Now, it may seem strange to say this after we’ve journeyed all across the world, through foreign lands where I don’t speak the language, and ended up all alone with no plan, but: I’m actually a fairly anxious person.
It’s not diagnosed or anything, I never talk with anyone about it, and I’ve never taken medication for it; but it rears its head in my life more often than I’d like. Simple stuff, like reading text messages when they come in, talking to my insurance agent, and the like is a lot harder for me than I think it is for most people. But I don’t like to complain; and I manage to get through it all anyways. So I keep it to myself.
As I walked the streets of Pokhara with the goal of arranging my trek, my anxiety was definitely making itself known.
My task was simple enough, I knew: Walk into one of the million trekking agencies, say I wanted to go to Annapurna Base Camp, and book a trek. As my experience at the trekking agency in Kathmandu had taught me, most of these places could probably have me out the door by tomorrow. All I had to do was walk in, and talk to someone.
There were some two kilometers between the Malaysian’s cafe and Hotel Snow Leopard.
I walked by one trekking agency, then another.
I’ve got a way to go, I can stop at a later one, I told myself.
I walked by three or four more trekking agencies. Some of them had chalk boards out front, with their upcoming treks written on them. One had the exact trek I wanted to do, on the perfect dates. I hesitated, then kept walking.
As anyone who suffers from anxiety knows, this is the part where the self-loathing starts to set it.
Why can’t I accomplish such a simple task? I know exactly what to do, how to do it, and I have the means to do so. So why do I keep walking past agencies?
This shit’s annoying enough in your daily life, when it prevents you from going into that cute new shop, talking to the girl who’s making eyes at you, or when it causes you to order your coffee before you know what you really want. When anxiety’s standing between you and the thing you basically threw away your relationship for, it’s downright infuriating.
I’d describe social anxiety as similar to being in love. In both cases, your head knows exactly what you need to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to have much luck pulling the strings to get you there. In love and anxiety, some force deep within your chest commands your actions, cuts loose the bowlines, and takes you far from the bay of logic.
Disagreement of the head and the heart is at the core of most human suffering, I’d say.
It was certainly causing me a lot of frustration in Nepal. I couldn’t get Holly off my mind, even as I walked Lakeside in Pokhara, just one appointment away from seeing the mountains which had captured my heart. I didn’t really want to book a trek, I felt. I should just buy a ticket home, spend time in my lover’s arms. It would feel good, for a moment. Meanwhile, my head screamed sense at me: the memory of trekking the Himalayas will feel good, forever, long after this woman is gone. She’s already gone, the voice of logic reminded me. Four months ago, with steel in her eyes, she’d told me ‘I’ll never forgive you.’
After a year of rocky relationship, half-truths, and elided issues, that was the first thing Holly had told me in a long time that I knew was true, without question.
Then, that whole mess in Hong Kong.
Fate had brought me to Nepal, I was sure.
Still, I walked past a dozen more trekking agencies, unable to muster the courage to even enter one. Two or three times I had located one I thought looked promising, and turned around. Two or three or four times, I walked by these storefronts, trying to convince myself to go in. Each time, I decided I looked crazy walking past the same stores several times in a row, and I convinced myself I’d stop at the next trekking agency.
In this way, I spent a very unpleasant hour.
Finally, after an absolutely unnecessary amount of mental gymnastics, I managed to convince myself to walk into a random trekking agency.
As is almost always the case, my anxiety was totally unwarranted.
This is a nonfiction book I am writing. It is (unfortunately) all true. I’m posting it chapter-by-chapter. I’d be delighted to have you follow along. You can find Chapter 1 here, the Table of Contents here, and you can sign up for weekly e-mail reminders here.
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