Worst case scenario
I'm in the shower, facing away as a stream of hot water comforts the back of my neck.
I go to turn around and feel my foot slip. I don't fall, but my brain steps in immediately for a quick game of 'What if'. What if I had fallen? What would that look like?
I see myself turning around by lifting one foot and spinning on the ball of the other. It's a cocky move, a slick little spin, but instead of doing a quick 180 my left foot jumps out from under me and sends me crashing to the floor.
My right foot slides into the wall right where the glass panel that surrounds my shower meets it. The full weight of my body pushes my big toe into the corner and it bends perpendicularly to the rest of my foot. Not up or down, toes can do that. It bends to the left. There is a crack, then a crunch, as it splits away from the rest of my foot..
The dismemberment of my toe isn't the only excruciating jolt that shoots through my nervous system either. My hip and lower back, which I've struggled against with injuries for ages, hit the ground with a dull thud as the sound of my breaking toe still echoes around the shower. The bulging disc (lower back, L4/L5) I had been living with goes pop - it's a full on slipped disc and it leaves me immobile.
The situation is looking pretty grim.
I'm laid out in a heap on the floor of the shower. Hot water is still raining down on top of me from the shower head. Those once comforting droplets of water have taken on an altogether more sinister presence and they won’t stop until the entire water tank is empty.
Blood is beginning to pool around the drain. Its source is a steady stream that is flowing from my mangled foot. I think I can see the bone. I look away.
Outside of the shower there is nothing. I'm home alone. Sort of. Mona is probably asleep in her chair and while I'm sure she would be really concerned if she understood what was going on, she's of little help to me.
My girlfriend is in work for another five or so hours. Even if there was someone else in the house the bathroom door is locked.
The water begins to turn cold. A final insult of sorts.
What the hell do I do?
What does it all mean?
The human imagination is an interesting thing. Where did that vision of catastrophe come from? That crystal clear picture of the potentially disastrous consequences that can come with something as simple as turning around in a shower.
Seems to me that it comes with knowledge and experience - if ignorance is bliss then maybe knowledge is painful imagination.
For example, I know exactly where the vision of my toe being mangled came from: A Youtube video. It's a pretty famous one in which a guy slides across his kitchen floor, falls and does faint-inducing damage to his foot. It's horrible to watch. The sort of video that makes you clench everything.
Watching it left me wanting to never experience that myself, so my brain in its infinite wisdom stored it away, ready to whip it out in the future just in case I'm about to do something that yields a similar result.
Add to that the fact that I've struggled with my lower back for years, so I've done a bunch of research on bulging discs. I know exactly what awaits if I am careless, or decide to squat or deadlift incorrectly.
Having lived through many back pain filled days I also know what immobility feels like. If there's no one home then there's nothing I can do, I just have to wait it out.
The whole scenario played itself out in my head in mere seconds and was vivid enough to instill an extreme sense of caution in me for the remainder of that shower.
This is something that never happened when I was younger. I didn't give a shit back then. I was blissfully unaware of the potential consequences of my actions. Before watching that video I had never given a seconds thought to just how horrific a toe-stubbing can be.
When we are kids we just fall. We don't really understand the impact that a simple fall can have. Our brains are generally unable to create complex chains of possibilities that can arise from a single event. We learn that from both our own experiences and those of others.
It also seems to me that this is partly why we form habits and why they can be so hard to change, even when they have long term negative consequences:
We do a thing that doesn't cause pain
In fact for that moment it makes us feel good
We keep doing the thing
Other things might cause pain, we don't do those things
Stick with the safe & comfortable thing we know
Even if the long term consequences are negative
Feel comfortable right now - that's what matters
We look at unfamiliar things and focus on what could go bad. Exactly how inventive our imaginary bad scenarios are will depend on how much we've learned in the past, and how safe and comfortable our current situation is.
The accrual of knowledge about all of the bad things we could experience forms a significant part of us. If we focus on the negative things that the world has to offer then I guess our imagination gets skewed in that direction. It's something that we can easily let get the better of us, agoraphobia being extreme example of this.
However having this knowledge of what could potentially happen in a given situation doesn't mean we are good at predicting what will happen. We are terrible at that.
Try to remember this the next time you are scared to make a change or want try something new, but you let thoughts of what could go wrong stop you from progressing.
And try to forget my little story the next time you are in the shower - it will ruin the whole thing for you.