Today I have been mostly sorting and packing and tidying; worrying about important things that I might forget, about the amount of stuff that I seem to be taking for just a few days away.
Despite the fact that I am hugely excited about my forthcoming trip, I feel stressed by the preparation. I am nervous and concerned at the same time as being eager to set off. I am used to having to pack for family holidays, yet do not have the confidence of a seasoned traveller.
It made sense for me to take time out this afternoon for a swim; a sure fire method of calming me down. Having gently propelled myself through the water for just a short half hour, the demands of preparation seem much less arduous; I have come home and allowed myself a little time to relax.
The last few times I have been swimming I have run into friends and acquaintances. I use my swims to unwind in my chosen solitary state, yet it feels good to catch up, however briefly, with people I see infrequently. In so many ways social interaction worries me, but these brief conversations have lifted my mood.
How can it be that I should look forward to an exciting trip yet suffer stress because of it; that I should avoid social occasions yet enjoy meeting up with friends? I am comfortable leading the life that I do and have grown accustomed to avoiding situations that cause me discomfort, yet when I allow my comfort zone to be challenged I remind myself that I am capable of so much more. I wonder if I need to recalibrate the balance of my life.
In many ways this trip away is doing just that. It is a challenge to the conformity in which I normally exist. I know that I would not have dared to travel without my husband to an unknown country and city if it were not for the prize of a chance to spend time with an old friend whose company I enjoy. I am defying my normal conventions in order to attain a goal that would otherwise be unavailable.
Yet even with this clear sighted desire I am nervous and worried. I do not understand why my reflex is to crawl away and hide when any challenge to my invisible existence is presented. When did I become so insular? How did this happen?
I want to open my mind to new ideas; to question the assumptions that those around me accept; to challenge the preconceptions that others have of me. To do this I need to experience change. Living in conservative, southern, rural England I do not come into contact with many liberal influences. I do not often get the chance to debate issues with those who are willing to voice thoughts that run counter to an accepted conformity.
I can and do read widely and question orthodoxies, but my thinking and reasoning are muffled and woolly. When challenged I capitulate too easily because I have not acquired the detailed knowledge to back up my instinct for tolerance and diversity. My approach is simplistic. I am not convinced by complex and convoluted arguments that run counter to my intuitive beliefs, but cannot back up my thoughts with a cogent rejoinder. I have grown too used to submission.
I want to allow my mind to soar on the thermals of new ways of thinking; to shake off the shackles of commonly accepted behaviour that leads to a perpetuation of the wrongs that blight our society. If I cannot change the world I can at least change myself and that will be a start. It will allow me to live more contentedly with myself.
‘It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.’
‘Never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about.’