It Both Is and Is Not About Wild Bulls

I passed last night in a tossing-and-turning kind of limbo – asleep but not fully, awake but not fully. Comfortable, but not enough. And itchy as hell.

This is a post about projection. It set out to be a post about coleslaw. And then it was about tacos. And then it was about wild bulls. But it both is and is not about wild bulls. Or tacos. Or omega-3s. Or powerlessness.

I was awake obsessing over my skin. I was itchy all over. I thought fleas. I thought spiders. I went to the bathroom and checked my arms and legs and stomach by the light of the closet. No bites. No hives.

So I lie there and wondered if it was my diet. Amanda and I made the switch about a week ago to eating a vegetarian diet. In the wee dark hours, I wondered whether the new diet could make my skin itch. So I did a quick Google search and found that, yes, it’s a common occurrence in vegetarians and vegans. I might not be getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.

Should have solved things, right? Please. That’s not the way of insomnia.

Instead, I lie there obsessing over how to make sure we get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts were fine (I was Googling my ass off at this point) for ALAs, but not for DHAs, which are really important for your heart health. So then I was Googling how to be a heart-healthy vegetarian, which was a red herring that Google rewarded with only utter crap. So then I looked up flaxseed, which seemed to be a good idea, but only led me deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.

And the thing was, I knew the whole time that I wasn’t truly worried about omega-3s. Not in the real, grand sense of my insomnia as a whole. I was worried about Amanda. I was worried about her being gone again soon. I was worried about being alone. I was sad because she won’t be here for our first wedding anniversary.

Projection is a funny psychological mechanism. Not long ago, I made the 8-hour drive to Fallon, Nevada to pick up Amanda from training. She had been gone for two weeks, and I was happy to go get her early, to bring her home by way of Lake Tahoe for a little weekend getaway.

Tahoe: where the pinecones are grande-sized.

Tahoe: where the pinecones are grande-sized.

On the drive to Fallon, I covered terrain that I had never seen. I grew up on the East coast, and so much of the country is foreign and new to me. I collected notes and images of what I saw. I made up stories about the people in the houses I passed. I tried to perfectly describe the salt flats and the giant lake that looked so out of place after so much desert.

I also got a little obsessed with the warning signs for local wildlife. I saw the usual deer crossing signs, but those gave way to warnings of elk, antelope, goats, and wild bulls. Yeah. I was driving through an open bull range for several hours.

I imagined what I would do if one crossed my path and stopped in front of my car. I wondered if they were like bears and could smell food, and I thought of the bag of trash from Subway and the soggy end of the bread in the bag. I thought of the box of Girl Scout cookies beside me.

photo 1 (10)

I finally pulled over and took a picture of the sign to text to my mom and brother, to show them where I was – in the kind of place where wild bulls allegedly run around, potentially terrorizing motorists.

I worried over the bulls, sure, but I was really worried about traveling alone. I hadn’t traveled by myself in years. I worried about the small, seemingly abandoned ghost towns, like the kind you see in horror films. I worried about finding a safe place to pee. I can’t pee in a horror film town. I worried about forging ahead by myself.

So much of my time worrying is about something bigger, something more impossible. Something without an easy solution. It’s not about a wild bull; it’s about the reality that naming the truth would leave me stuck in front of a wild bull, waiting it out, hoping it didn’t knock my car over in an effort to get my Subway leftovers. Metaphorically speaking.

I would have to wait for the bull to resolve itself, and who knows how long that might take or what work it might involve. So I take photos, and I say, look at this. Look where I am. Look how brave I can be.

When Amanda wakes up and notices I’m not asleep, I tell her I’m worried we’re not getting enough omega-3s.

Cooking gives me a sense of control in times when I feel like I have none, which is fairly often. I wanted to recreate a coleslaw we had at a Mexican restaurant in Fallon, but it ended up being terrible and so is not worth talking about here.

But what is worth mentioning is these Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos from Cooking Classy - filling, sweet, tangy tacos with a hint of spice.

I turned on music and chopped sweet potatoes, relishing the loud clap of knife against cutting board. I squeezed limes, not yet soft enough to yield their juice easily. But I worked. I pushed. I heated my cast-iron to a smoking hot, and I browned tortillas, turning them over and over, never leaving them alone.

Cooking is something to worry over and fiddle with. It passes the time while I wait out the bull. It feeds me. It feeds my wife, too. And today, now, I can assure that. I can solve that problem. I can deal with that bull.

10 thoughts on “It Both Is and Is Not About Wild Bulls

  1. Wow. This all sounds really familiar. Well, not the going vegetarian part, but . . . :-)
    I cook when I’m stressed or worried as well. For me it’s about control and feeling productive–even if other things in my life are all over the place, at least I can know that by the end of the afternoon I’ll have a nice big pot full of something nourishing like homemade soup or spaghetti sauce. Sometimes that’s all it takes to help make it through the day.
    Nice post!

  2. I simply love this post – not your turmoil, of course – just the way anyone’s mind jumps from one thing to another and if one is lucky – zeroes in eventually on the real issues. We travelled through that same area near Lake Tahoe – loved the scenery and I collected several of those large pinecones to take home to Vancouver Island where they now sit on my window sill reminding me of all kinds of things.

    • Oh my goodness, isn’t Lake Tahoe gorgeous? I just kept making Amanda stop so I could take pictures, and telling her we had to go back when it wasn’t snowing. And you’re right – our minds just jump from one thing to the next until we get to what it all really is. But that journey there is so interesting.

  3. I loved the way this post was written. I especially like the way the topic you said this post was originally supposed to be about was dismissed later on as not worth talking about at all.

  4. isn’t it interesting how we convince ourselves we’re worried about thing A when it’s almost always really about thing B? I do that so often…stress about the little stuff, wonder what’s wrong with me because seriously, WHY am i stressing, and then i realize at some point it’s not about that little thing – but rather this big thing over here – and THAT’S what i need to get a handle on. I’m happy to hear someone else does that besides me. :)
    and cooking, right? because it is very much my way to regain control when i begin to feel “out of control” in life. housework not done? laundry piles? deadlines? I WILL COOK AND BAKE IT OUT. Tim always think it’s rather strange that i can be sick or totally busy and want to stop and fool around in the kitchen, but it really centers me. i spend that time much like you said you spent your time driving solo: talking things out in my head, making notes, observations, plans, whatnot. it’s healing, i think. i loved reading this, Dana: it’s a great way to start my day.

    • Okay, I was totally worried that I was the only one who can be in the grip of illness and want to go to the kitchen and make elaborate recipes and tinker with things. Amanda always just looks at me like I’m crazy and shuts that crazy show down. But you’re right – it centers me too.
      And thank goodness, because the way my mind jumps from thing to thing is just nuts. I told Amanda that my obsessive nature is really good for some things – research for articles, writing project – but when it stops serving me well, it does me a major disservice. (Exhibit A: omega-3s.)

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