Self Caring

What's YOUR Fantasy?

Last updated: Sep 01, 2010

2/52 - It's Raining Men!

By now you've probably heard that caring for his aging parents contributed to the stress of Jet Blue flight attendant and overnight folk hero Steven Slater, the fellow who decided one rough work day that "I've had it!" "“- and opened one of the jet's emergency chutes, grabbing a cold beer and sliding to infamy.

Slater's mom, who lives across the country from him, is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer; his dad recently died of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Stressed-out Americans cheered because Slater made a take-this-job-and-shove-it fantasy come true. I hear that a lot of caregivers cheered, too, because they can relate to his job-caregiving stress. What overloaded caregiver hasn't indulged in an escape fantasy or two?

Emphasis on the word "fantasy," please.

Fantasy can be a powerful coping tool for stress. Just thinking about replacing bedpans and Ensure shakes with hammocks and margaritas, or of telling off an all-knowing doctor who's sometimes wrong, can be relaxing. Fantasy is a way of venting, too "“ by imagining the worst in yourself (that escape hatch, leaving it all behind) you can get some despair out of your system, which better preps you to sigh and return your nose to the grindstone.

On the other hand, actually living out the escape fantasy, as Slater did? Well, flipping out feels great in the short term. That's why so many Americans cheered him on, the vicarious thrill of it! But ultimately a stress-induced outburst tends to be irresponsible, short-sighted, not very productive, and maybe a little selfish.

To paraphrase a song, it feels good, but don't do it!

Just look at what's happened to Slater since his flamboyant farewell:

New stresses were created. News reports claim the whole episode upset his sick mother. Slater was suspended from his job and has probably lost his career "“ so now he has to find something new to do mid-recession. (He wants to return to aviation, which he says is his love"¦a tall order?) And then there are those multiple charges that were levied against him, including trespassing, endangerment, and criminal mischief, some carrying penalties of seven years in prison.**

The old situations are still there. Meanwhile, his mother still has lung cancer. Granted, he has more free time to visit her now, but he must fit this in against the added stress of finding a new career and battling his legal woes. (See point above!)

Moments in the sun inevitably turn back to shadows. So he became the Google hit du jour (a modern way of saying, a household name). He's hired a Hollywood agent. But he's also been derided by everyone from the CEO of his company to Donald Trump. An immature act is what he's known for in life "“ or until the next news cycle.

Not to mention, if you've ever thought about making your stress meltdown fantasy come true, what are the odds that Google and Hollywood would happen to you?

Better to stick to fantasy. I don't know how long Slater nurtured his escape-hatch scene in his imagination before he acted on it. But I wonder if he doesn't regret not just raising that cold beer to his forehead, closing his eyes and biting his tongue "“ and doing the best he knew how to do to help his parents, keep his job, and do the boring, mature thing for just one more day.