Part 1 of this essay was published at: https://www.themanifeststation.net/tag/melissa-ballard/
By Melissa Ballard
One Month Before Going Away
- Think about going away. Do this without your stomach churning, your heart pinching, and your limbs tingling because you have found a daily medication that helps your brain function the way it’s supposed to, without sedating you or making you feel light-headed. And now, finally, all the other things you’ve done to manage anxiety including, but not limited to: therapy, meditation, yoga stretches, and positive-self talk are really working.
- Look forward to going away. Remind yourself it’s something you want to do, will most certainly enjoy and, anyway, worrying in advance serves no purpose, as you know. While it’s true you still prefer being at home, it’s nice to have a change of pace, and who knows what you’ll discover. Remind yourself that for much of your life, and especially the last six years, you’ve known these things in your head, but you haven’t been able to feel them in your body.
- Tell yourself that anything you forget to pack can be obtained once you get there. Remember the time you spent a week, without a car, at a summer resort where the gourmet grocery store sold seventeen flavors of olive oil, but did not stock peanut butter. Think about how, if that happened now, you’d buy a small jar of peanuts, smash them with the bottom of a coffee mug, mix them with sesame flavored olive oil, throw in frozen peas and the dried ginger left by the condo’s last occupant, and pour it over some gourmet pasta in an homage to Pad Thai. Imagine eating this creation while sitting on the shaded porch that overlooks the brick path, with your zesty friend from New Zealand, Kim Crawford, while making a toast to improvisation.
- Go for a walk and stop to study the crooked arrow of chatty geese overhead. Notice the fake flower scent of the dryer sheets coming from a neighbor’s vent. Feel the cushion of your new walking shoes, and the sun on your face. Realize that your life is exactly the same as it’s always been, but you are now able to see it in a different light. Marvel at the fact that now, after you push that boulder up the hill, Sisyphus-style, you can wedge it with that tiny yellow pill you insisted you didn’t need, because you were anxious, but not depressed, and the boulder magically stays in place.
One Week Before Going Away
- Print your packing checklist. Set a few things out on the bed in the guest room, and check them off your list. Go to a movie. Each day, add a few things to the pile, check them off, and then go do something else.
- Go to sleep at night, wake up just long enough to go to the bathroom, and go back to sleep. Wake up surprised you were able to do this. Exercise, take a shower, and have a strong cup of coffee. Know that it will not turn to acid and slosh wildly in your stomach, nor will it make you jittery and unable to focus.
- Remind yourself you cannot fit your entire home into your suitcase, no matter how tightly you roll your clothes. While it’s true that you’ve never been good at looking at the leftovers in the pan and deciding what size container they’ll fit in, even you know this much about volume and space. Turn to the full-length mirror and take a bow because you are laughing about this instead of panicking.
One Day Before Going Away
- Review your piles, and make some small changes. Pack everything in your suitcase, except for your tops, which you can fold and add the morning of. Wonder why this used to be such a big deal.
- Tell your husband, before he asks, you are packed. It’s inevitable you’ll take the wrong clothes, so why spend time worrying about it? Joke that you are now Jimmy-Buffet-mellow. And, while you know this is far from the truth, you also know you are enjoying your life a damn sight more than you were last year this time. And you also know there are no guarantees with medication, but yours is working for now, and you plan to make the most of every moment.
- Realize you are starting to sound like a character from a Saturday Night Live skit about Oprah’s Master Class, and knock it off.
- Order Tofu Bibimbop from Kim’s Grocery and Carryout, and enjoy it with a cold bottle of beer.
The Morning of Going Away
- Do your yoga stretches. Eat something bland and drink just enough coffee to avoid a headache. Why invite trouble?
- Wear your lucky pendant. Again, why invite trouble?
- Check the house once to make sure things are turned off or unplugged, and then forget about it. Watch the garage door shut, so you won’t have to ask your husband if he shut it, causing him to jerk the car into reverse and back down the street, while cursing, to check it.
As you are going away:
- Tell yourself you have everything you need.
- Believe it.
Melissa Ballard has written essays for Brevity, Full Grown People, Gravel, JMWW and other publications.