I’ve been away in the scorching hot sun of a European heatwave. The mercury rose to the mid ’30s and that’s where it stayed all week, with no air conditioning. The only place which could be described as refreshingly comfortable was the swimming pool until I climbed in on top of a wasp which stung me on the back of the leg.
I’m renowned in my family for being ambivalent about holidays. I dislike the stress of travelling, the crowded airports, the take off in airplanes and, to the bewilderment of many, the uncertainty of not knowing where the hell I’m going, driving an unfamiliar car on the wrong side of the road with the gear stick in a place I’d usually rest my arm.
My daughter and I share some of the same anxieties when it comes to travelling. We both like going places we know because, as she once put it, “If you know you like something, why would you change it?” Indeed.
As I grow older I fight against the contraction of my comfort zone because I know, at the root of it, is a misguided belief that the fragile balance of my life will be disturbed by too much change, however temporary.
It looks ridiculous when I write it on a page but, whenever I travel abroad, I always convince myself I won’t be coming home. In the years I travelled constantly for work, you can imagine how exhausting a habit that was.
Before leaving for Italy I had been musing over the same fatalistic feelings while walking through Marks & Spencer. I spotted a couple of reduced food items and bought them thinking to myself, “I’ll pop those in the freezer for some point in the future”. Walking home I realised that there was at least a part of me that imagined survival otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my money on a future smoked haddock supper.
I imagine other things too. Primarily, something terrible happening to my dog but also, burglary and the house burning down. As it is my dog stays with my sister and her dogs and is probably much happier than she is at home with me. As for the burglary and fire, I had a friend here painting the kitchen all week.
It’s just anxiety of course and, as a professional responsible for helping other people deal with theirs, I simply cannot and will not give in to it.
My wife once said to me, “Why don’t you try hypnotherapy?”. I told her that I couldn’t find anyone I considered good enough.
That’s the problem with anxiety. It’s a bloody nuisance but sometimes you just have to live with it. Mine, like everyone else’s, tells me something awful is going to happen and that life will be changed forever. Of course, it almost never is and, on the odd occasion that it has been, I’ve coped, probably more capably than I thought I would.
Returning home I parked outside and noticed that the abandoned car which had been taking up space in the road for the past four months had gone. Everything else looked pretty much the same.
Sitting on the steps in the garden later while Daisy noses happily around in the undergrowth the neighbour is taking his washing in. As he comes up the path he greets me, “Hello Graham, good holiday?”
“Yes, it was lovely thanks. Very hot, but great to spend time with the family”.
He pauses for an awkward moment while we both wonder what to say.
“Well, other than that abandoned car being moved you’ve not missed much,” he says as if he’s looking into my thoughts. I just hope he can’t see my slight feeling of shame at imagining that it would have.