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Calmly driving on the wrong side of the road

I just returned from an incredible trip to Australia. I haven’t been a big traveler until this trip, but this was an opportunity of a lifetime: My daughter was competing for a world championship in Ultimate frisbee – too awesome to miss.

She and I traveled together in eastern Australia, seeing kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, penguins, parrots, and wombats. Then I explored the Southwest corner – I drove on the “wrong” side of the road,  walked up 40 meters on a tree-top pathway, slept in the quietest place I ever experienced, swam and snorkeled in the Indian and Antarctic Oceans. The trip was absolutely amazing….

…except when my fearfulness came along for the ride. Has that ever happened to you?

The thrill was gone

Travel newness engaged me for a few days. Then I fell into a hole of anxiety, despite having none of my usual stressors to bother me – no bills, news, house maintenance, or work emails.

Still, I got tied into knots by totally ridiculous stuff: wearing boring touristy clothes in trendy Melbourne, not tipping the tour guide enough, worrying about being liked by people I’d never see again. I was making myself (and my daughter) crazy.

Fortunately, Restful Insomnia tools helped me move through angst to get back to loving my trip. I realized that just like I cultivate rest at night, I could cultivate rest  – or non-anxiety – during the day.

The night before the wrong side of the road

My revelation emerged the night before I rented a “backwards” car. I agonized about accidentally driving on the right, crashing alone in the middle of nowhere. My stomach felt like a tube of roiling lava. Sleep or rest? Not even close.

My frantic body and mind needed serious action. So I used a technique I teach to my coaching clients: switching back and forth between the anxious physical experience to one of non-anxiety. That night, the only calm parts of my body were my pinky toes, so I focused on times I was mellow or even happy, like seeing fairy penguins come ashore to nest.

​​​​​​​I’m cleary adept at letting go of anxiety at night – snug in bed and aware my fears are in my head. And I use Restful Insomnia tools to calm myself during the day. But as I oscillated between the roiling stomach and the happy memory of waddling penguins, I thought about how tension was a habitual pattern, my life lens.

What would my life be like if I hung out in non-anxiety, instead of fear?

Could non-anxiety be a daily state of mind? Could I still stay alert to life’s challenges?

I would just have to figure that out during my solo drive through deserted bush and eucalyptus forests.

Cultivating non-anxiety                                                                                                            

Cultivating non-anxiety became my mantra for the rest of my trip.

I reminded myself of non-anxiety when the GPS sent me far afield, when I swam out to the rock in a deserted cove, even when my inner critic scolded me…. Who would I be if I didn’t constantly respond to fear?

Restful Insomnia tools were really helpful. For instance, I:

  • Exhaled.
  • Thanked my anxiety for sharing.
  • Changed the subject in my mind from the worst “what if.”
  • Played puzzles like the Alphabet game with road signs or converting kilograms to miles.
  • Realized that this moment I infused with anxiety was just fine – and relaxed into it.

The Joy of Non-anxiety

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 ​​​​​​​As I cultivated non-anxiety, my trip was richer, more courageous, more relaxed. Hiking 130 feet up into giant jarrah trees, snorkeling in bright coral, hearing laughing kookaburras and deep silence, and calmly driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

It was a gift to have changed my inner fear loop and really be present in Australia. I’m proud of myself…and proud of my daughter and her team, who won the gold. Whoowee! Let’s go on some more adventures.

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