My pre-travel melt-downs: A new tack

A few Fridays ago, I wandered around Earth Fare, waiting until Theresa could take a short break for a short visit before I left for a short trip to see my mom. I’d be gone fewer than 30 hours. And yet I was wound up, antsy, anxious to get on the road, impatient as all get out.

This is my m.o. Overnight visits to weeks-long road trips, I grit my teeth as I launch into them. You’d think I was heading toward a dental surgery rather than a vacation. You’d think I was heading toward a dental surgery where, if I didn’t arrive perfectly on time, they’d withhold anesthesia. That’s the fierceness and agitation that overcomes me with greater and greater intensity as I approach the departure time for a trip.

I have no idea where this came from or what it’s about. I’m not sure that I need to know. Instead, I’m focusing only on taking a different tack.

First, I’m offering myself an acknowledgment: This tension is my norm.

Wishing it to be otherwise just makes it worse; wishing it to be otherwise would be the Resistance in Shinzen Young’s wonderfully concise equation: Pain x Resistance = Suffering. Besides, the tension will melt all on its own sometime between pulling out of our driveway and arriving at our destination, usually as soon as we’re out of the city and that ornery part of me finally believes we’re actually going on vacation.

Second, I’m trying a new strategy: Lists.

For our next trip, I created packing lists (clothes, pup stuff, food, and miscellany) and task lists (shopping, cleaning, and food prep, mostly) and Theresa, ever patient and quietly eager to avoid my usual pre-trip spiral, has played along. She teases me for my neuroses and somehow manages to do so in a way that helps me see them as charmingly quirky instead of my default assumption that they’re horrifically off-putting.

As part of my travel prep, I’m writing this post one week before its publication date and so while I currently feel well-suited to start this trip on good footing – though with no expectation that I’ll be completely bereft of my usual swirl of stress – the pudding has yet to provide its proof.

What I can feel fairly certain about is that if this new tack moves me in a more comfortable pre-travel direction, I’ll see where I can tweak this nice foundation I’ve laid. If the swirl is as bad – or worse – than usual, I’ll stir around for another tack for the next go-round.

There was a long stretch in my life where I interpreted any sort of hitch in the giddyup, whether full-on failure or simply things going less well than I had hoped, as a fatal flaw. At those times, I tended not to tweak processes but rather let that baby slosh right on out with the bathwater, babies in the form of aspirations and hopes and hobbies. Perfectionism presents itself that way sometimes.

Healing from perfectionism, I’m learning, involves perpetual experimentation laden with curiosity and nuance, and finding the shiny bits in the failures and the spots still in need of polish in the victories. And, of course, endeavoring to accept that there’s no amount of polish or elbow grease that will buff away imperfection altogether.

So, wish me luck in having gotten on the road without a full-on melt-down. But it’s okay if I did melt-down. In no time flat, it’ll be meaty windshield convo and sing-alongs anyway.

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