Yesterday, I found myself in a 2000-year-old theatre on the side of the road.
I'm in a small seaside town in Turkey, where I've come to spend a week writing. I know, idyllic, right? For example, before I got to the theatre, I was taking a walk along the shore.
"Look how beautiful it is," I was thinking. "Isn't it beautiful? WHY CAN'T YOU JUST STOP WORRYING AND BE PRESENT WITH HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS?"
For someone so addicted to travel, I am really bad at it. On my honeymoon, I got sick the second day in, and was furious at myself. Instead of recalling that I'd just gotten married, which is right up there with death and taxes (or something) as one of the most stressful events in one's life, or remembering that we'd also bought a house and moved into it six weeks before the wedding, I obsessed about how I was on THE MOST ROMANTIC VACATION I WOULD EVER HAVE™, and was stuck in bed, and not in a good way.
Yesterday, bearing this in mind, I decided to stop yelling at myself and see what might be contributing to my worries. I spotted the theatre, which I'd been wanting to visit since I got here. (I love being in extraordinarily old places, sitting in the same spot where someone sat so long ago, I can't wrap my brain around it.) And when I got inside, there wasn't a soul to be seen. Except... oh yeah. My friend, anxiety.
"Why are you out looking at rocks instead of writing?" anxiety boomed. "You came here to write, didn't you? And no, you don't need a break. Breaks are for wimps. If you're not writing, you should be working on your website, or catching up on your emails, or tweeting, BECAUSE YOU'RE ALMOST 35 AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SHOW FOR YOURSELF?"
Then I saw my buddy, panic. There were a lot of men on the path I'd been walking on by the sea, and I'm fair-haired and fair-skinned, which meant I got a few looks. I'm also a survivor of sexual assault, which means getting looks, no matter the intention behind them, is difficult for me. Especially since, from here, I'll be travelling on to Greece, which is where my assault took place. So panic had been ready, stepping on my heels with comebacks and rude looks and gestures, and I was already angry at myself because I knew that whatever I did, it wouldn't be enough. It never is.
Talk about idyllic.
But once I acknowledged my old friends, they quieted down. All three of us sat there in the theatre, taking in the ghosts and the crumbling pillars and the silence. And then I remembered the thing I always remember halfway through a trip: no matter how well you pack, you can't travel without your baggage.
But if you put it down and rest for a while, there's a good chance you'll feel a little bit lighter.