- Would Andrew survive the day under my friend's care awaiting Don's 6:00 p.m. retrieval after work?
- Would my friend survive Andrew, his singing-frog-itis and his high energy for the day?
- Would she be my friend after that experience?
- Could Don survive the weekend of single parenting for three?
This particular marble--worth double points--carried double anxiety. The nagging second question following the first,
- Would he survive it so beautifully and so easily as to wonder what it is exactly I get on about in my daily whining?
The list seemed endless.
- Could I do this by myself? My bags packed, my tickets purchased, my travel instructions in hand. But always when we travel together, I chiefly rely on Don to navigate tube stations, decipher routes, and fuss with ticket agents. Am I capable of handling the inherent challenges of travel?
And a yet unnamed anxiety settled deep in the pit of my stomach.
I suppose it would be easy to chalk the entire thing up to hormonal surge, and that wouldn't be entirely without street credibility. However, the gut level truth of it was I was frightened. Just like my seven-year-old self waiting in the wings for my first solo on the big stage. What if I trip? What if I fall? What if I'm no good at this? What if? What if? What if?
With apprehension I approached my husband and confided my fears. I confessed to the child in me feeling afraid. He consoled. He counseled. And as he most often does, he left it to me to decide whether I would be walking out the front door to claim my weekend alone. I knew his support would be mine regardless of the decision I made.
I also knew with a certainty that I had to do it. Had to.
With the zero hour of departure eminent, I gathered my courage, hoisted my bag and my camera over my right shoulder and marched out the door with my pre-schooler in tow. My shoes made a resounding slap-slap on the sidewalk. My heart beat loudly, but resolutely.
As we walked to the tram stop, my inner dialogue was not so much 'I think I can, I think I can' as the little blue engine might chug, but more an 'I must, I must, I must'.
While Andrew and I rode the tram across town, I examined each of the worry clusters individually, running my own one-sided conversation--a self-talk lecture, if you will--inside my head.
- Of course Andrew would be fine.
- As would my friend who had agreed to take him for Thursday afternoon and the whole of Friday.
- Obviously, we would still be friends upon the conclusion of the exchange.
- Naturally, Don would manage. And even if it did go swimmingly without a bicker, a bark, or a blow-up, I know he appreciates the job I do daily. Further, he does not begrudge me the whining. He never has.
We arrived at my friend's home where I deposited Andrew, his Lightning McQueen backpack, and instructions for his care. Specifically, tips on how to feed a boy whose food vocabulary is woefully inadequate. Andrew had immediately galloped off to play with best friend, Harry, and barely acquiesced the perfunctory kiss goodbye.
After that, I stepped onto the bus which would take me to the Central Station, and with the worry marbles whirring, inadvertently told the driver "Naar Schipol" (to the Airport) which exposed my innermost thoughts that I just may double back if he didn't quickly get me to my airplane. It was a lucky light moment and as the driver handed me my stamped ticket, he jovially pointed out my mistake and we laughed together. At that moment, I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized that in cracking a smile, I was cracking through this anxious mess my gut was in.
Once at Central Station I boarded the train and contemplated the other contents in this sack of marbles.
click-click-click-click. I must. I must. I must.
This was the rhythm I was reduced to as the train whoosh-shushed along the tracks toward Amsterdam. Somewhere along that line, I dug deep to examine the most nagging worry of all. I named that last great worry, suddenly fully conscious that the last time I had attempted a weekend without the children was the very moment I lost someone very dear. At the moment of realization, this very glimpse into my psyche, I sucked in my breath and heaved an open audible sigh.
- 'Grandpa isn't going to die again'. I told myself 'You are going to be okay'.
The remainder of the train trip, I allowed the tears to flow, the worries to wash away. The big one carrying the small ones in tandem until most had flushed clear. When I arrived at the airport I felt put together from the inside out. I was breathing in a normal cadence, and smiling with genuine enthusiasm.
The last worry about my personal potential to travel alone was already resolving itself as I stepped through the security gates, navigated hallways and boarded the plane.
- Indeed I could do this, and what's more, I wanted to do this.
When I disembarked in Vienna and my feet hit Austrian ground, the only click-clicking left was the quick stepping tap-tap-tap of Italian made shoes on posh Viennese women. This offered a fresh counter rhythm to the comfortable slap-thuk slap-thuk of my own flip-flops as I strode through the corridors of the airport heading for the subway, to the train, to my destination.
I was well on my way and I was going to be just fine.