I have recently returned from a holiday abroad with my partner. The break followed completion of a school inspection for me and weeks filled with meetings for him.
Prior to booking the holiday, we were in two minds about how we wanted to spend the time together. We are lucky that we live in a part of the world where we can travel to some spectacular places both at home and away, but this time for me at least, things felt different. Rather than travelling around, I wanted to stop. I wanted a base to call our own, even if only for a week. Aside from the manic schedules that we both experienced when we returned to work following the Christmas break, we are also in a long-distance relationship. 939 miles to be precise (on a side note, he also worked out that in the first half of 2016, we had only spent 35 days together).
We have been able to manage the distance between us fairly well. We have a rough limit between how long we go without physically being in one another’s company, and although we may not speak each day, we are in touch via text (thank you, WhatsApp!) So when it came to thinking about a destination for our break, I quickly discovered that my partner’s plans were a little different to my own. He wanted to explore somewhere new and although initially I wasn’t opposed to this (certainly the seeing of somewhere new), the more I thought about it the idea of spending a day or two in one place before moving onto somewhere else caused my stomach to sink.
So I spoke up. I stated my case for a different and more relaxed pace of a holiday (something neither of us has done separately or together, I am talking ever!) and we came to an agreement: a place where we could explore an area through day trips, but no packing of rucksacks/suitcases every few days with all of the chaos (and excitement, admittedly) that goes along with it.
But it wasn’t all that easy, half way through the holiday I hit a hurdle. Something that now I realise rather than a hurdle was more akin to two parts of my mind tussling in a cage – anxiety vs relaxation. I didn’t know or couldn’t remember how to relax. The more I thought about being ‘relaxed’ the more anxious I became and the more I thought about it, my anxiety moved up a notch. It was a vicious cycle. If I had put my money on who would have won that mind tussle, I would have betted on the anxious part rather than relaxation on that day. I couldn’t sit still, each time I even glanced at my book my mind drifted and often to some pretty dark places (related to work and to my parents), and I found myself snapping at my partner.
Of course, I have severely generalised and reduced the complexities of my own anxiety and my ability to relax (or not). We are not simply existing in one state or in the other. Fortunately, as human beings, we are a little more complicated than that. However, it was as though in order to obtain a degree of mental peace my mind was showing resistance. There was still a fight to be had, even it was the final round.
I cannot recall what caused the end of the fight; it may have been the process of forcing myself to sit and read for a prolonged period of time, being able to sit and chat with my partner in one place together, the afternoon beers, or a combination of all of the above. But by the following morning, something had clicked, and I was able to sit and read without ruminating on some past conversation, or about a work project that I needed to start.
I am returning to work next week feeling refreshed and relaxed. I am already a little anxious (surprised?) about how long that feeling will last for, but at least for the time being a layer of fog has lifted and I am looking forward to getting stuck back in.