Last weekend my best friend and I boarded a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Glasgow. We were on our way to see P!NK. We had tried and failed to get tickets for her Dublin show, so my friend’s husband treated us to tickets for the show in Scotland.
The trip was organised months ago, and I should have been eagerly anticipating it. But, as often happens with these things, the closer it got, the more the little gremlins inside my head started piping up. Saying things like “work is so busy right now, I can’t really afford the time off.” Or “my house is a tip, I could really do with getting it sorted out.”
There was never a chance that I was going to cancel, but these nagging thoughts threatened to ruin the experience for me before it had even begun. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go. It was that anxiety or apathy was trying to find an excuse for me to stay home. Because let’s face it, that’s always the easier option!
As soon as we arrived at the airport and ordered a drink I started to relax. All the annoying niggles began to fade away. The weekend was a great success. The show itself was amazing, and we had a blast for the whole weekend. We sampled Glasgow’s gay bars and casinos. Neither of which we had actually set out to do. Furthermore, it reminded me of a few important things.
My travel companion has been my best friend since we were 16. That’s not today or yesterday! We have literally been through everything together. From family drama to being bridesmaid at each other’s wedding. She knows me better than I know myself at times.
In recent weeks, I had been feeling a little sad. There wasn’t anything specific I could put this down to. But I suspect being in therapy had made me a bit raw. Last week in particular, I was struggling and the only way I can think of describing it is as being heart sick. The feeling of unexplained loss and unnamed longing.
Spending 48 hours in the company of someone who knows me so well and loves me warts and all has been like a balm. As we stood among tens of thousands of people, singing tunelessly and drinking Tennants out of plastic glasses, I began to feel like myself again.
It’s becoming obvious to me that when we are at our lowest, being around people who just get us is so important. They don’t need to do anything or say anything, other than offer to hold your drink while you pop to the loo. When you feel that you are barely able to recognise yourself, it helps to be reassured that you are still who you used to be.
As we waited to board our flight home yesterday evening, I was tired from two late nights, and perhaps a tiny bit too much alcohol. But deep down I felt revived. Being in a new city, having a change of scene and getting away from it all, had restored me. Had we gone to the Dublin concert, it would have been the same artist, and the same show. The effect, however, would have been different. It would not have been a “new” experience and could not have been so uplifting. The mind loves novelty and it thrives on it.
Also, we often underestimate how much confidence can be gained from doing something new. Navigating a strange city and managing the logistics can make you feel very accomplished. (Remind me to tell you about getting lost in Rome another time!)
Girls just wanna have fun
One of the reasons I am in counselling is because I am having what I am calling an “Existential Crisis.” I am trying to figure out my purpose in life and what I want to do when I grow up. I find myself thinking “there has to be more to life than this” on a regular basis.
This issue is exacerbated by my awareness that I am not getting any younger. I will be 38 this year, and I can’t help feeling like it’s all getting away from me. I am sure a lot of people go through this as they approach midlife, and it is a season that will eventually pass.
Until that happens, it is really nice to be reminded that I am still capable of having fun. That I am not too old to try new things or to enjoy myself. It was so lovely to see traces of my younger self alive and well. Maybe it’s not too late?
It turns out that as much as I tried to talk myself out of this trip, it was exactly what I needed. The next time you find yourself thinking that you can’t be bothered to do something fun, or telling yourself it’s too much hassle, ask yourself, “is this my anxiety talking?” “Am I stuck in a rut?” Try to figure out what exactly is making you feel that way. If you genuinely don’t want to do the thing, that’s fine. However, if it’s a case that avoiding adventure has become your default, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.
Unfortunately, when we are struggling, we are often tempted to pull away from people and avoid trying new things. This only leads to greater feelings of isolation and boredom, which in turn breed further struggle. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can seem impossible to get out of when you are in the middle of it. I try to think of it is as bicycle wheel spinning. All it takes is a small rod in the spokes to interrupt it.
Of course two nights away hasn’t solved all my problems. I still don’t have the answers. However, I have been given a glimpse of what lies beyond this, and the assurance that if I can keep persuading myself to put one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get there. In short, I feel better and you can’t put a price on that. Be well xxx