Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Excess Baggage

It's one thing to disagree with someone else when they say something about you that you want to strongly refute. But it's another when it's your self you want to refute, and know you can't remain in denial.

In my younger,  and definitely single days, my friends and I always talked about wanting to travel.  See the world, explore possibilities and be somewhere else to be someone else. The seduction of self-reinvention was something we constantly spoke about. One of my lawyer friends wondered if she could work for the National Geographic, or perhaps just be a barista somewhere in Europe and live a carefree life. I fantasized about food tripping and getting paid a lot for it, much like Anthony Bourdain and other travelling chefs and food writers and critics.  Most of all, I just fantasized about travelling all over Europe and falling madly in love with amazing architecture, breathtaking scenery, and yes, you can throw in an intellectual man in the mix.  

Of course that was way before we hit our 30's and truly realized that total self-reinvention was a myth and a lie most likely perpetuated by those under the witness protection program who wanted to romanticize their experiences. To be able to escape your life and have a complete reboot with no messes, only smooth transitions?....Yeah right!

A few years ago, I wrote about how I loved airports and the idea of travelling. I really, really meant that when I said they excited me. But now, the thought of airports, and airplanes and long hours and confined spaces cause me nothing but fear, dread, anxiety and mere exhaustion.  What happened to me?  What changed, you might ask. 

One word.  Motherhood. The exhaustion from long trips begin way before the trip itself because planning and packing already suck so much energy out of me. Trying to anticipate everything you possibly can and then pack accordingly (toys, clothes, snacks, first aid necessities, etc.) can be stressful. And then the crowded airports and jam-packed airplanes just make me think of viruses.  Oh and that person in line beside me who keeps coughing without covering his mouth?....yeah, makes me want to commit murder.  

So, yes, thinking of travel these days really don't excite me in a good way. Gone are the dreamy, romantic and enthusiastic looks on my face when vacations are mentioned.  Just this past weekend, flying to Chicago to visit my husband's side of the family made me wonder if I am turning into an agoraphobe.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the only thing that saved  my sanity was (is) prayer.

Parenthood, worries, problems, life transitions and crises do transform us.  But as my friend D.L. reminded me, Prayer does the same thing.  And it's not that it's an easy fix or that it guarantees solutions or automatically grants us our desires.  It's the act of praying itself, not to a magical entity outside yourself, but to a higher energy that resides in and around all of us.  The stillness brought on as we connect to that energy, that side of us that knows and desires only peace, love and faith, is an inner shift that can't be denied no matter how subtle it is.  Before long, you will find yourself calmed and in the moment, grateful for what you have, and surrendering to what you can't be certain of, knowing that there is always hope in every little step you will take.

It's hard for me to shun travel completely even though I still fear it tremendously.  Most of my closest family and friends are either in a different state or country and I know I want to see them sooner than later.  What a blessing that when I travel now, I have a hundred voices in my head travelling with me too.  And no, these are not just the neurotic ones slowly killing me with worries.  I also now carry with me the saner voices of loving friends and family who remind me to say, 'Now is good', 'This too shall pass', and 'All shall be well'. I know these mantras will help me 'travel light', instead of just carry unnecessary baggage that do nothing but weigh me down.

For those of you who either love to constantly travel, or just have no choice but to do so on a regular basis, what are your 'weapons of choice' when it comes to fighting travel-related anxiety?

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