The Tranquility and Anxiety Cocktail (Week 36, June 3-9, 2019)
We have just completed a week in Merviel, a tiny village in Ariege, a region in southwestern France that encompasses part of the Pyrenees and borders Spain. Very little English is spoken. The caretaker of the house, Nathalie, helped us navigate the weekly market on Monday where we bought sheep’s cheese, fresh strawberries, a cut of pork we did not recognize, and more bread than was reasonable (we are now making croutons). Nathalie has also proven to be a wonderful babysitter.
The house is huge, quirky, comfortable, and the yard is large and beautiful with lush landscaping. The house is stone and the shutters are lavender. The drive to town, Mirepoix, is through fifteen windy minutes of rolling countryside. Often you have to pull off to the side of the road to let a tractor pass by.
The clear air carries the sound of the cowbells on a nearby hill to our yard, and the donkeys bray aggressively a few times a day to break things up.
Amidst this tranquility my anxiety has resurfaced. Perhaps it’s the nature of the calm times on the trip, when things get easier. I got sick (caught what WP had last week) which did not help. I had planned to use this week to front load a lot of work before we start traveling with others, but had to cancel two days’ of meetings. I lay awake at night, my stomach hurting and mind racing. This is why I always travel with Tylenol PM.
There is nothing to be anxious about, really, but small things cause the heat to rise in my chest. An unreasonable bad Airbnb review from an apartment we actually enjoyed. Trying to figure out how to book our babysitting hours in advance, without pinning our travel companions down to a pre-set schedule on their supposed-to-be-relaxing vacation. Making the final travel arrangements with friends who are having trouble making up their minds on their preferences.
Old worries and anger surface from a job I haven’t held for more than a year. I flashback to stressful times and my muscles tense as I work through what things I might have done differently. To what end? Haven’t I been over this countless times before?
And all the while I’m cognizant of the fact that we’ve rounded the halfway point on our trip and are looking ahead to our touch down in NYC. A milestone that comes with its own list of unsettling logistics. Most days I’m confident about my employability, but some days I wonder: how does one get a job again? I last looked for one in 2011, and decided to start my own thing instead. We will need money. And health insurance. And where exactly are we going to live in the city?
This past week our friend George joined us in Merviel. His arrival marked a new phase of our trip. After co-traveling and visitors at regular intervals for most of the fall and winter, we decided to travel just the three of us for a little over two months, from the end of our time in Morocco throughout our time in Spain. It was great (flexibility, down time, chicken nuggets for dinner OK!) and hard (all time spent with one adult and one baby). I am happy to be traveling with friends and family again (more join us tomorrow, and the list grows from there as we move destinations) but also wary of what that means in terms of fitting my own personal priorities and work time into the mix.
One lesson of this trip is that the notion of extended vacation is perhaps not possible. And I guess that makes sense. You can take a vacation from your day to day for a week or so and press pause. Stop reading emails, ignore bosses and stresses and the like. But nearly nine months in, you can’t ignore the need to pay your taxes, tend to relationships, consider your career, eat healthily, exercise occasionally, parent intentionally, and all sorts of things that factor into a more traditional day to day life. You just have to navigate them while on the move.
Which, after another week in Merviel, we will be again.