A Broad Abroad
I have no idea how I ended up sitting on my living room floor with all of these piles of clothes and shoes in a semicircle around me, and my suit case sprawled out - it's emptiness making me anxious just by it's presence. I'm so overwhelmed that I sort of tip over on to the stack of jeans that are folded militaristically to my right. It's too many jeans, but as I groan out loud and flop to the side, they support my head the way they have never supported any part of my waist, thighs or butt. Nothing I pack matters since my plane will obviously crash. Or at least it will if I don't take several Ativan before I hit the security line.
It's 9 days until my first trip outside of the US. Never in my life have I ever packed for anything more than 24 hours in advance. I love the adrenaline rush of power-packing. There isn't time to feel bad about not losing weight or overthinking what you'll need. Just shove the last few outfits you wore in a bag and get the hell on the plane. I lived out of a suitcase for almost five years when I started my first Big-Girl job (one that had benefits), and before that went to school 2,000 miles from home, essentially living as abroad as I ever thought possible....I would never have packed more than a few hours before a flight.
But here I am. I'm on the floor more than a week before my big voyage, half wondering if trip insurance really works and whether my hotel is fully refundable. When did I become such a delicate emotional flower?
How does one pack for Ireland and Spain? Scarves and wool for one, and bright colors and gauzy things for the other? How red of lipstick will I need? How do hair dryers work in Europe? Do I need compression socks so I don't get DVT on the plane? DVT was everywhere in 2003 when journalists went to Iraq. Wait, is DVT a condition, or is it *A* DVT? Has it been cured? I didn't see any DVT walks, or DVT telethons hosted by almost-forgotten celebrities. DVT, like quicksand, seemed it would be a much bigger issue back in those simple years.
Like all major events in my life, I am completely paralyzed with anticipation. I spend half of my waking hours, and at least 80% of my sleeping hours ruminating on scenes from my trip...that hasn't even started to happen yet.
I have learned how to ask where the library is in Spanish and whether a little girl is running, but have yet to commit to memory how to ask for a taxi to my hotel, or how much that will cost. I lay with my denim support group, staring at my popcorn ceiling, wondering if the Spaniards will look at me the way I look at foreigners here - like they're probably stupid. Can I just pin a note to my shirt that says, "I'm American, but not the bad kind, and need a taxi to my hotel. I would also like a drink, but please don't roofie me, because in America that's considered rude."?
I'm thankful that I forced my cousin and unwilling life-partner, Kate, to go with me. She's the traveler in the family, and may roll her eyes at me when I do something dumb, like talk loudly in English to someone who speaks Spanish (shouting makes them understand), but she will tolerate me because she's bad at making decisions in restaurants, so we need each other.
I roll to my other side on my jean pillow-top, and realize mournfully that I need an entire new wardrobe. This is the vacation where I redefine my identity as the woman in her mid-30s who is well-traveled and looks adventurous in her linen pants and colorful gauzy exotic top. "She's tanned, but in a 'she appreciates yoga at dawn on the beach' sort of way," they'll all say in Spanish as I buy dewy mangos from the farmers market in the early morning light. I picture myself very Diane Lane-esque a la Under the Tuscan Sun, but with more paella and less Italians.
I live each moment of each day swallowing back fears: will I sneeze and pee my pants?; will that truck with logs on it "Final Destination" me on the highway?; will I get my period during a long meeting in light blue pants?; will ISIS be having a family reunion on my flight?; is DeFazio's closed on Sundays now?
None of these hold a flickering candle to the Olympic flame of the biggest "What If" of them all: what if I'm forced to go clubbing in Spain?
I love being Irish. Well, I love being Irish American...and Catholic(ish). The repression suits me. I love that our culture is to dance without moving our arms. I love that a good time for My People is to sit and stare into a fire or into our warm beers, and the only time we emote is to sing a song with a lot of knee slapping, or to ask for yet another warm beer. I like my vacations more in line with a scene from The Quiet Man, than from Dirty Dancing. I really wish you actually could put Baby in a corner, because I'd warm up a seat for her. I've never let loose in my life.
Wait. Once. Once I let loose...and led a conga line through my cousin's wedding pictures. Sorry, Amber. My bad. #neverforget
No one was more surprised than me when I actually got a ticket to Europe. When I was nine, my parents sent me to swim camp about 10,000 miles away at Hartwick College [my mom says it's actually only about an hour and a half as the crow flies...tell that to nine-year-old me]. All kids should want to go to swim camp...you got to stay in a dorm, and there were dances and all kinds of fun things. But I was perpetually homesick until my frontal lobe developed at 23, so I didn't exactly thrive there. My poor ever-suffering parents. I vividly remember believing that I was being bullied because the coolest (read: cutest) guy on the team, Rob MacLeod, sat on my bed in a wet speedo.
<note to self: find out if Rob MacLeod has FaceBook, then go about ten years deep in his pictures.>
I'm just not one for branching out. Well, I wasn't. I am now. Or, at least I'm supposed to be. I'm the one who had the anxiety beat her down and somehow found her way to picking herself up by the brastraps to become the writer of The Truth...right? Shouldn't I be over this? You learn something once about yourself, and it should be the end of the struggle. And certainly, you shouldn't write about it if it's something you're still dealing with.
But I am. And I do.
I do the things that make me curl up on the floor wondering who it was that ever allowed me to be an unaccompanied adult.
I get out there, and I do.
I do things like fly to Ireland and then to Spain.
I do things like write about being human, in all of its sufferings and splendor. I do.
I do things like co-host a podcast. And I do things like make speeches at wedding. and I do things like submit writing to really impossible places like JK Rowling's publisher (#lol).
I do the things that scare me and make me (and my poor suffering family) uncomfortable.
I get out of fetal position by doing. Sometimes my doing is flying to Europe. Sometimes my doing is driving to Albany to try a new bar.
And sometimes my doing is just getting out of bed. The only time I will fail is if I stop.
So here I go. I'm doing this next. My anxiety and its nonsensical fears will come with me no matter where I go, so I might as well have a great time with them.
Dublin and Alicante, don't hold back...I've got a handful of Euros and a lot of space in my iCloud.
Let's do this.