My car turned yellow while I was at work today.
As did the car next to it.
And the one next to that.
In fact, the entire parking lot looked like it had been handled by the grubby fingers of a kid after eating off-brand Cheetos.
And all because trees are not subject to public indecency laws.
My body has decided that tree pollen is as threatening as a hostile missile attack. No matter how much I try to talk my immune system out of responding at a code red threat level, I’m summarily ignored as the defenses are rallied.
My students laugh as my “sneezures” interrupt class several times an hour. My husband grumbles as I cough and wheeze in my sleep. And even my dog looks at me funny when my voice suddenly sounds like that of a seventy-year-old chain smoker.
And all because of a case of mistaken identity.
The pollen, as much as I like to curse it, isn’t really my problem.
My problem is in my reaction to the pollen.
My misery is rooted in my body’s inability to distinguish between a perceived threat and an actual one.
My brain has been known to have the same problem.
When I think back on the times my mind has perceived a threat in my now-marriage, I can recognize that it was assuming a full-on attack and preparing for assault when the reality was as harmless as some yellow dust on the windshield.
A case of mistaken identity.
And my problem wasn’t really what my husband did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say.
It was in my (over)reaction to the situation because of a misidentification.
One of the possible approaches to treat allergies is to submit to a series of shots where you’re repeatedly exposed to a small amount of the offending substance. The science isn’t fully known, but it’s suspected that the process helps to “teach” the body that the allergen doesn’t actually mean any harm and there’s no reason to prepare for battle when its presence is detected. The shots often work, although relief frequently takes longer than expected.
That’s sounding familiar again.
Over the past few years, I have had many opportunities to face small iterations of my fears of abandonment and betrayal. At first, my reactions were extreme. But over time (and yes, far more time than I expected), I learned that often what I perceived as a threat was closer to the level of a messy irritant.
And now that I fall victim to mistaken identity far less often, I have found relief.
As long as I avoid the procreating trees.