It’s a funny thing, this state of mind known as worry. It never goes away. The good news is, it loses steam the more we keep up the battle. There are times though when I completely surrender, like when we were traveling up through the mountains in Crete. I got so scared watching Joe drive through tight spaces, gawking at the short space between our car and the 1000 foot drop… I just knew we were going to tumble over the edge trying to dodge an on-coming truck. “Come on, this is fun,” he says. “Lighten up. What’s the worst that can happen? We get sideswiped and lose a mirror? It’s not like we’re going to fall off the side of the mountain.”
How is he able to think that way…so calm, so happy to climb higher and higher on a road that is becoming a tight rope instead of flat pavement? He believes that everything is going to be okay. I believe we are seconds away from the Grim Reaper. Joe sees my worried expression and adds his idea of soothing words. He peers out my side window and says, “I don’t see very many wrecked cars down there at the bottom.”
“Joe! Keep your eyes on the road.” He’s checking his Iphone to see whether he’s still on the jagged line that’s supposed to lead us to the place we’ve chosen to stay for the night.
A truck barely grazes us as he turns his attention back to the real road. I pull the lever by my seat push back 90 degrees. Looking up at the car’s grey vinyl ceiling, I breathe a sigh of relief.
“That’s it, just lay back and relax,” says Joe.
Talk about a reframe. Without the sight of oncoming traffic, I mentally shift to another fear. “Remember that couple that got swept away by a rogue wave when we were in Mexico last year?”
“What do you think it would feel like to be walking along the beach and have a wave suddenly rise out of nowhere – just long enough to suck you into the sea? Wouldn’t you wonder what you did to piss God off so badly? I mean to the point He literally sucks you off solid earth and plunges you into the great abyss. It’s got to make you retrace your steps, don’t you think?”
“Are you worried you’ve done something to make God send an avalanche of boulders down over us? Or is it a real wave you’re worried about? Relax. I don’t think He’d send a wave up this high.”
“Could be both,” I say.
“Darling, it must be hard to live in your head.”
That made me wonder. Is that true? Does anxiety mess with my thinking to the point that I’m losing out on a better life some how? Since I walked the Camino de Santiago, our 40-day pilgrimage through Northern Spain, I’ve definitely grown more patient, more courageous… willing to take chances in a measured kind of way. Really more like baby steps. Literally baby steps since most babies just lie on their backs and kick their feet in the air with very little forward momentum.
We are on our yearly vacation and this time it looks like it’s going to be Greece or Turkey. Or maybe Newfoundland or the Azores. If you’ve read our first book, you know that we have a special travel philosophy. It’s called the “No-plan plan.” Joe calls it adventurous. My mother calls it stupid.
“How can you go someplace without knowing where or for how long?” she asks.
“I don’t know, it’s a Joe thing. He has some kind of adventure bug and so far, the Raid-laced deodorant hasn’t worked.”
My mother is my own MOAB—the Mother Of All Bogeymen. No matter what I tell her, she will respond with some kind of caution. It doesn’t’ matter what I say. It all gets translated and sent back in the language of panic.
“Hey ma! I just got invited to the White House for a Presidential reception. I can’t believe it. Little old me at the White House.”
“That’s not good. I heard on the news today that somebody jumped over the White House fence and tried to stab the President. It’s not safe. Save it for another time.”
The next day, before our planned mother-daughter shopping day, I called her. “Hey ma! I’m going to take a quick shower, I’ll be out and ready to get you in 10 minutes.”
“That’s not good. I heard on the news today that most accidents happen in the home… people die in the shower all the time. It’s not safe. Save it for another time.”
When I told her that Joe was ready for our next vacation and he had no plans other than hopping on a military cargo plane. She looked at me quizzically. “What do you mean no plans? Where are you going? “
I don’t know. Maybe Turkey.”
I saw the blood drain from her face. She steadied herself in a Fred Sanford, “This is the big one.” fake heart attack pose. “Turkey! I heard on the news today that the President—you know he’s still recovering from the assassination attempt–decided to bomb Turkey. There are a bunch of terrorists over there. It’s not safe. Tell Joe to save it for another day.”
“Ma. He bombed Syria, not Turkey.”
“It’s all the same place. It’s not safe.”
I chalked it up to her usual MOAB fears. Imagine my surprise when the first thing they told us at the military passenger terminal was, “You want to go to Turkey? You can’t go there. It’s not safe.” It turns out the base commander at Incirlik, Turkey would not sign off on any non-active duty traveling there, let alone two veterans who were traveling with no travel plans.
Hallelujah! Now Joe will have to change his plans.
My mother’s fears had secretly worked their magic and I was already fretting the thought of being decapitated by black hooded terrorists in a home made video. “Ah… an American woman traveling to Turkey with husband who makes no plans. All world knows Turkey and Syria the same. Very stupid. She die first.”
I say to Joe, “So, I guess it’s a no-go on the Turkey thing, huh?”