I panic before I travel.
Every time. Without fail.
It doesn't seem to matter that I've boarded planes for international flights more than 50 times in the last 10 years, or that I'm taking the trip of a life time, or that I'm watching someone I love get married...
I freak out.
But, I've done this enough to know I can tell myself this is something I do. I tell myself it's fine that I'm not fully packed yet - I can pack in my sleep - I'm a pro at this shit. I tell myself the cats will be fine - they like my catsitter better than me half the time anyway and won't really remember how long it was when I get back. I tell myself that on the last days of my trip, I'll be wishing I could extend it.
And this works. Until tonight, when we hit the 36 hour mark.
Because tonight I realized something new.
Every other trip, every other freakout - I got through them long enough to have that panicked call with Mom. The one where I tell her I'm stressed out because I have too much to do. And then she tells me I don't have to go because whatever place I'm going is too dangerous and she'd rather I not go. And then I automatically reassure her that it's totally safe and tell her all the amazing things I'm going to see and do and I make myself excited about the trip and can finally pump myself enough to finish packing. And then in the airport, we have our conversation before I board the plane.
But Mom isn't here to tell me South Africa is scary and what the hell am I thinking driving through Namibia and don't I know people get killed there? She isn't here to recall the memories of her feeding lions and tell me I should just do that instead.
And worse? Mama isn't here to tell me all the things she wants me to tell her brothers and sister when I see them in 2 weeks. She isn't here to ask me to bring her back her favorite cookies that I can only get there. She isn't here to remind me of the phrases and places I can't remember.
People think grief heals over time, but it doesn't. The thing is, there are always more firsts.
I guess this is the first time, that instead of calling her and showing her pictures later, I'll be taking Mama with me.
Grief and travel panic, combined with general work stress and a not so healthy dose of whatever sickness has knocked me out for the last week - that's a cocktail for one hell of a trip.
Here we go.