I’ve been wondering how this 12 Cities, 1 Year trip should change me.

I know one thing I want to change: the anxiety that besets me when I’m about to do anything new or meet anyone new. You must admit, that’s a disadvantage on this kind of trip.

I’m pretty sure it didn’t used to be this bad. Not that I was ever worry-free or a social butterfly, but I don’t remember worrying so much. I don’t remember constructing worst-case scenarios in my head (in the space of a few seconds) that would prepare me for whatever might go wrong.

That brings up two questions:

1. Why do I always have to be prepared?

2. Why do I always think things will go wrong, especially when they so seldom do?

As the Flaming Lips say in “Fight Test,” “’Cause I’m a man, not a boy / and there are things you can’t avoid / you have to face them when you’re not prepared to face them.”

It would be better for me as a person, I think, to stop trying to anticipate every possible outcome.

I really don’t remember when preparation became so important to me. I know that after my mother died in 1992, I felt vulnerable. When I was out and about, I began to fear random attacks more, to regard people with some suspicion. I guess her absence from the world left me feeling unprotected.

Only a few years after her death, I started freelancing. I sat at a desk in a room at home, by myself, and wrote fiction or copyedited books. I cleaned the house and worked in the garden. I talked to my neighbors and did some volunteer work, but mostly I spent the time alone in my office.

I’m pretty sure that’s what did it. Something about living that way fostered a low level of fear. My routine became my security blanket. Now I have no need for a routine, but I find myself trying to impose it, doing the same things I did when I lived in Broomfield.

The other day, I was at the Ballard Market in Seattle, and I saw milk in glass bottles. I thought, “I should have Todd get some of that milk in glass bottles after we run out of the milk we have.” Why? Because I had milk in glass bottles in Broomfield. There are other reasons, health and environmental reasons, but really it’s just a habit. If I could, I’d like to fit my old habits into my new life.

And I really, really don’t want to do that. I don’t want to carry my old life with me. I want to adjust myself to what’s around me, sort of like the Ousters in Dan Simmons’s Hyperion and Endymion novels, who chose to adapt to space in order to fill the galaxies with life. I want to be a chameleon, not a stick-in-the-mud.

Any of you travelers out there, do you know how long it takes to shed an old life?

Leave A Comment

  1. Betty Bradley August 20, 2011 at 7:07 am - Reply

    A wise person once told me you could never run away from your old life because you always take yourself wherever you go. Well, maybe not too wise…it was my Dad, but I do think he was partially right. Old habits die hard. When we retired I said I wasn’t going to do so much volunteer work. That didn’t hold up for very many years.

  2. Beth Partin August 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Very true, Betty. I guess I’m hoping I can drop a few nettlesome parts of me along the way somewhere.

  3. Claire Walter August 21, 2011 at 6:58 am - Reply

    What’s nettlesome to some is endearing to others. I’m sure you’re dropping “some,” there’s no particular reason to drop them all, is there?

  4. Beth Partin August 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    No, Claire, I suppose not. There are some things I get tired of, though. I’d like to change those.