Thursday, January 25, 2024

Travelling gratitude

I’m going to talk about my holiday in Fiji here on my blog, possibly in one long post, or maybe several on specific subjects—dunno yet. I’m still sorting that out. In the meantime, however, I wanted to focus on gratitude, because I have a lot.

First, and most obviously, I’m grateful that I’m privileged enough to have been able to afford the trip at all. Times are tough for so many, and I was keenly aware of that. However, I was also keenly aware that Nigel wasn’t with me, and that my last overseas trip had been with him some six years ago. So, for me, it wasn’t enough to be able to afford to go, a whole lot of stars had to align to get me there—and my whānau worked to put the stars in the correct place (though I worked on it, too, of course).

I always had a policy that I don’t talk in blog posts about the people in my my life by name without their permission, something I started when I began this blog and then continued with my podcast. In addition to wanting to preserve their privacy (after all, they’re not doing public things like I am), I also believe peoples’ stories are theirs to tell, or not, and that’s entirely up to them, not me. I’m not going to break my rule now.

My brother-in-law organised the trip, and from the very beginning encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, first by convincing me to go, then to get me to try new experiences, like visiting a tropical island in the South Pacific. He knew how hard the trip would be for me, for lots of reasons, but he never told me off or whatever, and just encouraged me to stay the course. He also subtly checked in to see how I was doing, which probably helped both of us keep me on track. I think we all need people in our lives who will gently encourage us forward, and he has always been that for me.

Second, my cousin-in-law looked after Leo while I was away—and brilliantly, too. She’s a dog person herself, and Leo knows her and her two dogs—Leo’s dog cousins—so Leo staying with her was the perfect solution. She knew how really hard it was for me to leave Leo for that long, and for him to spend a night at a kennel (well, “dog resort”, pretty much) with her two. While I was away, she sent me messages updating me, but they were also very subtle reassurances that Leo was fine and happy. She even picked him up and dropped him back home, taking a LOT of stress off me. She’s an awesome person, and everyone in the family knows that. Now you do, too.

My sister-in-law arranged to get us to Auckland for the flight and home again afterward, including booking motel rooms for Wednesday night last week. Going up to Auckland the night before our flight made things so much easier for us both, and less stressful getting to the airport. It was definitely the right choice. She, too, understood that I struggled with going away, and why, and she was kind and supportive. She, too, has always been that for me.

There were ten of us on the trip, and each in their own way was integral to making the trip so much fun. This whānau is close, but we don’t “live in each other’s pockets”, as the saying goes, and we were able to enjoy time together (like breakfast and dinner every day, when all ten of us got together) as well as time to do our own thing. Whether or not we get to have a group trip like this again (none if us knows what the future holds…), I’m grateful for the experiences and memories of this trip.

Even though my mother-in-law wasn’t on the trip, she, too, encouraged me. Her support has always been there, including in the Before Times, so she deserves to be acknowledged, too.

The photo above is me with the family’s birthday gift to me: It’s a framed replica of a traditional Fijian fish hook and line, made in the traditional way. I hung it on my wall Tuesday evening, not long after I got home because it was easy: As soon as I unwrapped it on my birthday I knew where I was going to hang it. Every time I look at it—and it’s right near my chair, so I’ll see it a lot—I’ll think of them all and the lovely trip.

So, I’m grateful for all this, but mostly for my family (including Leo, obviously). Seeing new places, doing new things, making new memories—all of that is incredibly important, but I believe it’s the people in our lives that matter the most. Some people would say I was lucky to be able to afford the trip and to be in good health to go. They’re right, as far as that goes, but they don’t see the whole truth: The greatest luck in my life was meeting Nigel and marrying into this awesome family. Nothing can ever change that.

Beyond all that gratitude is, of course, another reality: I wish Nigel had been there, too—of course! I know that, in a sense, he was. I also know he’d be proud of me for having done this, and for returning to my old mantra that impressed him years ago: Feel the fear and do it anyway. Everyone I talked about in this post, including Nigel, is part of what made it possible for me to overcome all my obstacles and go on holiday in Fiji. And that’s why it was so important to me that I acknowledge my gratitude.

There’s also a bit of trivia about that photo: The shirt I’m wearing is the only one I brought with me that I didn’t wear on the trip. As usual, this is a many-layered story, but it’s one I’m glad to be able to tell.

This is a revised and expanded version of a post I wrote on my personal Facebook.

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