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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.

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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.