"We need a hashtag," my text read to my cousin Kate.
This is my biggest concern as I "X" out another day on my calendar with a Sharpie in my sweaty palms.
Cousin Kate is known by my niece as Aunt KatieBaby, and known in my circle as Uppercase Kate because she's older than my friend, Lowercase Kate, whom we are visiting in a few short days.
Uppercase and Lowercase, being both strikingly beautiful and having the same exact first name, Katharine (and same debit card, which has been switched at a bar at least once), fit into their nicknames. When Uppercase was little, she would pronounce herself resolutely and with a proud finality as KATE(!), her chest out and wild curly hair flowing when asked who she was. I didn't know Lowercase when she was little, but my imagination hopes that she more of a kate(.), having fallen in the middle of two equally beautiful sisters, her eccentricities saved for her audience at home. The fantastic irony of my Cases is that Uppercase thinks she's shy and introverted as an adult, and Lowercase thinks she's far more outgoing and confident as she finds herself in her 20s. All of my Kates fascinate me.
None of this Kate dissection is helping me with the all-important task leading up to this expedition of flying across the ocean in a tin can: a hashtag.
I'm focused (read: fixated) ((read: ruminating)) (((read: obsessed))) with the minutia of this trip planning because that's how my brain works. It's how all of our brains work actually, but some of us have the habit of getting stuck in this kind of thought pattern.
It's a habit just like biting your nails, or compulsively scratching your scalp, or saying "irregardless."
As the days have ticked by, I found a calm start to wash away some of the anxiety of what I felt to be stagnation. I was able to finally do things this week…productive things, instead of just sitting and waiting.
What’s that old proverb? Idle hands are the Devil’s Facebook? Something like that.
I come from a family of nervous doers and tinkerers. My paternal grandfather was an infantryman in WWII, and until his dying day his hands were always busy with something like clipping endless coupons or reorganizing all of the batteries in the house…unless he was otherwise occupied checking for holes in his eyelids.
Sitting and reflecting was left to a stiff bourbon Manhattan on Saturday and/or Mass on Sunday (depending on the potency of the Manhattan), and even then there’s a lot of kneeling, and standing, and singing, and asking for forgiveness with both. We're a fidgety bunch.
So as this week crested on the horizon, and I was able to put my wind-up-toy mind to work by buying toiletries and peanut butter for Lowercase, I started to feel better. I packed (reasonably-ish), I washed my floors and vacuumed. I tried Nairing all the hair off my body (separate blog), and I gave myself a pedicure.
All of this having been accomplished by 10am last Saturday, I resigned to watching all 8 Harry Potter movies and ordered Euros (and DeFazios). The exchange rate leaves something to be desired (thanks, Obama), but I think I’m almost ready to try and understand currency for the first time in my life.
Then I sat and waited next to my suitcase. I waited like a dog waiting for their human to come home from work. Which is to say, how I usually am while waiting for my pizza to arrive.
I just don’t deal well with anticipation.
<I will let you know when I find something that I do deal well with.>
This has been my whole life’s work, learning to be patient.
I blame growing up in the Sycaway neighborhood of Troy, and my parents, obviously. My parents are sadists, and would make my sister and I wait on the top of the stairs on Christmas morning whilst they made coffee in a percolator, and brushed the dog, and mowed the driveway, and said the rosary, and raked the roof…or whatever completely unnecessary and obscure tasks they engaged in to torture us before we could open presents. I don’t know if my sister writhed in agony as much as I did, but only because as the younger sibling, the only opinion she was allowed to share was mine.
This is 96% of what I talk to my therapist about (kidding mom).
In a much more humane exercise in parenting, my family took a vacation to Myrtle Beach when we were young enough to not be completely terrible. We left in the middle of the night so us kids (and grandma) could sleep in the back seat and not implode from nerves before hitting the end of our driveway.
This makes me wish that someone had chloroformed me right after I bought my ticket to Europe, and let me awake, pleasantly surprised, when we landed in Dublin.
When I traveled for work, I would often have less than 48 hours’ notice before I was shipped off to some enchantingly exotic land like Alpharetta, Georgia or Akron, Ohio for 28 days. 48 hours was just enough time to cancel dentist appointments and dump milk down the drain.
At the time I hated the lack of consistency, and really needed to get my oil changed (code for gyno), and although I’m not exactly pining for that lifestyle these days, I understand now that the urgency of those deployments was the only reason I could actually do that job. Well, that, and the absurd amount of money they paid us.
I think the anxiety of this trip so far has been the anticipation of it all. And that's exactly the point. That's what anxiety is. It's just the ball of sweaty nerves that ask all the "what-ifs", and is 9 years old at the top of the stairs having a minor stroke over whether Santa came or not.
Anxiety tells you a story, and it's up you to play into it, or to let it pass on by. With every new thing you do, like going to Europe, or interviewing for a new job, or leaving the house for the first time in weeks, or starting a new relationship, anxiety will tell you that story.
It wants to protect you like a over-excited dog. It thinks it is doing the right thing by having me obsess over tiny details, because getting the details right might have saved me from a bear attack a few millennia ago...our brains are just using really old hardware that the software is too modern for.
I can see the story now a little clearer than I did a week ago, so that's good news. I'll never be free of anxiety, and why would I want to be? The nerves are what makes this trip fun already. I like packing and repacking, and climbing the 19 flights of stairs to Lowercase's apartment to get the jeans she forgot. I like telling my family over dinner the things we have planned, and wondering how things will change when we get there. I can't wait to have something weird happen, as it always does, so Uppercase and I have a fun story to tell Lowercase over a glass of Spanish wine on the beach.
I'm manically pumped to pretend I'm not crying when I see that Lowercase of mine IRL in Spain.
I'm excited for every single thing I'm going to see and do. I hope I have enough ink in my pen, and enough data on my phone to take notes and pictures and absorb every possible detail to share.
Yesterday was the first day I finally let go the urgency of the details like having the perfect hashtag, and try to cozy up to the excitement that is building in me like a shaken Mr. Pibb. The letting it all go has allowed me the space to focus on the one real task that is incredibly important, and in which the ultimate success of this entire voyage hinges:
Addendum: I had Lowercase proof read this blog for general grammatical errors (of which she found three...whatever). I was gently informed that although I'm very creative, and stunningly beautiful (the reception on FaceTime was poor, but I got the gist), I didn't exactly capture her youth with accuracy in her current nickname. Can't win them all. Enjoy the peanut butter.