Attention: ALL systems failing!!! Beep, beep! B…
One of the best parts of going on a trip is the anticipation. The foreplay phase, if you will. You know, when your countdown of remaining work time has gone from weeks to DAYS, when you’re buying sunscreen even though it’s freezing outside, and when your real-life problems don’t quite seem to matter so much anymore? The air seems a little crisper, people a little nicer, and the life you take for granted somehow just a little sweeter.
I’ve travelled a lot in my life, and I usually love the weeks preceeding a departure almost as much as the trip itself. While I normally only pack in the hours before leaving for the airport, and have been known to change travel plans mid-boatride following a conversation with, say, a Norwegian sailor (and never actually making it to my original destination), this time it’s different. There has been NOTHING impulsive in my approach towards this 7-week India trip. I’ve been planning it for over 6 months, and have treated the entire endeavour as an entirely pragmatic, hypochondriac, SENSIBLE adult should.
In other words, I’ve prepared for this trip like my mother would. And THAT is scary.
To give you a better idea of how uncharacteristic any kind of planning is to me, here are some facts that might make it clearer. In my 20s, when I decided in a split-second that I was moving to Korea, I sold all my possessions, gave away my 3 cats faster than they could say “meow”, and was on a plane changing lives within a month. I thought I would stay in Asia for 1 year, but I stayed for three. No big deal.
I was bitten by a monkey in Vietnam, and catching rabies never even crossed my mind. I thought the monkey was cute, and I didn’t see a doctor. I’ve been to many malaria-ridden parts of the world, and not only did I NOT take malaria pills, I didn’t even use mosquito repellent. I was in Thailand right before the 2004 Tsunami, and went back shortly after, not even worrying about a recurring tidal-wave. Instead, I learned how to surf. I was in Taiwan during the SARS epidemic, and I didn’t wear a mask OR use anti-bac.
I ate pig assholes in China from sketchy streetstalls during the Avian Flu (they were delicious), and not only did I NOT get sick, I never even considered the possibility that I MIGHT.
So, I am at a loss to explain why THIS particular trip to India has had me preparing for months, and why NOW, a few days before my takeoff, I am STILL desperately scampering to check off items from my never-ending “to-do” lists. (Yes, I have more than one.)
Why have I literally purchased the contents of an entire pharmacy? I won’t bore you with the details of my bulk-sized antibacterial solution packs, the multiple photocopies of my travel insurance forms (my TRAVEL INSURANCE!!!??? ) or the other many, plentiful jewels in my fear-mongering first-aid kit. Why do I have not ONE, but TWO kinds of malaria medication, 5 bottles mosquito repellent, and 3 kinds of eye drops? Because my travel doctor and pharmacist gave me shit for NOT wanting to purchase those things, and I gave in to their shit…I do not fare well with authoritative figures, yet this time, I’ve been an acquiescent little lamb.
Is this one of the joys of aging? Does getting older make us wiser, or just turn us into the fear-ridden grownups we used to make fun of not-so-long ago???
All I know is that despite of (or perhaps BECAUSE of) my over-anal planning, I’ve never been quite so miserable before an exotic adventure. I’m going to Goa for 7 weeks to do yoga, meditate, splash around on some of the most beautiful beaches on earth, eat some of the best food on the planet, and I can’t even enjoy the excitment of it all. I can’t be excited, because I’m too busy “getting stuff done”.
I’m stressed about being relaxed. Or, to put it another way, I’m stressed about preparing to go away to paradise to relax. How fucking ridiculous is THAT?
In the past few weeks everything seems to be breaking down at the same rate that I’m crossing items off of my to-do-lists. These “to-do” lists are just filling up with more “to-fix” items. My work computer keeps crashing (more frequently than usual). My personal laptop is acting out and moving slower than ever. Months of work spent on my blog design suddenly disappeared when my web developer friend was adding the final piece of code to it. (We had to re-do it all by memory.) My tablet won’t perform simple tasks such as connecting to my usual wi-fi connections. I dropped my new iPhone in the toilet. And so, my to-do lists keep on getting longer. Because I’ve planned so much ahead of time, I haven’t been able to enjoy these sweet anticipatory moments and JUST BE.
My body is also starting to malfunction – I’ve been fighting colds, headaches and mood swings with Tylenol, alcohol and ColdFX for the past two weeks. I’m at war with a monstrous pimple. Even my apartment has started to act out: toilets clogged, light bulbs dying, and smoke alarms randomly going off, even though I don’t cook. Like, EVER!
My kitchen sink actually vomited up a straw the other night, following a battle between me, it and Drainall. I don’t USE straws!!! THIS was the last straw.
Have I become so dependent on the technology, lists and stress that are my new “normal”, and in the process have ironically become totally disconnected from the things that really matter? Has the fact that I haven’t been abroad in 8 months morphed me into a neurotic worry-wart that plans and stresses about things that don’t actually matter at all in the grand scheme of things? Have I been working so much without interruption that I’ve actually forgotten to draw that fictitious line in the sand between work life and real life?
In my line of work we depend on our technology as if it were an IV drip. We multitask like there’s no tomorrow, and seem to get off on just getting through the schizophrenic pace of our 9-to-5 treadmill. Is it normal that I need a total interruption from this constant bombardment of over-stimulation to remind myself that REAL life (outside of work) should not be approached like this? What is happening?
Yoga, by definition, is a practice that is derived from the literal meaning of “yoking together” of mind and body. This yoking ideally happens once we are able to NOT identify our well-being with external factors outside our control, and just BE. The irony is that in my frenzy to get everything “just-SO” before I leave, my regular yoga practice has fallen victim to my “to-do” emergencies, and my attachment to controlling external factors in order to ensure a smooth voyage.
What’s even more ironic is that in planning for my yoga voyage, I have become so wrapped up in the DOING, that I have lost touch with just BEING.
I need to get on that plane ASAP. There’s nothing better than looking down after take-off and getting that bird’s-eye perspective of how small your neighborhood, and then your city, and then your problems REALLY are. How the shit we create in our heads and get wrapped up in when we’re down there, at the ground level of our lives, is really nothing but a speck on the face of our very large planet, and unfathomably infinite universe. From that view, you can’t even see your mind-fabricated issues, let alone your malfunctioning kitchen sink.
And so, I am counting down the days until I get that perspective back. I need to remember how big the world really is outside of my #firstworldproblems.
The biggest irony is that I probably won’t even end up using any of the items in my mobile pharmacy, or remember why I was so worked up about technology failing once I’m out there just doing yoga, breathing, and experiencing a new corner of the world. New sights, new smells, and the sand between my toes to remind me of how unnecessary the webs we create in our heads really are. Three days, and (really, really) counting.
Systems failing? YES!!! System reboot? Yes PLEASE! (Or maybe just a temporary “OFF” button).