I do not think anyone who knows me would be shocked if I were to tell them (or you, for that matter), that I can get a little cloudy and consumed with the world around me. In truth, I am not afraid of the dark. I have written many a dark post, and am all about processing pain. I come by my lifelong “living in my head” journey honestly. Yes, I was that shy, angsty high school girl who wrote macabre stuff like a poem about seeing a picture of a dead Marilyn Monroe. It went something like this:
I saw her dead.
Her face was purple and caved in.
She wasn’t beautiful.
My grandpa lay,
In his coffin relaxed.
With a smile on his face.
And even further back there was the time I was invited to a family friend’s for a sleepover. At one point in the evening my friend was having some sort of meltdown. I remember his mom sending him to his room. Then she understandably left me to deal with him. After about thirty minutes of sitting alone on their living room couch my thoughts got the best of me. I wanted to go home! Breathlessly, I asked the mother to call my mom. She did. When my mom arrived they both agreed,
“We left her alone too long. She thinks too much.”
I do. I do think too much. I always have. And if there is any question, by what I mean by thinking too much, I am referring to all the behaviors that come along with living in your head: fear, insecurity, criticism, doubt, depression, worthlessness, reality imbalance, and so on.
Safely back in my mom’s care and with some distance, I took a breath and realized that everything was ok. As a result of this realization, I was actually disappointed that I did not stay. I told my mom how I was feeling and that is when my mom and I worked on a plan. How could I avoid thinking too much in the future? We both realized that I need to feel safe. And for me to feel safe, my environment needs to be uplifting, filling my head with positive thoughts.
This morning my thoughts went to a Facebook post that my friend Cam made. First, I wondered if he had been reading my mind. (He described feeling dark and in his head.) Second, I realized he made a most excellent observation:
“It’s said that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I like to think that average is weighted favorably by the scores of souls I interact with online.”
I would like to add to Cam’s conclusion by saying,
“I think my average is weighted not only by my online connections, but by the people I meet all over the world.”
Connections are why I love travel. Let me explain.
You know (because I just told you) that I tend to live in my head. I also allow my environment to weigh me down. Here is an example. A few years back I had a friend who was eager to lose weight. (She was also someone I spent a lot of time with, which relates to Cam’s conclusion). Often she walked around chomping on a bag a carrots and celery. She went from a size 12 to a size 2 in what seemed a matter of seconds. Weight, food, and body image were our constant conversation topics. Soon I noticed that all I was thinking about was my weight and my body image. Instead of losing weight, I am certain I gained. Instead of being ok with myself, I felt worthless and fat (of course). It was not her fault. That being said, how I felt around her was a red flag. Because I get into my head and am heavily influenced by my environment, I knew that I needed to create an uplifting space. Uplifting space is definitely a space I still struggle to exist in.
Travel gives me a break from that everyday struggle. The connections I make along the way stretch my perspective. Consequently, a stretched perspective and a break from my day to day influences are excellent tools for fighting my crazy head demons.
Our first day in Santorini was cold and wet. The Airbnb we were staying at was connected to a local hotel, The Blue Dolphin. We were told that breakfast would be at the hotel, which was about a ten minute walk or a five minute drive. Because it was cold and rainy we opted to drive. We parked our car and walked several stairs down and then up to the breakfast patio. I was crabby and disappointed when I realized we would be eating breakfast outside. I noticed a woman with funky red-dyed hair, which was pulled back and mostly hiding under this woman’s hood. The sun was peeking through the clouds and the rain stopped. She and another woman directed Dave, the boys and I to our table. As soon as we sat down, the wind blew stronger and it began to drizzle. The view was spectacular and all I could think was,
“Can’t they find us somewhere to eat inside?”
They didn’t. Instead Ada and this woman cheerfully brought us breakfast. A few minutes later her boss came to greet us. It seemed he was scolding her in Greek (of course).
“Do you want to eat inside?” He asked and continued, “We can make you a room?”
We were almost done. The wind had calmed down.
“No. We are ok.” We responded.
Then Ada said,
“We will make you a room tomorrow.”
Over the next few days I got to know Ada. Her English is very good. My Greek is non-existent. I learned that the woman with her is her sister. They work together at the hotel. After they finish at the Blue Dolphin they head over to work at another hotel. At the end of our stay we needed to wash some clothes. When we couldn’t find a local coin operated laundry, I asked Ada. She offered to do our laundry at the hotel. Of course there was a fee and of course that is ok. Usually they insist that the guests give them twenty-four hours notice. They squeezed our laundry in. She was happy to use my “Free and Clear” laundry detergent and double checked to make sure I was ok with fabric softener.
“Nope. That stuff makes me itch.”
Ada is cheerful and hardworking, so is her sister. Wearing her big curly, dyed-red hair down is how I remember her. That is how it was when I came to pick up our clothes. She took such care to fold everything and placed our clothes in new bags. As I we parted she gave me a hug and then said,
“You are nice!”
In lovely Santorini, Greece, my world expanded. My environment uplifted. The dark, raining clouds parted. Instead of living in my head, I was looking at the stunning caldera and islands dotting the horizon, crazy white painted architecture, and worrying (in a good way) about how we were going to wash our dirty socks and underwear.
And with my perspective shifted and my environment lifted I was able to come home feeling happy. Sunday morning Kyle and I found ourselves driving down an industrial section of Salt Lake City. I looked around at a place I normally ignore, feel depressed in or want to through quickly. It is actually a place I considered (yes, past tense) run down. After traveling through Greece, and seeing the results of that country’s current economic hardships, I stretched again. Greece is actually beautiful and my world at home is pretty awesome. My town is clean, well kept and vibrant. Ultimately, because traveling forces me out of my dark head, I can return and realize the truth: my world is bright.