I have an overactive imagination. I also have an acute sense of impending doom that I inherited directly from my grandmother: “If you’re 5 minutes late, you’re under a bus.” This is a bad combination.

Whenever Brooks gets a fever, I need to convince myself that he doesn’t have meningitis or another type of virus that can kill within a day. I’m not crazy — I don’t ever say anything out loud and I know how statistically unlikely it is — but these nightmarish thoughts own a substantial piece of my mental real estate, and they rise up at the slightest provocation.

Can someone please advise me how to distinguish irrational fears from rational ones? After all, against all odds, planes did fly into the World Trade Center. My father’s “flu” turned out to be a rare stomach cancer that killed him. And Brooks did get diagnosed with autism. All of these events were unexpected and unlikely, and yet, they happened. I suppose there’s a longer list of the bad things that didn’t happen, but I can’t seem to focus on that list.

So this “is-it-or-is-it-not-a-pandemic?” swine flu has me on edge. To enable myself to get out of bed in the morning, I’ve come up with a theory that, of course, has no basis in reality. The flu my family of three passed back and forth last month was actually the mild form of the swine flu, and now, we’re immune. It’s possible. Well, it’s not impossible.

But then I heard a recovered girl from Queens interviewed, and her symptoms were not our symptoms. Hmmmm.

No problem. Under the big scary what-if questions, there’s some good news. The U.S. cases seem milder than those seen in Mexico. Unlike 1918, we have anti-viral drugs and respirators. There’s a ton of good information online, notably on this website. Public officials are doing a great job keeping us posted without causing panic (excluding me, of course).

I will continue to pretend to be a grown-up about this. I will wash my hands, and I will try to teach Brooks to cough into his elbow (which will not be easy since we’re still working on “Don’t touch your feet at the dinner table”). I will be cautiously optimistic.

Here’s to hoping that this outbreak is short-lived, and that the worst the vast majority of us will have to endure locally is the NY Post‘s front-pager of a pig with a thermometer in its mouth.


This post was originally published on Inisdeschools.org.