The start of a grand adventure, or taking fear with me

Diving into the new year in England.

Diving into the new year in England. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

Happy New Year everybody! (Yes, to all three of you.) As many of you know, my husband and I are traveling for a year around the world. We plan to spend 3 months in 4 cities. We call it the B Tour: Bangkok, Thailand; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Berlin, Germany; and Mumbai (nee Bombay), India.

I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the title for this post, or more specifically, the mocking fallout that could happen. For example, say this year turns out to be rather beige or my writing is boring; people might snidely call it the “bland adventure”; if I gain a lot of weight, it could be the “grande adventure”; if nothing goes according to plan, the “grand misadventure” and so on. Of course, with life and my metabolism  being what it is, it will be probably be a mixture of the aforementioned.

But the upsides of this trip are worth any name-calling. We are seeking to redefine our lives with work and service in an international context.  What will we do? What will we encounter?  Will we like it? Is our goal even possible? Besides the lofty purposes, even the baseline description of this trip is exciting for me: We are traveling around the world!  I’m filled with excitement, curiosity, a sense of purpose. I’m grateful that we have this chance and sometimes (many times) I can’t believe it’s happening.  The potential to have amazing, mind-blowingly incredible experiences is high.

I just have to get through the fear first.

The start of a grand adventure is always the worst, I think. Too many unknowns and I like structure. I mean, really like, as in, if there were a tangible object that created rules, boundaries, maps and automatically came up with backup plans should any of the above fail, I would gold-plate it, whisper adoringly to it on the hour and surgically attach it to my hip. (Some people might call it a “mind,” or a “GPS device” but such people are disgustingly pragmatic and probably infinitely boring). In my head I know there are positives and that the worst things that can happen are never really that bad, that you can pick yourself up and keep going.

In my head, I believe in the positive big picture, but the reality of the brass tacks stop me cold.  I see and think about all that I have to do, plus all the hidden things that I might encounter, and I just want to (and do) curl up in a ball (preferably in a downy comforter on a bed). It’s like this:
Big picture — We are traveling around the world!
Brass tacks —We have to tie up loose ends, move, clean, pack, say goodbye, arrange transportation, find accommodations, take precautions — and each item in this list has sub-categories and sub-sub-categories galore, with each level having its own stressors and annoyances. It’s exhausting just thinking about it all.

This phenomenon manifests itself most when I pack. Each decision comes with so many layers. A question as simple as, “Should I pack this sweater?” gets compounded by questions of need, space, fit, laundry level (clean/smells clean/clean-enough- to-pack-but-should-be-placed-near-the-shoes, etc.), cultural sensitivity, viability with other outfits and overall cuteness. The unknown gets into my wardrobe, an area in which I once had total control, overwhelming me, and turning me into a lump. Fear, for me, leads to anxiety and paralysis.

This trip is a major life change and I know fear will accompany it. So my New Year’s Resolution: to move, even with fear. I know I won’t ever get rid of fear completely, and it would be foolish of me to think it will never reappear. But I don’t want to be paralyzed when it strikes. To keep taking steps, even when I feel the prickles of apprehension.

Take it one step at a time...

Take it one step at a time…

To combat the nebulous void, I have tried setting boundaries for myself: “I will pack for an hour and then have a cookie,” and the like. Even just getting up off the bed and flipping open the suitcase lid is counted as a victory. I motivate myself by thinking in extreme detail about how good I will feel and what I will do once I have accomplished the task (but not for too long, or else it’s still like being paralyzed and nothing gets done.) It is getting better. As I write this post, I am already packed and we’re not leaving until tomorrow night (huzzah!).

Hopefully, I’ll get so good at moving with fear, I can be packed within an hour instead of sitting on the bed mulling outfit combinations for that same amount of time.  Hopefully, when the tingles of anxiety hit as I think about  all that I still have to do, I will spring out of bed instead of rolling into a tighter cocoon of blankets. Hopefully, I will carry fear without it weighing me down. I have at least 3 more times in the coming year to practice moving with fear. Hopefully, I will get better at it.

Here we go, yo.


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