2017: The Year of “Oui!”

Featured Image:  “Paris,” © Moyan Brenn (own work), Sep 2007. CC BY 2.0. (license)

Those of you familiar with my blog and my recovery journey may recall me writing about my passion for travel. When I was much younger, I would pour over my mother’s old photo albums for hours as she entertained me with tales from her years of serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. I wanted to know the world the way she did. There she was, standing atop Machu Pichu, relaxing on the beaches of the Caribbean, wandering the streets of Columbia, gazing at the ocean from the deck of a boat crossing the Atlantic, straddling the Greenwich meridian, and standing at the gates of Auschwitz. In the basement of our single-story ranch in Connecticut, there were boxes of artifacts from her travels – fabrics from Hawaii, reed instruments from Peru, all sorts of strange shells and sea sponges from far away beaches, delicately embroidered handicrafts from a tiny village in South America… Her stories and the wonderful trappings of her journeys ignited my imagination.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I convinced my parents to allow me to fly unaccompanied to Alabama for a week at Space Camp. It was my first airplane flight! I worked hard to raise the money for the trip, and my mom and dad gave me my very first suitcase for my 16th birthday that May. I felt so independent and grown-up as I navigated the complex underground network of the Atlanta airport to make my connecting flight. And so, it began. My first international trip was also a solo journey. I jetted from Boston to Shannon, Ireland when I was 21 to connect with one of my roommates who was studying abroad in Galway. Together, we undertook a 5-day whirlwind tour of the southern part of the country, and I learned two important travel lessons.

  1. Sleep is essential. No sleep? No memories of a marvelous trip!
  2. I will never stay in a hostel again! (Although it’s difficult to recall why…)

Over the ensuing years, I lost track of the number of tickets purchased and miles logged. When my health began to fail and my eating disorder started to emerge, those exciting explorations of new places and cultures took on a more sinister character. During my last trip to Germany in 2014, I was seriously ill, but I was too stubborn to cancel my plans. Weak and exhausted, depressed and barely coping, I spent two miserable weeks during a bleak, cold January immersed in guilt, shame, and my own distorted thinking. I returned home with terrible plantar fasciitis, my depression, self-blame, and hopelessness worsened, and I gave up on the idea of ever venturing abroad again.

Over the next year, I waged a bloody, bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred, fight for my life. By January 2015, I was discharging from a partial hospitalization program and battling my way into an existence I never knew was possible for me. (Reflecting on that time, I am amazed at how intensely courage and terror could coincide.) As I explored and redefined my concepts of health, eating, my personal values, my friendships, my beliefs about my body, my faith, my beliefs about myself, my family connections, my professional goals… virtually every aspect of my reality… I also forged a new relationship with travel. It emerged out of necessity and I would ever venture internationally again. My passport expired, and the renewal application sat collecting dust in a basket on my desk.

Then, something unpredictable and rather remarkable happened. I grew a little bit. And then, something even more unpredictable and remarkable happened. I grew a little bit more. I started to imagine what it might be like to see Paris some day. Every food challenge brought me a teensy bit closer to that ultimate goal. As my plantar fasciitis healed and my rigidity around food lessened, the city of lights began to seem less and less fantastical and more and more realistic. “Well, this is practice for Paris,” I caught myself thinking whenever I encountered an obstacle or when my flexibility was stretched to new limits. “Soon.” The word hung in the air. I would be seeing Paris soon. With every successful navigation of a potential “disaster,” I was that much better prepared for the challenges I would face in France. Soon, I would be ready.

Aware of my aim, my therapist and dietician set small milestones for me. In September, after a bit of planning and strategizing, I ate my first baguette with butter. There was no planning or strategizing required when I discovered the avocados my mom picked up at the grocery store weren’t ripe during my visit home just before Christmas. Without a second’s hesitation (or the use of any measuring spoons), I added butter to my side of bread to meet my fat exchange for dinner. “It’s great preparation for Paris!” I exclaimed to my somewhat stunned mother.

In 2017, there is a new time sensitivity to my need to poise myself for this next leap of faith in my recovery. I will be seeing Paris soon. I will be seeing Paris in 131 days and 23 hours, to be exact. That’s right. The plane tickets are purchased. The hotel is reserved. The guidebook is now adorned with sticky notes and penciled stars. Creased, folded sheets of hand-written notations are stuck in between the pages, waiting to be copied into my Moleskine travel journal. In nearly every daily event, I am hunting for an opportunity to practice for Paris. “What is this situation offering me for the future?” I ask myself whenever a mix of distressing emotions bubbles up inside me.

There are many questions and uncertainties ahead. The year 2017 is going to be one of growth and transition. And transitions, even good ones, have a tendency to, well, sort of suck. For me, the trick is to acknowledge and validate the misery I experience while simultaneously engaging with my positive experiences, including curiosity, excitement, and even pride. After all, c’est la vie! 

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

~ Ernest Hemmingway

paris-2
Paris,” © barnyz (own work), June 2013. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. (license)
Advertisements

12 thoughts on “2017: The Year of “Oui!”

    1. Thanks, Anne! I am both excited and scared, and I’m working through a whole lot of catastrophic thinking and fortune-telling. Interestingly, I think I am more worried about getting hurt again (that plantar fasciitis took 2 YEARS to recover from!) than I am about the food! I will definitely be sharing updates on the blog.

      Like

  1. I have never heard that quote, but it’s one I’ll keep. Thank you for sharing. I hope you will post photos for us of your journey–food included–because Paris is one place I’ve kept on my bucket list. I hope you have a fabulous time. Transitions can be very hard, but it sounds like you are taking it with the mixed bag it is: also with the inevitable good. Enjoy! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I stumbled upon it while I was writing this post. Isn’t it great? I definitely added it to my list of favorites so that I can go back to it again in the future. I definitely plan on sharing more of my journey on the blog, photos included! My expectations are set low. My main goal is just to GO! I have so much fear of making a trip like this (the subject of future blog posts, I’m sure), that in itself will be an amazing step forward.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, there. Hope you are enjoying your weekend. A few thoughts come to mind when reading your comment. I’m bettin’ I’m older than you based on your photo, and I have to say, while I think in some ways we should “let stuff go” as we age, I am more fearful now than I was (in some ways). After experiencing a horrible work situation a few years ago, the anxiety that set in was a huge surprise to me (and one I’m still battling on occasion as it was debilitating for a while). I never had it before. Your year of Oui is equivalent to my STOP STRESSING year. 🙂 The other thought was about expectations. I believe you are right on, here. When we lower the bar, we’re never disappointed. Good luck on your journey and I’ll be watching for photos. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Karen, thank you for sharing these reflections. There are certainly parts of your story that resonate with me. I always struggled with a generally depressed mood, but I never considered myself a particularly anxious or fearful person… that is, until I found myself in a work and life situation that was so dramatically out of my control that I developed an eating disorder and experienced my life radically spiraling out of control. That was six years ago, and nothing will ever be the same. I have come such a long way from that time, but it’s definitely been an uphill climb. After lots of therapy, I am much healthier now than I was before, and even the depression is in remission, but there are still more steps to take in order to fully enter life. Willingness, realistic expectations, flexibility and adaptability, being gentle with myself, and trying to see challenging situations from a variety of perspectives have all been cornerstones of moving forward, as it sounds like they have been for you, too. Thank you so much for being with me on the journey and for letting me be part of yours!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Funny we are talking about this very thing…just this morning I saw an article about anxiety/depression as related to/caused by life events rather than chemical imbalance (as previously thought). Your sentence “…still more steps to take in order to fully enter life” reflects how many of us behave, I believe. We hold back for various reasons, but that you see this is huge. 🙂 The other is being gentle with ourselves. After traumatic events, we all deserve some gentleness. Life will always present challenges, but if we can step outside of it/them and see the big picture–not always easy, for sure–we may make it through a bit easier. Glad our journeys have collided. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Lauren! That means so much to me! I am so grateful for you and for this little blogging community, and am glad that I have friends to share this journey with me. 🙂 Take care, and have a lovely weekend!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s