Saturday, September 8, 2012

The problem with premonitions

As I wrote earlier in the week, there was an officer involved shooting near to here on Tuesday.  Now, both the officer and the shooter are dead, and we're still very short of facts, and completely dry on understanding this tragedy. What I hadn't written about is the premonition I woke with on Tuesday morning.

From time to time, I wake with a pounding heart and a sense of dread that psychologists would like tell me was a mild anxiety attack.  Interestingly, for all my depression, I am not prone to anxiety as it is defined by doctors.  I worry about things, of course, but they are usually the sorts of things we should be expected to worry about (how close am I to bouncing my rent check, how will I pay for the kid's new shoes, can the car tires last another thousand miles).  Tuesday, nothing was specifically wrong, but I was out of sorts and my chest tight.  My pulse was pounding, and I felt light headed, and there was no reason for it.  I tried deep breathing and telling myself that I was worried over nothing.

As it turned out, something terrible happened.  Once I knew what had occurred, I knew that the neither man would live.  This isn't the first time I've had this experience.  I felt the same nameless fear the day the big quake hit Haiti a couple of years ago.  I knew with absolute certainty on September 11, 2001 that the ringing phone downstairs was very, very bad news, even before I stepped out of bed.  The night Princess Diana died, I walked in the door after a date with Colin, to the feeling that something sad and bizarre had happened.  The list goes on, but I'm sure you get the point.

I won't say that I can predict disaster, because I can't.  Premonitions are pretty useless for me.  I know something is about to happen, but I have not idea where or what.  All I know is that the feeling of illogical and pressing fear comes to me, and a few hours later, I am reading about a tragedy on the front page of the news.  Logically, you could blame this all on looking for something to blame for the fear, but knowing myself, there is a difference to the quality of the fear that separates it from normal, personal fear.  When the tragedy comes to my attention, it's not like I sat down to look for something; I simply sit down at the computer to write or check my email or look something up, and see a headline that literally jumps out at me.  Dozens of other things could have happened that day, but one always draws my attention, and rarely is something local, something that touched my life.

Premonitions and witchcraft are oft linked in folklore and the stories handed down among families.  They are the stuff of legends and also warnings that sometimes, for no reason other than a hunch, you should trust your gut.  Of course, when you check and all is well, you feel silly, but when you find a disaster brewing and change things, it becomes magic.

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