, of which the tree was only the tip of the iceberg (I think I'm mixing metaphors). Do you ever have those nights when your mind starts racing and tries to tell you about the worst things that could happen? I'm a very optimistic person, but I do have a worrisome side to me which I try to keep locked in its cage. Sometimes it gets out, and that's what happened last night.

It began with thinking "What ifs," like "What if the chainsaw slips when Ken is cutting the tree?" "What if I'm holding the ladder and the tree falls and crushes my head?" I saw what was happening and began trying to combat it. I used imagery, imagining that I was packing these worries into a wicker basket, leaving it on someone's doorstep, ringing the bell, and then running like hell. I felt bad for leaving my worries on someone's doorstep, so that didn't work. Then I started trying to think of good things to combat the worries, but my overactive imagination was having none of it. "You've got great parents who love you very much." [Yeah, but what if something happens to them? What if one of them falls and conks their head, or breaks a hip?] "You're very lucky that you and Ken found each other." [Sure, but what if he gets in an accident on the way to work? What if you get a call that he's in the hospital?] "The twin fawns are so beautiful and so much fun to watch." [What if the coyote gets them and eats them?] "Sheeba is a great cat, and it's so sweet when he curls up on your lap." [Cats don't live forever, you know. Sheeba is already over 8 years old. That makes him middle-aged in cat years.] I tried using rational thinking and logic. "These are all things that could happen, but chances are they won't. You know this. Why do you keep thinking like this?" What if, what if, what if?

Sleep You get the idea. It was a couple of hours of worst-case scenario thinking, and although I knew I was in a loop, I couldn't break out of it. I'm not sure what triggered it, but it might have been because we watched the movie "Monster" the other night, one of the bleakest movies I've seen in a while. (It's about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, played by Charlize Theron in a role that won her an Oscar. Fantastic job.) Although I'm a big fan of actual monster movies--the cheesier and creepier the better--I find that movies about real monsters disturb me and leave me mentally reeling. Encountering real evil is much more disturbing than watching or reading about imaginary evils, and maybe some evil and/or unbalanced behavior I've encountered recently (people carrying "Kill Obama" signs, hatefulness, deliberate deception, et al) contributed to such negative thinking, which is highly unlike me.

I believe that such behavior only results in more negativity. Our behavior has an impact on others, and it also has consequences. It is entirely up to us whether the consequences will be good or bad. Karma, baby. Believe it.

What finally broke the spell? I got up to use the bathroom, and gave Ken a hug before he left for work. A little human contact does wonders. Then when I laid back down, a cardinal started singing as dawn broke, and he was joined by a few other birds here and there. It was a comforting sound to me, and made me know that the birds of Nutwood greet each morning with a song in their heart, and so would I. That's exactly what happened. The sound of the birds sent me off to Snoozeville, I slept like a rock for two hours, and when I woke up, the sun was shining. I had a nice chat with my Mom and Dad, a woman came by to pick up the computer desk we had on Craigslist, I arranged a time for the power company to come by on Friday (so we can remove the sword of Damocles in our yard!), and I did a load of laundry. [Sidebar: Let me just say how much I love our "new" washer and dryer! Ken's Mom gave us theirs for helping them move, because they couldn't use their own appliances in the place we found for them. It's got a higher capacity than our old one, so I have to do maybe one load of laundry a week now, when before I usually did two. It may seem like a little thing, but I think it is totally awesome. Tomorrow I'll tackle the ironing...not my favorite task, but I can handle three shirts!]

The saying is that the darkest hour is just before dawn. If you can get past that, you're golden.


  1. When you talk about your worrisome side, you are preachin' to the choir, honey!
    I am so good at the Gruesome What If that I can, if I let myself, what if myself into a frenzy.
    Your description of the tree and the chainsaw and you running for cover is exactly what my mind would have conjured up.
    Now, I'm off to check the yard for tipsy trees and falling firs and power lines and potholes and and and..........oh dear.

  2. Good entry Beth.. I was feeling like that today worrying about Sarah..

  3. Thank you. In spite of a perilous start, this turned out to be a very uplifting entry. I'm also a queen at conjuring up the worries. I like the way the you worked through yours and came out sunny side up.

  4. How true, indeed. I think we humans all play the "what if" game, especially when things are going particularly well. BTW: Stop over at my place. I left you a gift.;-)

  5. Those middle-of-the-night worries are so inflated. You're right, there's nothing like the sunrise and a singing bird to make it all ok again.

  6. Excellent post! I can get that way, too, and generally it's something like a hug, my cat, hearing from a child or grandchild, laughter with a friend, or other warm fuzzy that helps me out of it. You're right. We all need to have positive thoughts about Obama's safety. Glad you got some sleep and feel better.

  7. It is so pleasant to now (these past 8 years) always have clean and ironed clothes available, thank you honey :o)

    Thats what you get for going to bed so early (11:30 PM), awake in the morning. Glad the hug helped :o)

  8. one load of laundry a WEEK? WOW. I do that several times a day. Good for you.

    i can relate to your feelings when thinking of dread and worries. It is cool that nature brought you back out of it. That bird had no idea how much it helped you.

  9. Hi Beth,
    I guess we all have a Sword of Damocles dangling over our heads from time to time ... best to just muddle through and take things one step at a time!

  10. I'm glad the dawn of a new day brought you peace. I go through that every night if I don't take my xanax before I go to bed. It IS a horrible feeling and can literally take my breath away (anxiety attack). I agree with you that real monsters are much scarier. Glad your work load will be cut down with the new washer & dryer, that's a good thing :)

  11. OMG... that is so funny, Beth... it must have been a moon thing! I was laying in bed doing the same thing! I was thinking of all these bad things that could happen and then doing the same thing (Train accidents are very rare, much rarer than the car) yadda yadda! At one point, I was said to myself 'you are the only loon who does this to themselves STOP IT' - now I shall take comfort in my non aloneness! LOL

    AND, you are so right karma so happens.

    be well...

  12. Great post, Beth. I'm sure you'll be glad when that tree is not dangling anymore. I have to talk to myself sometimes about the negative thinking. Have a great weekend. ((hugs))

  13. Yes, those nights suck. Sometimes it helps to get up and walk around the house a little bit. Mine are made even worse when I know I have to be up early in the morning for one reason or another. Then I only end up with a few hours of sleep and I'm a bitch the rest of the day. I can definitely understand the thoughts of you and ken are so lucky to have found eachother and then the what ifs kick in. I feel the same about Shawn and then the crazy thoughts kick in.
    You had to do two loads a week huh? I'm at one a day to keep up. One a DAY. To do one or two loads a week, well I don't know that they make a washer and dryer to handle that load around here. LOL


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?