It's a rainy day here and I've been sorting out our spare room recently. Coming across my pile of journals languishing in a drawer I pull one out and start reading. It's an entry from early on, a few weeks before changing our life and setting off on our journey. It's interesting to read my emotions laid out on the page. I remember them but they've become a stylised narrative, a chapter of the story of my life. It's interesting for me to read it in a more raw, unprocessed form.
It occurs to me that there may be some value in sharing it. For others on the brink of something but doubting. This was always our intention when starting this blog, to share the difficulties and speak to those of you out there who feel the fear. To convince you that it need not limit what you do. If you've always strode through life unthinking, jumping from one adventure to the next and revelling in risk without really worrying about it, if you think of yourself as adventurous, you probably don't need to read this (or maybe you will to increase your sympathy for how the other half live). But if that doesn't describe you and you know what it's like to have that fearful voice put the brakes on your actions, read-on
19th May 2016 (12 days before leaving)
As I finish washing my face and look in the mirror the words jump forth in my mind. It's not the acute fear that sets your heart racing and your physiology accelerating into action but it's fear nonetheless. It's the slow, creeping, deeply restless fear of the unknown. The type of fear that sets your mind in overdrive enough to wake you at 3 in the morning and give you a heightened state of imagination that won't shut off. At the same time it dulls, drowning out awareness of any other internal process.
It sets me in perpetual motion in a futile, unconscious effort to distract. But all this does is renders me exhausted and makes it worse. I know it well, it's a familiar friend, and yet I always fail to preempt its arrival. Even now it's not the presence of the fear that alerts me so much as the absence of awareness of what I'm feeling. It's the void that clues me in.
The difference now though is that I know the road around it. It's a nerve jangling road with crumbling edges and sheer drops at its side but its there and I have faith I can navigate it. That faith is the difference. Such a small/massive thing. An intangible shift in perception but one which enables me to slip through the disabling clutches of my own mind.
I can cope, I can do this. Stay in the moment. Stick with what is, not what might be. Hold with the process.
Simple affirmations that calm and re-centre me...almost. I am here, I am able, I can let go of that which I cannot control.
It passes. But it'll return many more times in the coming days.
12 days later we hit the road and it was tough to begin with. My mind is strong and there were more than a few resistant demons to be slain and habits to be relearned before I could sink into the experience. But I found one thing to be true without exception: my imaginings were always worse than the reality.
These days, I can still worry with the best of them. I still have an overactive imagination. I will never be a gung ho, devil may care adventurist. I still work daily on accepting myself. But I've a better appreciation of my strengths and a stronger understanding that my 'flaws' can be strengths flipped around...if I allow it.
But I've also learned that doing is rarely as scary as imagining and doing is certainly less scary than not doing. And I understand now that all things pass, no matter how unpleasant. I understand that that the 'fear' is actually an symptom of my mind straying too far into the unknown future and trying to force a definition onto it. In trying to tackle the unknown by imagining what it will be I cause my own fear. I create realities in which I am less equipped than I have ever been and in which the world is more menacing than it has ever been. The true reality is that I have faced numerous scenarios and overcome. The true reality is that when you learn to remain open to the experience as it is then you will always emerge a different person.
So when the bumps do occur, as they inevitably do in life, I've developed a greater patience for weathering them for what they are - transient events that will soon be gone. This latter skill is proving invaluable in my role as tutor and teacher.
On Friday we ordered take out, it had been a busy day thanks to unexpected GCSE-related disappointment and neither of us could be bothered to cook. As I broke the fortune cookie open the following day I gave a wry smile as I read its message:
"Many a false step has been taken by standing still"