Sunday, May 8, 2016

Embracing Life and My Fear of Vulnerability

The anxiety is real. I'm not sure where it comes from or when I developed such a deep cavern of fear for it to fill. But I suffer from it, wake in the middle of the night for no apparent reason because of it. 

My latest bout is travel related. I don't want to fear traveling. I don't want to hate traveling. I enjoy being where I'm going. It's the getting there that drives me to utilize deep, calming breaths...and drink. 

If you read any of my Paris blogs from September 2015, then you know that I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Paris--the Eiffel Tower, the wine, the Mona Lisa, the wine, Versailles, Hermès, the wine, the chocolate, the cheese, the café's...the wine. Walking on the streets, strolling by the Seine, riding the Metro all brought me joy. You might also remember that I was bumped off my return flight with no explanation. That could have been very traumatic, but I took it in stride, freaking out for a moment, then settling my sleeping and car arrangements for another day, after which I had the glorious opportunity to see Monet's Water Lilies. I'm glad I didn't miss them. So for that I say, Thank you Air France for the bump.

That bump-without-an-explanation is the whole reason I'm returning to Paris almost 8 months to the day of the first trip. I emailed Air France asking 1) for an explanation as to why they were unable to accommodate me on the return flight and 2) to pay for my extra night's hotel cost. They never did explain their inability to accommodate me on my scheduled flight and they didn't pay for the extra night in the hotel. But they gave me a flight voucher worth €800. That basically covered the price of this flight. So again, Thank you Air France for the bump.

For three months I've been marinating in the excitement of returning to Paris. Yet as the day of departure approached I could feel my familiar anxious tropes beginning to take hold of my thoughts and my insides. You find yourself short of breath, nauseous, fearful, emotional. That's anxiety. At least it's my anxiety. Three out of the four nights prior to departure day I found my sleep restless or completely interrupted. My emotions were high. I could cry from a side-eye glance misinterpreted or because the subway left before I could make the transfer. A sad song turned me into a puddle. I found it difficult to relax and more often than not in these situations I resort to an OTC sleeping pill to ensure I get some rest and turn off my mind. 

Finally, the day before departure--departure for Paris in May; Paris in springtime. I tried to check in for my flight on line. I couldn't. I tried four times to no avail. Finally I called the customer service number where I'd originally spoken to a lovely woman who helped me book the flight using my voucher.

I gave Carla, my Air France customer service representative, my ticket number. She pulled up the reservation immediately. At least I thought she had. I mean she confirmed my first, middle, and last names after typing in the number. Then there was silence followed by, "I'm going to need to put you on hold for a couple of minutes." The couple of minutes turned into seven and at least two more times of being put on hold.

It seems that even though I received three emails on February 12, 2016, with all of my itinerary confirmations inside, my reservation had been cancelled on February 14, 2016, for no apparent reason that appeared in any of the information Carla could find. I wanted to vomit. There I was 30 hours before departure and I was no longer booked on the flight. I must confess part of me wanted to just say Fuck it and let the anxiety win. I seriously gave thought to just not going. Then Carla said that she, with the help of a manager, had reinstated my reservation: "You should now be able to check in for the flight online." Except I couldn't because I hadn't remembered to bring my passport to work and needed the number to complete the check in. My anxiety shot through the roof, my stress levels threatened to drown me as they rose toward my chin. 

I went directly home at that point. I did not pass go; I did not collect $200. I managed to check in for the flight and confirm that I was indeed booked for the return. Although I have a bit of trepidation considering the two incidents I've now experienced with Air France. Bump me once, shame on you. Bump me twice, what the hell am I doing here?

The excitement ebbs and flows. The anxiety ebbs and flows. The excitement gets stronger as the departure time nears. 

I hate being vulnerable. I have a fear of flying that presented itself at some point after the devastation of 9/11. Admitting my fear is vulnerability. I hate not knowing exactly what I'm supposed to do and how I'm supposed to do it. That is showing vulnerability. Refer to the first sentence of this paragraph. I realize that much of my anxiety comes from this fear of being vulnerable. 

But I'm going to be in Paris tomorrow and for now I want to embrace the excitement, give the vulnerability a small foot hold, and leave the anxiety in the airport at JFK. 

Mon voyage se poursuit. Au revoir.