When our girl was young, she hated vacations. She hated Christmas break and spring break and she really, really hated it when school let out for the summer. At the time, her vacation aversion was more than a little challenging, but I got it. Vacations took her out of the comfortable, familiar routine of school that she loved. All the unfilled, empty time of a vacation (or worse, leaving home to go somewhere else) made the poor girl anxious to distraction.
I don’t suffer from vacation anxiety, I love to get out and see new places and explore the world. What I suffer from, as a friend pointed out to me recently, is Vacation Packing Anxiety. It’s not the going away but the getting ready to go away that gets me. When I stop to think about my life, however, it’s more generalized than that: I have transitionitis.
As my husband and I get ready for a trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, half a dozen lists are posted around the house. Even still I have loose ends and tendrils that I don’t want to forget twisting in my brain (pick up an extra bike inner tube, remember the food in the freezer, bring your Tevas). I have piles of books and art supplies in my office, stacks of granola bars and chocolate on the countertops. The kitchen floor is cluttered with bins half-filled with canisters of rice and quinoa, jars of olives and salad dressing, cans of tomatoes and artichokes. I keep tripping on my hiking boots which I’ve left out on the floor so I won’t forget them.
Transitionitis is in full swing. Lucky for me, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice with it since between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox, we will take four trips. Simply writing those words makes my heart flutter.
From a Buddhist perspective, I know that life is change. We are transitioning all the time whether we are conscious of it or not. So the opportunity to practice with so many explicit transitions is a healthy and helpful one…albeit uncomfortable and messy with a lot of shoes scattered on the floor.
Feelings, and in particular fear, are part of what we get when we land on the planet. Along with elbows and earlobes and eye teeth, we get emotions …all of them including worry. Just like sensations in the body, our job is to listen to them, give them our attention and respond to them with compassion. So when I find myself caught in the racy feeling that I won’t get everything done, or the tight fear that I will forget something important, that’s the time to pause, breathe, and feel whatever sensations are happening.
As soon as we pull out of the driveway on Tuesday, I know I’ll feel differently but for now I’m a bundle of nervousness. In the meantime, I’m checking things off my list and breathing. I’m sorting paper, colored pens and pencils and breathing. I’m stowing sandals, backpacks, bathing suits and breathing.
All the while, I’m reminding myself how lucky I am to be reluctant to leave the everyday life that I love for the traveling life that I also love. And I’m reminding myself that life really is one big transition, so bring on the practice!
TEACHING NOTE: I’ll be teaching on Monday, Jun 13 at 1045am at acac Albemarle Square and then my next class will be Monday, Jul 4 at 1045am! Please join me!