In December, my mum turned 60. To celebrate this special occasion my sister and I decided to take her for a day at the spa. We wanted her to feel completely relaxed, pampered and special. And so this past Saturday, we went to Elmwood Spa in Toronto. It is an absolutely decadent experience with all the luxuries you could ask for.
We were greeted with fluffy white robes and slippers, we had a delicious three course lunch with champagne, and we soaked, steamed and got massaged to our hearts content. Since this wonderful experience was in honour of my mother’s milestone birthday I suppose this post should be a reflection on her or at least our relationship, but if I am being honest with myself, my revelation wasn’t about her. I will say that the opportunity to spend the day with my mum and my sister was wonderful and I am happy we were able to pass such a special day together before I depart on my trip. I know I will miss them immensely.
However this particular experience actually taught me an important lesson about myself – my reaction to unfamiliar situations is always the same. I inevitably go through a series of predictable steps. First, well in advance of the event, I get very excited and importantly put the date on my calendar. As it comes closer, I make a step-by-step plan and likely a list of some kind. And then suddenly right before the event, I get very very worried and decide I don’t want to go . But then once I arrive, I infallibly love it and relish the feeling of new. The event itself seems to be inconsequential – a visit to a new place, trying a new activity for the first time, going on a trip, even my first day of Brownies at age 6 – I repeat the same steps. I noticed this exact scenario playing out as we were heading to the spa. I had been looking forward to it for weeks, then about an hour beforehand I was suddenly very concerned about what to wear, what to bring, what they would think of me, etc. Of course once we arrived, I felt so lucky and excited to be there. Imagine getting stressed about going to a spa, a place dedicated to relaxation! Over the coming months I will certainly encounter situations that make me nervous and cause me stress. My natural reaction will be to cancel at the last minute and completely miss out on the opportunity. I must remember how good it feels once my adventure begins and how much I will miss if I let my fear and anxiety get the better of me.
During my pre-adventure stress I couldn’t help but find myself thinking of my lost love. He was terrible at sticking to a plan. There were countless times when he would completely derail my well laid plans. At the time it honestly drove me crazy. Thinking back helped me realize two important points. 1. I need to learn to be much more flexible if I am going to survive the unpredictable world of travel. Adventure happens when well laid plans get sidelined. And 2. I really did love him. Even as I was remembering one of his most annoying qualities, I was wishing that he was there inflicting it on me. I loved him for his best traits and his worst. I loved him when he was happy and when he was sad. I loved him when he treated me like gold and when he was utterly selfish. I honestly don’t know if there is a right way to love someone, but I know that I loved him unconditionally and I have to believe that that counts for something.
In the end, what do I take away from my day at the spa? Probably not the zen mentality that I was supposed to feel. Instead, I find myself with the (somewhat stereotypical) realization that life is about moments, both good and bad, and that experiencing them is what makes life life. The moments I got to spend with him were the best and worst of my life. I have never felt so overwhelmed, so powerless, so passionate, so alive. I wouldn’t undo one minute of it because each and every one was a moment I spent with him. They were moments that shaped me, that will define who I become, that were part of my journey. I hope that as I move on, I will continue to take risks, live passionately and throw myself heart first into things because I never want to look back and realize that I missed out on an incredible opportunity – be that a day at the spa or a year of love.
So today I say yes to courage in face of the unknown. I say yes to risk. I say yes to putting myself out there come hell or high water.
Feel free to give me a little encouragement along the way. I may need it.
Know that the other side of every fear is freedom.