It is 5am. I am wide-awake, words tumbling through my mind. I sift through them to see what is so important as to deny me sleep – events from yesterday, conflicting emotions, and strong feelings. How to make sense of it all?
I tip toe around the darkened hotel room in an attempt to not wake Jason. I sit in the dark, pondering. How is it us humans can experience so many different emotions? How can I feel so scared and so grateful at the same time?
I want to sleep. I know it will not come. I reach for my outlet, and make my way to the bathroom – laptop in one hand a pillow in the other and establish a nest on the bathroom floor where I begin to sift through my conflicted emotions.
Yesterday we flew from our home in Alice Springs, interstate to Adelaide where I will have my surgery and spend the early days of my recovery. This has meant in addition to preparing ourselves we had to also do all the things around our home, necessary before going away for a long time. The same was true for packing; we are working on the premise of being away for a month.
I had been making little piles around the house of things to pack, pulled it together Wednesday and laid it all out on the spare bed. By the time I had done everything else I had to that night, I found I was simply too tired to face packing.
Wednesday evening was filled with phone calls from friends wanting to wish us a good trip, tidying the house so our cleaner can clean, clearing out the fridge and dropping fruit and veg off to a friend so it won’t be wasted and so on. I also managed to squeeze in one last drive and chose the Mazda, simply for the thrill of speed. I ordered and collected some fish and chips for dinner (Jason went out to watch the State of Origin Rugby game at the pub). I was so glad to have done something indulgent for dinner and coupled with the enjoyment I got from driving, was feeling ok. As I locked up the garage upon returning home with my food, I found myself standing outside, in the mild evening air, staring up at the brilliant stars, greedily eating salty hot chips out of a hole torn in the paper holding them. Tired and emotionally worn out yet here I was experiencing a moment of wonder. Life never ceases to astound me.
Thursday comes and we are up early. We potter around undertaking our respective tasks. I keep putting off getting in the shower, there always seems to be one more thing to do first. Eventually I realise I am running out of time. The taxi is booked for 11am and Jason reminds me I still need to pack. I have walked into the spare room a number of times already and each time I do, I see my things laid out in orderly piles and look at the empty suitcase laying open on the floor. My brain isn’t able to make sense of it. I simply do not know where to begin or how it will fit. I wander back out of the room.
Finally, I have no more time, and realise I will be late if I do not begin now. I start putting things into the case, Jason distracts me asking if I have seen something he is looking for and my concentration is blown. Emotion wells up inside me and threatens to turn me into a sobbing mess. I feel frustrated but it’s just a stupid suitcase. I feel the need to lash out, building inside me like a physical force that needs release and as I turn to snarl at Jason, I realise with embarrassing clarity that I have become overwhelmed and am not coping. My anxiety has skyrocketed. In that moment I know I need help and I ask Jason to please help me, I cant make any sense of how to pack the damn case and could he do it for me? Recognising faster then I, that I have been procrastinating because deep inside, I really do not want to make this trip, he steps in and packs my case.
I have a moment to reflect and realise I have never NOT wanted to catch a flight as much as this one. It is a difficult thing to reconcile. I know I need the surgery and am confident my surgeon will do a good job and keep me safe but to actually get on a plane and willingly walk into this, well it turns out that’s harder than I imagined.
Soon enough and the taxi pulls up, we load the cases and lock up the house. Friends and neighbours will check our mail and keep an eye on the place for us. The taxi driver engages Jason in a conversation about the recent Government budget announcement. I am happy sitting in the back not talking watching the landscape slide by as we travel to the airport.
We are quickly there and checked in. A kind friend has called in a favour and got us an upgrade to business class; a generous and thoughtful gift. We get our boarding passes and are pleased to see our seat numbers – 1A & 1C (me by the window and Jason the isle which is our preference).
As we wait for our flight in the lounge, we enjoy a seat by the window. As I sit staring at nothing out the window, a voice behind me says, “Just the person I was looking for.” I turn and see the face of a woman I worked with on my previous stint in town and one of my greatest supporters through my brain surgery journey thus far. (I am not using people’s names in my writing unless they consent to it so please bear with me while I use first name initials only). ‘I’ stands there smiling at me and I hug her tight. She has come out to see me, that’s why the other day when chatting on line, she had asked when I was flying. I am deeply moved and feel I might cry. Bless this kind, kind woman. She then reaches into her bag saying she has something for me. ‘I’ presents me with a little ornament of a gum nut with a little person sticking its head out. She explains its meaning to me and I am grateful.
Before letter her go I hastily introduce her to Jason. Touched, I leave the ornament on the table in front of me, and it soothes the growing butterflies in my stomach.
Soon enough we are boarding our flight. Our seats are fantastic and again I am filled with gratitude. I love flying, always have but today feels very different. I am experiencing anxiety – that uncomfortable feeling we all experience at some time in our lives, where things just don’t feel right. I am feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin and it doesn’t matter how sensibly I talk to myself about focussing on my breath or anything else. Sometimes you just have to find a way to sit with the discomfort – which frankly is better than bursting into tears or running around the plane screaming!
I apparently looked so uncomfortable that following the crew safety demonstration the stewardess checked on me as she thought I was a nervous flyer. Time for me to pull it together. I opt for distraction and listen to some gentle music whilst editing a document for Jason. This coupled with lunch seems to work and I begin to feel better.
The flight is a quick one of only one and a half hours and we are soon on the ground in Adelaide and checking in at the hotel. As I open the door to our room, I immediately notice an enormous arrangement of fresh flowers and a card sitting on the desk. I open the card and it is from our friends who live in Adelaide. I read the heart-warming words of support and love and am deeply moved. Jason also is touched by their thoughtfulness. Seeing the beautiful flowers reminds us both that we are not going through this alone.
We quickly unpack a few things and I remind Jason that he wanted to get a massage and send him on his way. I check my phone and see the response to a post I had put on Facebook earlier about not wanting to fly. Yet more kind words and support. A friend in Alice texts then to remind me I am in a city with loads of shops and to make use of the time and opportunity. There isn’t a lot of shopping to do in Alice Springs. They say you can get everything you need there, just not everything you want. I pop out and pick up some bath milk from the Body Shop and return to the room for a soak in a hot tub. What bliss!
Unbelievably, friends we made in Alice Springs whom now live in Canberra have come to Adelaide for a few days. I haven’t seen them in over a year since we moved and I am so happy they are here. We are staying in the same hotel and arrange to meet in the lobby bar. I see ‘A” approaching and can’t believe such a familiar face is here. I rise to greet her and as we embrace I realise just how grateful I am to have them here and I tell her I can’t believe she’s really here. Then ‘S’ arrives with their offspring and I finally get to see the little one awake, having only seen him sleeping when he first came home.
We make our way to a Greek restaurant (cuisine at our request) and meet our local friends (whom we also met in Alice). This little group was the mainstay of our social group when we first lived in Alice Springs and we haven’t all be together like this since 2011. It is a lovely, comfortable night with good friends and we spend it eating, talking, laughing and wrangling two children (whom I have to say behaved largely very well). We part knowing we will be seeing more of each other in the coming days and Jason and I enjoy the walk back to our hotel.
Just as I am readying for bed, one last surprise arrives via a text from a friend in Melbourne. ‘K’ tells me she has adopted a butterfly in my name at the Melbourne Zoo. I had no idea this was possible but it is the perfect end to this day.
I am filled with an intense gratitude to everyone for finding his or her own special way of helping me through this. You astound me.