Bonjour, mon ami!
I’m back from 3 weeks in Europe and it was EPIC. If you’re on the email list, you got a little note from me to inform you that I would be taking a break from publishing posts here while I was away. If you’re not, get on it now, silly!
My husband and I had a blast over in the EU. So many amazing things happened:
After seeing the final performance of his play in London’s West End, Don Juan in Soho, I met – and talked to – David Tennant, one of my favorite actors (and definitely my favorite Doctor Who).
Afternoon tea at The Savoy Hotel in London was everything I ever dreamed a super-swanky tea would be.
I met up with my brother in London before he headed off to work in Mumbai for 3 months.
I spoke French!!! Well!!! I realized I knew more than I thought, and most times I got super-fast French responses back (that I couldn’t understand), which meant that I sounded okay!
We had not one, but two picnics in Paris parks! It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since our last trip to Paris when it was rainy and cold. This time was warm and sunny.
I caught myself multiple times reveling in the present moment at a Paris café with live music or sitting along the Seine or just walking toward our destination, delighting in the experience of being alive in that moment.
And then… some other things happened. Things that could have been construed as…not-so-amazing. As I reflect on them now, I can’t help but recognize what a big role my recovery has played in the way I experienced the trip. Not only did it enhance the amount of joy I realized, but it opened doors to fluidity and positivity in ways that were blocked to me before all this work.
I realize that’s a bit of a vague, woo explanation, so let me tell you all about two of my “worst” moments on the trip and how my recovery turned them into great learning experiences and – in the end – gifts.
Stepping Foot In Amsterdam
Our first stop on our European jaunt was Amsterdam. We’d never been before and heard amazing things about it, so we planned the first 4 days in the pretty city.
After a near 24-hour travel day, we arrived at our AirBnB* in the beautiful Plantage district. We checked in with our lovely host, then set out to grab a bite to eat.
When my husband and I explore new cities, we do it on foot. We love walking all over the place, logging an average of 9 miles a day. It’s just what we do. So when we decided to walk about a mile to the area our host recommended, I thought nothing of it.
About 3/4 of the way there, I felt a sharp pain developing in the bottom of my foot.
It felt as if something needed to pop so I kept trying to stretch it out as we walked, but it just seemed to get worse. By the time we finally arrived at a café, I was limping.
My mind fell into panic – would this mean that I wouldn’t be able to walk around like we usually do? What if this is what it would be like the whole trip? Would I have to go to a doctor? How much would that cost? What if I broke something?
…this is how my brain works. Still. After all the work I’ve done, monkey mind is still the default. BUT, I’m sooooo much better at recognizing it right away and taking action to redirect it.
As we sat and enjoyed our first round of frites (there would be many along this vacay), I took deep breaths as I brought myself back to the present. I leaned into one of my favorite grounding mantras: “Whatever happens, I can handle it and I will learn from it.”
After dinner, I was limping even worse, so we went out to the main street to catch a cab home. That whole night as I tried to sleep, I kept stretching and flexing my foot to test if it still hurt. It did. And the panic and worry of my monkey mind persisted as I cycled back and forth between default pattern and learned redirection.
The next morning, my foot felt just as bad. I did a little check through the symptoms: I placed weight on it and it felt fine – it was only when it flexed in a certain direction that it hurt which I self-diagnosed as good news. It felt muscular, not like I broke or fractured a bone. When I put running shoes on, it felt a lot better.
So I had a little powwow with myself: I’d have to take it slower than usual and release the rest – there was nothing I could do about it beyond taking it one step at a time. Literally. If it felt worse later or tomorrow, I determined, I’d go see a doctor. I popped some Advil, told Rick (my hubbers) that we’d have to walk slooooooow, and resigned myself to wearing running shoes instead of my cooler-looking white ones as we set out for the day.
I’ll admit: I was pissed that first day.
What an inconvenience! I fumed. Why would this happen on the trip I’ve been looking forward to for years?! What kind of cruel joke is this?! I know that everything happens for a reason, but WTF am I being taught and why right now? I didn’t even do anything to it! If I’m gonna be injured, I wanna go down doing something cool at least (like I did last year).
I live by my faith that we’re only dealt what we can handle, and that every situation brings the lesson we’re meant to learn at that time of our lives. But, you see how it still takes me a while to release the resistance I feel when things don’t go according to my plan.
I’m far from perfect. It took me until our second day when I woke up and it felt slightly better – leading me to believe that I’d somehow pulled something – to settle into my commitment to patience and looking for the lesson.
While I may not know the full scope of the why behind my injury, I know that it forced us to slow down and break our typical go-go-go pace. It forced us to take more breaks so I could rest my foot. All-in-all, it helped us transition into vacation mode, something that’s usually pretty difficult for us to do without a little push… or pull in this case (get it? ’cause I pulled a muscle in my foot! :D).
My foot ended up getting fully better by the end of our time in Amsterdam, just in time for our first trip to Paris (we went twice!).
Even though I still ping pong between old patterns and my learned techniques for reframing, this experience took up way less space in my brain and in our vacation than it would have before I recovered. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever gets to the point where I magically react without panic to situations like this; I just don’t think all the conditioning I’ve had over my life plus my brain chemistry will be “cured” someday. BUT, I do believe that the amount of time I spend panicking and the level to which I panic will both diminish as I continue to practice. Recovery is not about a cure; it’s about handling that which we couldn’t before with grace, faith, and strength… eventually.
So I’ve realized that I have this hangup with needing to be right. It all goes back to old sh** from my childhood of needing to prove myself. I have this direct-connect between feeling stupid and being worthless, one that I’m trying to break as I do work around perfectionism and allowing myself to be human.
When I was growing up, I’d do everything I could to be “right,” which for me meant “good” and “worthy.” If I failed or made a mistake, I was “stupid” and by extension, “worthless.”
Much of that has faded away, but this trip woke me up to the fact that some of it’s still hanging around in the dark crannies of my mind that hardly ever see the light of day. Until now.
We planned to travel by train throughout Europe which I’ve never taken before and just assumed it would be straight-forward because so many tourists travel this way. I bought our tickets online and did a little research into the trains and what they’re like, then trusted that the rest would figure itself out.
Our train from Amsterdam to Paris was scheduled for 10:35 AM. We got there 45 minutes before our train was supposed to leave, knowing that it would arrive at platform 15b. Locals told us that was more than enough time. We had so much time that we went to check out the business lounge at the other side. The very nice woman at the front desk let us know that the train we would be catching would be on the other side of the station. At platform 15b.
20 minutes before our train was set to depart, we went over to platform 15. There was no “15b” in sight, but we did notice letters of the alphabet going up in one direction and going down in the other. So we trotted our bags up to the letter B, but no one was there.
It didn’t feel right, but there was no one around to ask if it wasn’t. We stood there for about 10 minutes, our anxiety growing as we continued to be the only people waiting.
The second I turned to ask Rick if I should go find someone, a train rolled by with “Paris” lit up on the front.
My heart dropped all the way into my lower belly and the blood drained out of my face. I proceeded to immediately freak the F out.
My body filled with vibration and I was overcome with a sense of shame, guilt and grief. I was wrong. I’d done everything right to get here on time at the right spot and it still wasn’t enough.
I started to plead my case to my husband who wasn’t at all blaming me or upset with me, but I felt like I needed to tell someone it wasn’t my fault. I needed to justify myself to whomever I could.
We made our way to the service desk where they told us we’d been waiting at the incorrect part of the platform. 15b was an entire section, not the area on the 15 platform that was marked “B.” What?!
Luckily, there was space on the next train to transfer our tickets. It was 2 hours later – not too bad in hindsight, but it felt like worlds away at the time. Because we’d bought flexible tickets, there was no extra fee which helped me feel slightly better… but not much. The charge within my body was still there, panicking within me.
We walked back to the business lounge, the whole time the vibrations in my body getting stronger. The despair inside me growing to a scream. Even though everything was ok – we didn’t have any time constrictions on our end – I still couldn’t shake this feeling that I was wrong, and that was the worst thing I could be. Not just that I had made a wrong decision, but that I – as a person – was wrong and stupid. Worthless.
When we got outside of the business lounge, my body was calling out for me to feel this grief. Everything was shaking and my mind was racing, tearing my worth apart with words that weren’t mine.
Through my recovery, I’ve learned that holding emotion inside is one of the worst things we can do.
When we refuse to feel emotion, it eventually demands to be felt in ways that we cannot control. If we commit to feeling them when they arise, we prevent that energy from becoming something worse like emotional eating, depression or anxiety.
With this in mind, I asked Rick to pull over and immediately broke into sobs and shaking. If you’ve done any reading into trauma healing*, you know that this is actually a good thing, as your body needs to work the energy through its system by shaking (that’s how animals release trauma).
Rick, amazing man as he is, just held me and told me it was alright now… which I knew. I wasn’t crying because of that. I had been triggered into old, deep wounds that I thought had healed. Though I didn’t fully realize at the time that it was this connection between being wrong, stupidity and worth that was causing this reaction, I knew that the emotion was demanding to be felt.
And so I felt it all. In the middle of a train platform. In front of hundreds of people.
I was sure people were staring, but this call to feel was stronger than the need to “save face.” I’ll be honest and say that I was still embarrassed during and afterwards, but I was also proud that I’d allowed myself to experience the grief. I’d been strong enough to let go of how I needed to look for others and prioritize my wellbeing instead.
Pats on the back, Amy. You did good.
It took me a few hours to release the residual yuck of the situation through processing of what actually happened, but it passed and I didn’t think about it much for the rest of our trip. It hit me how amazing it is that I was able to actually release the power that event had over me.
In the past, I would have held onto that experience as evidence as to why I’m incapable. As Brené Brown* would say, it would prove not that I made a mistake, but that I am a mistake. It would have clouded at least the next couple of days if not the whole trip.
Now, I’m able to let that inform future situations (as it did for our next 2 journeys via train – we simply immediately asked for detailed instructions on where to catch the train and when to get there). There was nothing left to hold onto because I let the emotion and energy flow through and out of me.
I talk about the importance of feeling emotions as they arise quite a bit with my clients and in my courses, and this situation is proof that the feeling of something so intense will not destroy us, but help us move forward sooner, stronger. It’s not easy, but neither is the life I’d be living now if I’d stuffed all that energy down.
Back to the present
As you can see, my recovery made even the blegh parts of my trip more manageable and less heavy. Elements of my depression, anxiety and emotional eating recovery helped me through every day I spent over there just as it does here.
If you’re struggling through a tough part of your recovery right now, I urge you to visualize yourself receiving such gifts because one day, you will. One day, these potential catastrophes could hit you as mere inconveniences instead. One day, you will overcome them faster, and even thank them for teaching you valuable lessons.
And it’s not a matter of it ever looking perfect (as you can see from my experience). It’s just a practice – a process – that leads you to be a stronger “handler” in the face of trying circumstances.
You’ll never be able to control most things that happen to you, but you will become stronger in managing how they affect you.
I wish you strength, Love and Light in your ever-continuing process. Through it all, I hope you know you have a place here with us.
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