I have a writer’s “what if” mind. That can be a wonderfully rich, imaginative and entertaining thing. It can also be hell, especially for a single woman. I’ll explain.
One of the foundations of fiction is that a story begins when something goes wrong. Thus, many of the “what ifs” that my mind spits out are negative in nature, because I’m playing around with story ideas.
That’s useful for writing. It’s not so good when I’m traveling by myself. I’ve decided to stop waiting for Mr. Right to come along and be my traveling companion. I’m in my 50s. If I wait any longer, I won’t be going anywhere, so I’m venturing out on my own. The problem is, when I’m away from the familiar, comfortable patterns of my everyday life – those imaginary “what ifs” can rise up and create a free-floating anxiety that threatens to ruin any trip.
Part of the anxiety comes from my lack of confidence in being able to solve problems ALL BY MYSELF, which is kind of immature for someone in her 50s. Does anyone else feel this? And does it ever go away?
The bad “what ifs”
Here’s a sampling of the kinds of concerns that have reared their ugly heads on my current trip – a long weekend getaway to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.:
1) What if I get lost? (This one is not far-fetched; I am notorious for my poor sense of direction.)
2) What if I lose my ID and can’t catch my flight home? (TSA doesn’t mess around.)
3) What if I lose my credit card? (this after realizing that I only brought – gasp – ONE credit card)
4) What if someone steals my purse so that I don’t even have my cash and – gasp – cell phone? (That cell phone is my lifeline. Without it, I have no gps or Uber, which ties into Fear #1.)
5) What if I fall off this boat? (This while on a water taxi ride. I reminded myself that I can swim.)
6) What if I get injured in some way? (I reminded myself that there are hospitals in South Florida.)
7) What if I forgot to pack some essential item? (I forgot my hair dryer – gasp! — and yet somehow my hair managed to dry. It doesn’t even look that bad.
The last worry DID come true:
8) What if the weather is bad? I’ve spent money and allotted time for this getaway. My aim was to bake on a sun-drenched beach under warm temperatures while relaxing and reading a chick-lit novel. (Due to Winter Storm Jonah, it’s unseasonably cool in Ft. Lauderdale, so freezing on a beach is the only option.)
So…because it’s a little chilly here, the whole trip is a disaster, right? While my original concept has gone out the window, other adventures have sprung up to take its place.
What if I have a good time anyway?
I paid a visit to the city’s NSU Museum of Modern Art and saw a terrific exhibit about Lee Miller, who went from being a fashion model (discovered on a NYC street) to a fashion photographer to a war correspondent in World War II. Her grim photos of liberated concentration camps helped convince the doubters that the Holocaust atrocities did, indeed, happen. It was an amazing exhibit. I was surprised that I’d never heard of her, because she lived an extraordinary life.
I did a LOT of walking. (Helped warm me up!) I like to do this when visiting a new city for two reasons: it lets me see places and people in a more intimate way than I do when I’m riding in a cab, and I get some exercise when I’m away from my gym.
I may not go swimming in the ocean on this trip (sigh), but I did take a water taxi tour of the intercoastal, with the guide pointing out multi-million dollar homes owned by celebrities and business titans (“If you’ve ever shopped at Kohl’s, you probably helped buy that home”) and opulent yachts, like the $20 million beauty that Steven Spielberg is selling because it’s too small. It was cold and windy, and I eventually had to move from the top deck, with its better view, to the enclosed cabin below, but it was still a fun experience, and gave me some ideas about what kind of house I’ll buy when I win the Powerball. (That’s comes under the category of positive “what ifs” – What if I win the lottery?)
I’m also going to see a cousin I haven’t seen in years, which will be a real treat. I’d forgotten that he lived in this area. His sister saw my Facebook post about being here and texted me his phone number. I’ll get to meet his kids for the first time. If I was having the mindless, lying-on-a-beach visit that I’d envisioned, I might have missed out on this.
So…”what if” things don’t go as planned, but I have a great time anyway…traveling all by myself???