International travel for work was so exciting and seemed even glamorous – until it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel a sense of excitement about every pending destination on our horizon. And there are still so many “whose life is this anyways?” moments in every trip. However, there are also sporadic “get to the back of the plane where you belong, Lady” moments too.
A little dose of humility goes a long way.
This last week I spent in Barcelona to attend an event called Gastech. A huge conference and exhibition for the gas industry. The big boys came out to play. There were big budgets and big decisions being made. It was really quite exciting being in the mix.
That said, this trip was overshadowed by an especially solid dose of “imposter syndrome”. You know the feeling, that at any moment, someone is going to discover that you have no business being there.
There had been just one week after the 5 days in Hamburg to prepare for Barcelona. It has been an exceptionally busy time. Some might even call it stressful. There’s a lot of balls in the air, not the least of which are the commitments that come with the family too.
“I’ve got this” she said.
“No problem” she said.
Really, it’s no big deal.” she said.
And then she got shingles.
Despite my confident exterior and optimistic self talk, my body betrayed my bravado by wearing our stress right on our flesh, for all to see. Like a lovely, red, blistery, achy badge of honour, all along the side of my left leg.
And if you’ll recall, it’s hot here and so I still can’t wear pants without risking a whole other level of humiliating evidence of my lack of stress response skills.
Thankfully, the sore, achy leg, which had been pestering me all week, decided to kick it up a notch to reveal the blisters the day before I flew to Barcelona. Just in time for a doctor to assure me that no, it was not flesh eating disease and no, I would not need to consider an amputation. Phew!
So I returned home, assured that with meds, I’d be feeling well again in no time and that there was no need to cancel my trip. What the doctor failed to mention was that I might want to reconsider the wardrobe I had already neatly packed for the trip. I was blissfully unaware of the ugliness just waiting to take over my lower leg. And let’s face it, when your crazy is starting to show, everyone would really prefer that you keep that shit tucked in.
So, with some wardrobe improvisations, thanks to my one dear colleague who knew what was going on and happens to wear the same dress size, I made it through without too much attention to my repulsiveness. A quick mumble about a mountain biking incident allowed one curious & concerned co-worker to believe I was fine. Or perhaps it was my reference to my anti-psychotic meds when someone noticed me sneaking in a big horse-pill at the exhibition that made him so quick to buy the excuse. It’s really not that far from the truth if you think about it.
And I am fine.
But I must admit that ex-pat life is not without it’s stress. The work stress is typical of any situation where the learning curve is high and you find yourself in an environment which calls on the parts of your brain you had let grow dormant during the HausFrau year. But this stress is also exhilarating, rewarding and feels oh-so alive.
On it’s own, that stress wouldn’t be enough for my body to rebel. It’s the more emotionally charged stress that’s the kicker. The stress and worry I have wrestled with since the very beginning of this journey. And there is no worse time of the year than September when all of our emotions are so very close to the surface.
So when presented with two important week-long business trips, coinciding with the start of school, it created a perfect storm of stress. One that got the better of me.
We have settled into a good rhythm again, one which allows me to exhale in the knowledge that the kids are alright. We haven’t, indeed, broken them. They have weathered the storm too and come out with another boost through the knowledge that they did it. They are continuing to build the inventory of tools in their toolkit.
Shingles aside, the trip to Barcelona was a perfect mix of “wow, how amazing is this” and “for the love of God, when will this be over.” Having departed with a sound diagnosis that I had, in fact, become unhinged, it was a remarkably successful trip.
Like any professional, wanting to ensure they were healthy enough to bring their a-game to the task, I quickly studied the data that came with my meds and googled all I could to fully understand what I was taking.
(Let’s be honest people, I was desperately scanning the info to find out if I could still drink. All clear – thank goodness! The contrary would have been inhumane.)
(My googling also revealed the unfortunate news that my meds are also used to treat herpes. Just exactly the info I wanted to feel especially good about myself. Awesome.)
And it was a great trip. A success, all things considered. I did find moments to relax and enjoy. And I was responsible about avoiding late nights, returning to the hotel no later than 10:00 to get a good solid night sleep. My imbibing was moderate, as is the responsible thing when on a work trip.
This is the scene which awaited. One of the more-glamorous moments…
So you see, balance is returning.
There are more work trips in the near future – a return to Athens in two weeks time. But this one comes without the added family-related stress because they’re coming along! We’ll all be enjoying a blissful view of the Aegean Sea letting the warm sun and sand wash away our worries. Ahhhhh.