I went to Rome in February. It was a major step for me, since it was the first time I had taken a vacation, for more than 10 days, in 15 years. It was also the very first time I would be taking a vacation alone. I loved every minute of this trip. It represented the passage to a new way of being for me and I discovered some empowering insights I want to share.
I’ve always wanted to see Rome and when they started to advertise tours to see the Rome temple open house for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it made the idea even more enticing. So, I booked it! It was several months in advance. I thought it would be a good way to celebrate my independence and welcome the next chapter of my life. Little did I know I would still be far from independent nor how long it would actually take me to get to a solid place in my healing journey.
Insight 1 – Deserving and Living in the Now
I struggled for weeks before the trip trying to rationalize whether I was deserving of the trip and feeling fearful something or someone would get in the way and I wouldn’t be able to go. The week before the trip the anxiety was so intense I was trying every tool in my emotional toolbox to reduce the worry and focus on all the last minute loose ends I needed to tie up at home and work. Even when I finally boarded the plane I couldn’t shake the feeling of unease. It took me a couple of days before I was able to completely relax and fully enjoy my trip.
I have been existing in a state of hyper-vigilance most of my life. Constantly searching for warning signals from other people’s actions, behaviors, and emotions. I learned this as a child to keep me safe and try to prevent people from getting angry with me. This type of tuning in to everything and everyone around me, means I mostly function from a very anxious and stressful state. Getting away from my normal surroundings and my work computer allowed me to sit back and truly enjoy the people and scenery in the moment. I also think being alone really helped with this because, it is too automatic for me to slip into a hyper-vigilant state and focus on people pleasing, when I am with friends or family. It was one of those rare times when I didn’t have to worry about sacrificing my own needs and desires to please others and could just relish every minute. Times like these help me really connect to who I am, what I value, and what I love in life. Being in that state is when I fully recognized I deserved to be on this trip and have this experience.
Insight 2 – Pondering my Faith
The first few days were spent on land in Italy. It was a whirlwind tour of Carrara, Pisa, Florence, Vatican City, and the Rome Temple. Seeing the stark contrast of the elegant simplicity in the Rome temple and the grand magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica on back to back days was a profound illustration of the differences in religions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint’s Temple and visitor’s center, focused on Christ’s ministry and resurrection. The Basilica is steeped in great works of ancient history, honoring popes, saints, and Christ’s crucifixion. Both were so awesome and inspiring to see first hand.
As I compared these two amazing Faiths and looked at them from this surface level view it caused me to ponder what felt right for me. I felt a huge amount of peace and gratitude for the temple, the teachings of Christ, the gift of repentance, the tremendous sacrifice He made for us, and knowing Christ’s resurrection is a pillar of my Faith.
Insight 3 – The Importance of Recovery and Recreation
On the fourth day of the trip we boarded the cruise and set off to explore the Mediterranean. We had crammed a lot in to those first few days and I was tired. It was the first time I had ever been on a cruise and I wanted to explore the boat. We sailed all night and docked in Savona, Italy. While I wanted to go on an excursion, I was tired from all the walking the three days before. I decided it was time for a little self care, relaxation, and recovery. I scheduled a massage, explored the ship, and enjoyed the spa’s hot tub and sauna.
The recovery time allowed me to be well rested for the rest of the cruise. I had renewed enthusiasm for new experiences and fun. It is easy to put self care and recovery time aside thinking if we just keep pushing and working we will experience more or become even better at whatever it is we are working toward. But it doesn’t work that way. This goes back to one of the principles taught by Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits. Taking time out to sharpen the saw (invest in self) allows us to be more productive and accomplish our goals faster.
It reminded me of earlier in the year when I was traveling for work, spending 12-16 hour days at the office, managing the emotional strain of separating from my husband, and training for a triathlon. I was pushing myself hard and just kept training, thinking the exercise was good for me and would give me more energy and make me healthier. By the time I got to the triathlon I was extremely anxious, not because I hadn’t trained hard but because I was feeling exhausted and depleted. It ended up being the slowest triathlon I ever competed in. Ultimately, a month later, I ended up having to take a leave from work because I was so depleted, I could barely function. It was a huge lesson for me. While in Rome, I was glad I knew better than to push myself. I recognized the necessity of taking time for recovery so I could really enjoy the rest of the trip.
Insight 4 – New Friends and Fun
The tour was mostly married couples. There were a few who had come with a friend or a sibling. I was the only one traveling alone. This did come with benefits. I got to pile all my junk in the seat next to me. 🙂 I was able to sit and visit with the tourist guides on a few occasions and loved getting to hear about their lives in Rome and get to know them better. It also caused me to reach out and get to know the others on the trip. I am quite introverted so it was good for me and I made some great friends!
Taking this trip was pivotal to my process of healing and growth. I have filled my memory bank with amazing moments, happy times, and good people. As I continue on my journey of learning to feel safe, being authentic and exhibiting confidence, I will draw on many memorable moments in Rome and along the Mediterranean. They will be there to replenish me during the rough spots and fortify my grateful heart as I celebrate good times and look forward to many more to come.
“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” – Gordon B. Hinckley
Looking forward to sharing more insights in Part 2.