“I know I should be Zen and look at my nerves as a symbol of sensitivity and I should be grateful that we’re even here in the first place, but sometimes I get so MAD at myself.”
I sat in the airport terminal, Jared waiting patiently next to me, as the loudspeaker overhead announced they were boarding rows 1 – 20. It was almost midnight and we were about to get on our plane to fly back home. We’d just spent a week in Hawaii on our honeymoon and my insides were churning like the ocean in the middle of a squall. My anxiety was pitching and rolling. The last thing I wanted to do was walk onto that airplane. And I was furious.
No matter how much I’m aware of my patterns, my habits, and the way my nerves affect my physical body, it can still betray me despite my cognitive awareness. Like, I “know” there is nothing to be anxious about and yet my digestive track and stomach and muscles refuse to acknowledge this.
My internal squall hit right before we flew to Hawaii as well. And it struck for the first half of a five hour boat tour we took around the southern end of the island.
All three of these incidents came from fear of what might occur. All three of these incidents stemmed from my fear of maybe feeling airsick or seasick. Which, in turn, makes me feel pretty sick. So, JOKES ON ME.
I know this echoes back to my days when I struggled hardcore with emetophobia. Even in the moment, while I’m spiraling into a dust cloud of panic and feel like I want to sprint in the opposite direction, I’m aware of what is causing this reaction.
And yet, that doesn’t help a ton in the moment. I still feel like shit. I am still missing out on a beautiful moment, on the joys of being alive, because I’m so focused on what is going on within my limbs and my brain. What a selfish way to be living, I often think to myself in these moments.
There were moments when I was outside myself on our honeymoon — when we were hiking in breathtaking vistas, laughing because of the ridiculous sunburn Jared got, or when we were watching a sea turtle nap on a beach. There were countless more times when I was lost in the moment than when I was lost in my mind. But the instances of panic and anxiety I encountered make me, in a way, feel like a failure. Like I failed my new legal partner (saying husband still feels weird), like I failed our new marriage, and like I failed our honeymoon. I often feel like my anxiety isn’t “fair” to other people, which I guess is just my way of feeling bad about it when it happens.
I spend so much time on this blog talking about how we need to be gentle with ourselves and show grace in moments of difficulty. But as I sat there in that airport, pissed as hell at my physiological reaction, I certainly forgot everything I’ve ever said.
I know I should be Zen. I know, at times, there is nothing I can do about my physical reaction to situations. I will worry about what might happen from time to time.
But let’s be honest. I should worry about maybe having too good of a time. I should worry about possibly enjoying myself like I’ve never enjoyed myself before. I should worry what it might be like to feel pure happiness inside a single moment, contained in a delicate shell like a sea turtle’s egg in the warm, soft sand.
I love the part where you are taking about being aware of your pattern – it does seem like that should help us but in the moment that is hard to remember. You are not a failure, you clearly had some good times! Beautiful post.
Thank you :)
It is so much easier to know what you should do than actually follow that advice. I, too, had difficulty with some of my honeymoon but since it was 33 years ago it has faded into obscurity. Don’t berate yourself for something that may be beyond your control other than therapy and/or drugs. It took me many years to find an acceptable balance. In a couple of years, all you will remember is all the fun parts of Hawaii. :)
I love the phrase “faded into obscurity” since it applies to so many “big” moments that seem so heavy at the time — thank you for the beautiful reminders!
You are most welcome, Hattie!
I feel really close to this post; I have spent too long flooded with fear. You are quite right to understand there is nothing to be anxious about, the anxiety doesn’t stem from the trigger it is an internal part of your make-up. What you are doing is amazing, a million miles away from failure. The only way to deal with it is to attack it, attack it honestly and full on. When I see people swaggering about in t-shirts stating “NO FEAR” I think to myself, no fear no courage. The two go hand in hand.
Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment, Peter! And it’s so so true. I was watching Game of Thrones last night (an older episode) and a character said something along the lines of “the only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid.” YES.