THE GOOD ALONG THE WAY
GILI AIR, JANUARY 2020
Do you ever find yourself anticipating something bad happening? Like, things are going along smoothly so surely, surely, it’s all going to come crashing down at any moment?
That happiness is only fleeting before life inevitably returns to its default setting of all that is not fun. There is a ticking time tomb around your luck. You’re on borrowed time.
I have caught myself in that torturous way of thinking a few times over the last couple of weeks: who am I to wake up overlooking the ocean, have a spring in my step as I skip along to yoga without a single responsibility. I think you’re particularly susceptible to such apprehension in times of the unknown.
Such was last weekend when I decided to leave Bali and head out on a mini-break to the pin-sized island of Gili Air, just off the coast of Lombok.
To get to the Gili islands, you have to take the boat from one of Bali’s main ports. I had heard horror stories about these voyages. Tales of engines breaking down in the middle of the ocean, broken air-con, sea-sickness like no other thanks to the towering waves.
So despite having done my research, despite having read the reviews of the boat company I reluctantly choose (I had to choose one if I were to make it to Gili Air), I was nervous. Nervous of a perfectly harmonious, peaceful and dare I say it, easy, trip going completely tits up.
So I made sure my luggage was on board, I climbed the boat, sipped my water and swallowed my complementary sea-sickness tablet. And I held my breath. After about an hour I caught myself thinking hey, this isn’t so bad. The waves aren’t too bad and I don’t feel too sick. It’s maybe even…enjoyable.
Naturally, that's when the anticipatory anxiety kicked in. Now I’ve had the audacity to think everything is going to be okay, of course everything is bound to go tits up. I was holding my breath because I was waiting for it to all go wrong. I was spending a perfectly good moment thinking about a not-so-good one. A not-so-good-one that may or may not ever arrive.
That was when I realised this all had to stop. This fear of the bad, this poisoning of the good.
The way I saw it from that moment on is that the bad is always going to be bad but there’s no point experiencing more bad (anxiety, nerves, panic, guilt) on the way to it. When that moment could instead be great. I cannot waste perfectly good moments in anticipation for the bad, which will be bad whether I like it or not, basically.
It’s the same principle of procrastinating a task you do not want to do. Do it now and it’s done. Do it later and you’re only prolonging your suffering. You’re only putting yourself through it twice.
And really, anyone will tell you there is no need to experience something shitty twice. It’s already shitty enough the first time around.
So to hell with the anxiety of tempting fate, of admitting things as good when that’s exactly what they are. This boat trip to Gili Air is good. Right now it is good and should it all go wrong in the unpredictable future, it is at least good for now.
Once I let myself relax into the present, I even saw dolphins.
I know it comes from a position of privilege to be able to somewhat think and talk myself out of anxiety. I can only imagine the prison in which it feels like to suffer from clinical anxiety and not be able to so easily remove the barricades in your way.
There’s that saying ‘things are always good until they’re not’ but actually when you’re experiencing anxiety, things are bad until they are bad. Things are conceptually bad until they are actually bad. Which philosophically speaking, could be argued as the same thing.
I think we fall into the trap of thinking we’re unworthy of too much good in our lives. But it could be said that it’s just as narcissistic to assume we’re worthy of the bad. Who are we to say which side the coin will land — much less which side we think we deserve.
Your partner might leave. You might get sick. You might not get the job you want. But until you’re staring down the barrel of those painful realities, that is not your reality. And it may never be your reality. We cannot waste our lives — lives that for the most part are full of daily goodness (if you are so lucky - or perhaps if you choose to notice), worrying about what might happen. What might happen is we might blink and miss all of the times we could’ve been smiling, enjoying the ride.
Seeing the dolphins.
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