It’s funny how this blog ends up working for me, how it becomes this dumping ground for my various existential crises, fears, and ramblings. I remember one friend commenting on how strange it is to know me in person and then to read the things I write because it almost seems like 2 different people–that IRL I’m silly and seemingly carefree and goofy, but then she’d read my blog and be like, Whoa, Deep. Life. Shit.
I was reminded of this tendency again after my Iceland trip, when a few different friends who regularly keep up with the blog (thank you for that, by the way) commented on how it seemed my trip was a bit of a bust, and how they figured I probably would not be heading back to Iceland anytime soon. At first I was surprised by their conclusions, but when I went back and looked at my blog, and the bits of my trip I did talk about, I realized it’d be impossible for them to surmise anything but that.
I’m not going to say this trip was some idyllic dream–I definitely was dealing with a lot of personal struggles while I was there. But even during the periods when I was homesick, crying, frustrated with myself, I kept thinking, “You will appreciate this trip so much more when you get back.” And here we are, nearly 3 months since I’ve returned, and I find myself missing Iceland tremendously, grateful for the experience I had.
I think I’m beginning to understand and better appreciate that there are life experiences that may seem exceptionally disappointing or frustrating, but that in order to actually grow, certain life experiences just need to go down like that. I needed to dream really big with this trip and get excited and scared about that dream, and then make it happen, even when I had total doubts that it made sense. And I needed to experience the reality of a delayed payoff–that just because you do a Brave Thing doesn’t mean you automatically get to bask in the glory of your Brave Thing.
It’s weird how that happens–how in one moment something can feel like absolutely the wrong thing, but in the next, you realize it’s just what you needed. I think it’s similar to trying to untangle a delicate chain–sometimes you have to make the knot tighter/worse before you can undo it more. And that was precisely what this trip to Iceland turned out to be for me–in order to break free of some of my ongoing bullshit, I had to get a little deeper into it first.
Admittedly, there were things on that trip that were in my control that I didn’t control–I let old ghosts haunt me; I didn’t always rise to the occasion to overcome whatever internal tape or bullshit was blocking me like I would have hoped. But the simple (or not so simple, in some instances) recognition and reflection of that has given me a much fresher perspective now that I’m stateside again, and even though I didn’t always nail it in Iceland, and I’m certain I won’t always nail it after, I’m getting much better about maintaining a healthy/protective boundary around myself, my goals, and my best interests while also trying to stay open-minded to the unexpected.
I think this trip also helped me finally feel more at peace with the decisions I’ve made to move forward with my life despite my mom’s illness. It’s a very tough balance to decide at what point you’re being selfish and at what point you’re doing yourself an injustice…
This wasn’t something I got into a whole lot with people, but a few days before I left for my trip, my mom had some issues that ended up hospitalizing her–the reason at the time not totally being clear. And although things are better now, it was a really scary moment because even though my mom’s been sick now for 10 years (it is still hard for me to believe it’s been that long when I type it out), her being sick has been so status quo for so long that I don’t think any of us were really considering the fact that our current way of doing things might be disrupted, that there could be more sick, more change, more adjusting.
All this came two days before the trip I’ve been planning for the past 18 months. And that’s not to say that I didn’t have my share of other shit I had to figure out in that time period. It’s been 3 jobs, 2 pet deaths, one lease, and countless heartaches, large and small, since I decided to do this thing. Then suddenly I was once again confronted with the thing I’ve been facing in one way or another for the past 10 years: How do I properly care for my mother while also moving forward with my own life?
Throughout the span of my mother’s illness I have essentially danced around this question in one way or another–never sure how far out I should venture because of the things happening at home. When stuff first happened with my mom, my initial thought was “Cancel the trip and stay.” But then my second thought was, “For what?” I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family and friends to push forward with this trip, which made the decision easier, too. It was especially helpful when one friend framed it for me like this, “Do you really think your mom would tell you to stay right now if she knew?”
The decision to go was not an easy one, but I realized that there will always be a really good reason not to do something, especially a thing that has its own risks and fears and complications attached to it.
Beyond that, I think the most important lesson I learned from this trip was that if you really want to do something, go after it because shit will inevitably fall into place, even if it doesn’t fall into place the way you expect it to. When I first approached my job last summer about my intended trip, I wasn’t sure if they’d be willing to work with me to make it happen. But they were. And then when I unexpectedly got offered another great job opportunity, I feared they wouldn’t be open to the idea, and debated canceling or modifying the trip. But they were cool with it And when another unexpected job offer came through, 6 weeks before the trip, I was certain the idea of me being away for a month would be a no-go. But they were awesome and supportive and worked with me, too. Bottom line, kids: Don’t let anyone tell you the “crazy” thing you want to do isn’t possible. Because if you believe it can work, others will too.