I love traveling. I mean I LOVE traveling. My family did not travel much when I was growing up. The longest distance we ever went as a family was a cross-country trip from New Jersey out West to Arizona, where my uncle lives. But I was eighteen months old, so I don’t remember a mile of it. Otherwise, we’ve driven up to Niagara Falls and down to Williamsburg, Virginia. My older sister went to college in North Carolina, so there were several trips down south and back, sometimes with pit stops, sometimes not.
My first trip abroad was in college. It was also my first airplane ride. I studied French in high school and college (where I also double-majored in film), so when the opportunity came to go to Cannes, France, on the Mediterranean, the beautiful French Riviera, for the Cannes Film Festival, I jumped. It wasn’t a school-sponsored trip though, so I traveled completely alone. I took my first airplane flight alone, from New York to Nice, nonstop. And it was thrilling. I was so excited about everything, flying, traveling, Europe, possibility. After the three-week film festival, I returned home for the summer before flying back to France that fall for a semester abroad. (That semester was beyond-words-amazing and the reason I am married to Chad). That was the fall of 2005.
Since then, we’ve been to Europe five more times (four of those France), Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and California three times (Chad is in the wine business). Plus, I’ve had a couple awesome trips to Arizona to see my friend, Jen. We’re heading out West again in October, and then to Norway in November. Flying must be natural for me, right? No. I remember loving that first flight from New York to Nice– I was so excited. But each time I fly now, I am more and more anxious.
And my anxiety is not restricted to flying, although just thinking about our trips in October and November are sometimes enough to get my heart racing. I have a lot anxiety around people’s health and my health and accidents and a host of things I have absolutely no control over. (This is one of those areas where Chad and I foundationally disagree– he doesn’t understand why I bother to worry about things I can’t control since there’s nothing I can do about it; I am confounded why he lets more everyday problems stress him out when there are apparent solutions to be found, albeit sometimes expensive or difficult solutions.) I also experience anxiety when I’m the center of attention or feel embarrassed or feel like I’ve hurt someone or can’t decide whether or not Chad and I should have children. I’ve gone through stretches where I would have panic attacks just sitting at my desk at work, nothing stressful happening, just the effects of somewhat-constant subconscious anxiety I guess.
And here’s the thing, most of the time, I overcome these. I fly anyway because I love to travel; I talk myself out of complete panic when I haven’t heard from Chad in several hours and I convince myself that he most likely did not die in a car accident; I am getting better at calming my nerves during public speaking. And these are my everyday wins. I read a guest post on Five Kids Is A Lot of Kids from Stephanie Gates of A Wide Mercy, On All the Wins Nobody Sees, where she wrote, “Nobody knows right now I have to make a conscious decision to be healthy, emotionally and physically, about every ten minutes. I fight – and win! – all the time, but I never share my victories with my husband or friends. I just collect them. I collect them all. Each tiny win reminds me I can do this. I can stare at death and move back into life. My unnoticed achievements are me putting one foot in front of the other. They each lead me a half inch closer to peace.”
And at the end she invites us to share our own battles. This is my battle: anxiety. Sometimes it sneaks up on me when my guard is down and it takes more effort to contain it. Sometimes I see it coming, like with an upcoming flight across the country (or ocean) and I spend a little time praying for peace, praying for my heart rate to slow, praying for my poor husband, who can do nothing but be present with me. I win this battle a lot. I also lose sometimes, and then instead of just holding my hand, Chad ends up holding my whole heaving body as I sob through the fear and pain. But I win a lot more than I lose, and that’s something.
So I echo Stephanie in inviting you to share your battles. Tell me how you win a little bit every day. The sharing makes us vulnerable, but it also makes it a little better, knowing we’re not alone.