In my life B.C. (before children) I often traveled by myself. I invited others, but it never happened. Which was fine: I could stop and take all the silly photos I wanted, check out every dive bar and sleep in the back seat quite comfortably. I think I got that bug from my mom and the out-of-the-ordinary trips she took us on as kids. I do get so excited at the prospect of traveling.
Then, there are times when you travel and, maybe, you’re not so excited. I mean, any trip entails planning, getting work done so you won’t get too far behind: who’s going to feed the cats … all that. But, I mean, for reasons you’d rather not face. Uncomfortable situations you are obligated to attend or ailing folks. It’s that one, the death and dying part, that I do try not to let completely deny me the pleasure of traveling. It certainly makes it harder to get out the door.
How does one do that? Why would one even think like that? Consider depression around the holidays or distaste for your favorite restaurant after you broke up with your boyfriend there or refusing to listen to certain music because it makes you cry over memories it evokes.
Along the way, you focused only on the negative that coincided with an activity or place (or person or food or really anything). It’s that prehistoric part of the brain, the amygdala, that responds with the fight, fright or flight reaction to anything perceived as stressful. Obviously, a loved one dying is stressful. Been there.
As I get ready to leave in the morning to go with my very dear friend to visit his ailing mother (who is near and dear to me as well), I am already trying to find ways to make the actual travel not so unpleasant. Well, I’ve already screwed that up by throwing too many options out there at once. But, I tried.
What I’m saying is, if the act of traveling has heretofore been a pleasure, let it be the respite from the situation at hand.
This is not to say, avoid responsibility, try to pretend you’re not sad or mad or irritated with those around you or the circumstances in general. This is not to say you aren’t going to have some feelings come up when you do this or that. It’s saying that, well ... breathe. It’s almost a cliché, you hear that so much. But it is true we forget to, fully. Put your head up and your shoulders back. Let the oxygen get to your brain (the rest of your brain!), which will in turn slow your heart rate, so that you may differentiate the good and the bad, the safe and the threatening.
It’s a coping mechanism that has helped me endlessly. Let whatever is good about a situation or time or activity not be rusted by the caustic curveballs life throws at you. Are you mad at the train ride or the person you had the fight with on the train? Are you sad that the beauty of the mountains reminds you of the loss of the person you used to go there with? Celebrate the good, reflect on the bad.
Frankly, I say celebrate it all: love, learn, grow. I choose to focus on stories she bestowed upon us, the skills in the kitchen, the feisty role model. … I’m looking forward to the trip. I hope my friend can get to that place, too.
Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at ltd@ lady tie di .com, or visit her website at www .lady tie di .com.