When I was little we had an indoor/outdoor cat named Caramel. He was an orange tabby who drooled and was in and out of the house fifty-two times per day. That line in the musical “Cats” that goes something like “when I’m out I’d rather be in and when I’m in I’d rather be out” sums up his indecision so perfectly. And I’m afraid I’m a lot like my old cat.
On Saturdays when my daughter Sammy was a baby my husband would take her with him to Panera to get his bagel. My blood would rush faster as they slowly prepped to leave the house, in anticipation of my upcoming free time. My muscles would tense, too, knowing that if they could just get their act together and leave already, then my free time could start immediately! Oh, how would I spend my forty-five minutes of alone time? Sip a coffee and finish it while it is still hot? Watch some Golden Girls? Stare into space and enjoy the sheer luxury of silence? My husband interrupts my planning and asks, “you sure you don’t want to come?” Then I spend the first ten of my Alone Minutes second guessing myself if I should have joined them to “enjoy breakfast together.”
I swear, I simultaneously wanted to be with them and alone all at once. I knew if I joined them I’d be tending to the baby, with muscles on edge ensuring her excited arms did not reach too close to my hot coffee. I’d lean way under the table (averting my eyes of what lurks beneath) to pick up a paci (or, with luck, catch it mid-air) no less than a dozen times. And if I was lucky, I’d actually get to eat my meal. Was that better than savoring a quiet, empty house for nearly an hour?! Like my old cat, I could not decide.
Not too long ago my friend informed me that there is in fact a diagnosis for this issue that plagues me as it did Caramel. It’s called FOMO disease: Fear Of Missing Out. She mentioned it because she diagnosed her brother with it when he missed a family football get-together. Now everything makes sense.
For instance, when I’m asked what I’d like for Mother’s Day, now that I have my diagnosis of Fear Of Missing Out, it makes perfect sense that I can’t find the words to answer my husband’s question. I want to celebrate my day with my girls and yet on the other hand I’d love half a day all to myself to do whatever I want in my empty house as my reward for all the hours picking up legos, finding “lost” shoes, refereeing sibling squabbles, and demanding hand-holding as safety patrol officer in parking lots. But if my family gifted me with hours of alone time by going out to eat pancakes and play at the park without me, I’d be sad that I was missing out on a good time!
This FOMO stuff pops up everywhere for me. If I’m tailgating on a Saturday enjoying my comfortable chair with my friends all around me and then suddenly I hear music playing loudly nearby I feel like I have to go check it out. Because someone may be having a better party than ours and I don’t want to miss out!
It also pops up on vacation. I just went on my first cruise and it was amazing. It was like summer camp for adults. There were activities non-stop throughout the day which led to my old familiar problem. Did I want to go do Zumba with the cruise director or watch the men’s belly flop competition? It was physically difficult to leave the pool deck knowing that I’d miss out on spectating big belly splashes. (But for the record, Zumba was so fun.)
I suppose knowing my “condition” is half the battle. It won’t be long till I’m faced with two fun choices and I’m paralyzed with the fear that I’ll miss out on something great. For the moment though, I’m focused and content to be heading back home to my family after a thoroughly fantastic vacation. The only thing I’m missing out on right now is their hugs, and I plan to steal lots of those tonight!