Hello everyone! This post comes to you from the dry region of the Intermountain West. Normally, I would not define my state in this fashion but after enjoying the temperate sea air of Northern California, I’m going to say that I did notice right off the bat, that I do in fact live in the desert. Gone are the lush vine covered overpasses and fuchsia bottle- brush plants. Farewell to the historic painted beauties and Spanish style homes with the tiled ceilings. So long Napa Valley with your rolling hills, winding roads, and quaint tree-covered pathways.
Okay… Let me just show you, how I have been feeling California.
Okay, I have had some time to do some serious decompressing since I obtained my Bachelor’s degree a few weeks ago. My husband’s daughter had a softball tournament in Sacramento. Many, many, moons ago I drove the Alaska Highway with my friend Steve and his nephew Jeromy. Once we got to Washington, we drove down the coast of Washington, into Oregon, and continued onward to meet some of his family in San Francisco. I was barely twenty one at the time.
What I remember most about San Francisco was the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory, waiting in line to take a trolley, the homeless, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. I was also among one of the first people in the United States to purchase a wonder bra! I recall taking an evening drive to Sausalito and going to some pier where some sea lions had taken over the wharf. Now, here is the part that really dates me. We took a boat to Alcatraz Island where we were given battery operated mini-cassette players while we walked around the decrepit old remains of the formerly incarcerated. I recall the sea birds and marveling over the bird man of Alcatraz.
Since I had just had my twenty first birthday, I was a little disappointed that I had failed to bring my I.D along for wine tasting while touring Napa. The older version of myself would not have cared so much. San Francisco marked the end of the wilds and a beginning of civilization again, after those few months spent on the ALCAN and touring the Pacific Northwest.
After we left San Francisco, we were on route to Sacramento. I knew Reno would be next, than Utah, and than my “summer of love” would soon be over. Along this journey, Sacramento sort of symbolized to me that we were off the coast-line and that the magic could not go on forever. I don’t even want to explain that somber feeling I had after passing lake Tahoe.
When my husband approached me about going to a softball tournament with him to Sacramento I was like, “SACRAMENTO? Why would I want to go to Sacramento?” In a nutshell I was kind of irritated that we weren’t going to Hawaii. My husband assured me that was next on the agenda, and begged me to go with him. Okay, I’ve been wanting to see my daughter SO BADLY in Hawaii since I’ve graduated. However, I must admit, I am not the world’s best flyer.
I was really starting to get comfortable with flying after many trips I had taken to the South to see my daughter while she was in the Marines, but let’s just say…I had a bad flight from Dallas. I don’t know what was up with that flight but our airline stewardesses were in their seatbelts the whole time and there was no turbulence. We did not come through our own gate, and we had a crash landing that was painful.
The plane bounced a few times. People were literally in agony yelling out. I felt like I’d been dropped down an elevator shaft. We almost went off the runway, the plane’s engines shut down quickly. The pilot never came out of the cockpit and a bunch of officials came onto the plane with clip boards to do some damage control. I’ll never forget the sound the plane made when hitting the runway, it literally sounded like the engine was going to bottom out.
I was shaken when I got off, my legs felt like rubber, and my back was killing me. For two weeks I had to turn my whole body to talk to someone and NOT A WORD or an announcement from the airline. One of the “clipboard people” raced down the airport after a hispanic woman holding a small child who had dropped a shoe. He kept saying, “Ma’am, ma’am you dropped your shoe…Ma’am…” She kept walking as of she wanted nothing to do with him. Everyone got into their cars and taxis visibly shaken. You could tell which people had been on that flight at the baggage claim because they also looked pale and shaken. I have not flown since, but nothing has really come up.
Okay, I’ve lived with anxiety long enough to know what NEEDED to happen next was that I needed to get on an airplane again as soon as possible. Well it’s been some time, and a five hour flight over the ocean to Hawaii after my last flight fiasco had me feeling a little terrified. I went with the “The Sacramento plan” because I thought an hour and fifteen minute flight to Sacramento would help prepare me for any future flight to Hawaii. Because…finger snap…ain’t nobody need to be that terrified flying over the Pacific Ocean for five hours on their way to Hawaii.
Anyway, I am proud to say, my flight went very well. The skies were smooth as glass with zero turbulence. The pilot nailed the perfect landing and I SO needed that. There was a moment where I was strapped into my seatbelt wondering if I would have a public freakout and they’d have to turn that thing around. Isn’t anxiety just laughable and stupid sometimes?
No, sometimes it’s not. Not for the people who live it. It can limit a person’s quality of life substantially. It can be paralyzing really. I hate anxiety. I hate that I have it. I wish I lived my life fearless and not scared of practically everything for so much of my life.
I am no MASTER of anxiety, but if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that your anxiety will increase tenfold if you don’t ride out your fears. Those fears will escalate, and if I had turned around and not gone on that plane it would have thrown me into a depression. I used to be embarrassed by this, but look at me now…I am blogging it. I am by NO MEANS cured. I wish people had more of these conversations. I have not conquered anxiety by any stretch of the imagination but after 20 years of it, I know my anxiety now and how it behaves and how to cooperate with it instead of fighting with it all the time which only increases my anxiety.
For example, when I am in a full blown panic attack now I can tell myself that I am not going to die. I’ve done them before. I am not going to die. I know how to breathe through my nose and out my mouth. I can feel the anxiety coming on sometimes and I will literally stop resisting it and say, “let’s get this over with. ”
I am thankful that when I am in a full blown panic attack, that luckily, for me, they only last a few minutes. They do pass. I really feel for those who experience them for hours. I also know how exhausting they can be. I know where to rub on my ear, or how to cross my legs and arms. Powerful mints help me breathe better. Sunglasses help. Hoodies help. I can filter out noise and light, or feel small, or less stimulated by focusing in on as little as possible before extending my thoughts outward to an entire scene. If I know that if I am headed for an anxiety trigger I should avoid caffeine.
I know that days will come out of nowhere that will have me feeling like I’ve been broadsided by a train. I know I will fail sometimes and I have to stop punishing myself for all my little hiccups and failures. I know that sometimes monumental things happen where I am BRAVER than I thought I ever could be. Okay, when my plane felt like it was bottoming out in Dallas, I was not the one shouting out in fear. Surprising…but I wasn’t.
Sometimes I feel trapped by traffic and like I’m going to lose it, other times I’ll be caught in a blizzard and feel completely at ease. It’s physiological…I don’t know…some days I can do things scared, or I’m not scared at all, and other days I just KNOW I should not attempt to do certain things at all if it can be avoided in my current physiological state. Pheromones from exercise help. A conscientious breathing and meditative practice in my life is helpful. Talking to others who have anxiety is helpful. Breaking through Stigmas? Helpful.
So, anyway. I just wanted to report that I was feeling free and easy in California. For someone with vast amounts of anxiety that is monumental. The city freeways? Not so much. My husband and I attempted a trip to San Francisco and became super flustered by the constant merging, exiting, switch-ups and Siri’s ridiculous navigation. We truly know now why everyone in California seems to drive a super compact car. I had to laugh about a meme about Siri that says…turn South West, or North East…okay…do you want me to turn left or right B-yotch? I felt bad for getting mad at a virtual navigational woman. Who does that? We made it as far as San Andreas. It was a very “mini” San Francisco.
Okay, it had rolling hills. Hardly San Francisco but it had a quaint Spanish mission artsy vibe to it. It was alright…we headed back to the railroad and river town of Sacramento which at that point seemed quaint in it’s own right after battling the freeways as we got closer to the bay area.
The next day, we headed to Napa Valley and Siri Navigated us through some winding backwoods agricultural route to avoid the freeway and we drove past two lakes. Siri redeemed herself. We were in heaven. We are “country folk” and agricultural people and that’s okay. California did not disappoint. We found “our groove” in California and it was a good kind of a groove. If this were a travel blog I’d highly recommend Calistoga and Helena. I’m still feeling those good vibrations and I’m ready to take on my “WHAT NOW” phase after college graduation. I’ll keep you posted. Anyway, I just wanted to share those California vibes with you. I hope you can feel them. They may be wearing off a bit…but I for one, am going to cling to them as long as possible. Thank you California and thank you for reading!