My wife and I had an argument this morning.
Okay, it wasn’t really a row… it was more like a series of heated sentences, fuelled by frustration, anger, and downright exhaustion with the ridiculousness of the coronacoaster.
Where we are, in England, the half-light at this time of year is horrid… it’s like being trapped in some depressingly crepuscular parallel universe.
Working with our trusty travel advisor, Emma, we booked a week in the Canary Islands for early January. We booked it some months ago, recognizing we’d probably need a bit of sunshine to lift our spirits.
It was all safe… we sorted out good insurance and Emma reassured us that if the Covid craziness was still going on and we couldn’t fly, we’d get a refund.
What we HADN’T accounted for was the insanity around PCR tests.
This morning, Emma emailed to say it would be best to book ourselves in for Covid tests, just in case. As it stood, Spain was insisting on clear test results in a 72-hour window before arriving in any of their domains.
And that’s where our frustration began.
My darling wife struggles a little with travel. She’s a much better flier than she used to be, but she worries; she gets anxious in the run-up to our vacations and feels guilty about putting our pets in kennels too.
Of course, as my wife is my most important person, her anxiety triggers my anxiety about her being in a spin – I’d do anything to make her happy so, of course, I then need to manage all my little guilt gremlins about causing her stress by booking a vacation. Ironic, eh?
Now, you might think getting a PCR test would be simple enough, but factor in the time of year, and everything gets way more complicated than it needs to be.
There’s a chain of chemists over here where you can book an appointment, have someone professionally poke you with a swab, and get the results in 42 hours. It costs £120 GBP per person.
Ouch! Really? More expense on top of all the vacation expenses we’d already accounted for?
Not one of them had appointment slots that would allow us to get our results in time. One of them, frustratingly, could offer us an appointment just an hour and 15 minutes outside of our 72 hour cut off. No good.
By now, Asha’s stress was growing and mine was meeting hers head-on!
It was stupid booking a vacation at that time of year!
She didn’t want a PCR test anyway! Neither did I!
And no, of course, you can’t claim a refund on a holiday purely through a change of mind.
We looked into the remote mail-out covid tests. We’d need to submit on a Sunday in order to hit the timeframe we’d been given and, of course, our postal system doesn’t operate on Sundays. We could post out first thing on Monday, but we risked not getting the results back in time and not being allowed off the plane.
The other option? Get a courier service to hand-deliver our test kits to the lab. Goodness knows how much that would have cost us and, of course, what if we didn’t do the tests properly, or they got contaminated in some way?
I was trying to spin too many plates. Trying to find a solution. Feeling more and more frayed by the second. Emma was trying to help too. Every time I closed my eyes, the Google logo was imprinted on my lids and you could cut the tension in our house with a knife!
In the end, Emma found us the providers the airport uses. We’ve applied for an appointment but won’t know for 24 hours.
If we get our time slots, we’ll have to take a three hour round trip to the airport a few days before going back to the very same venue to get on a plane.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because, good readers of America Out Loud, in times of heightened stress it can be all too easy to exchange blows (I’m talking strictly verbal, not fists) with the people we love the most.
In times where we ought to be pulling together and supporting one another, human beings can find themselves reacting to the heat of the moment, falling into that drama spiral, upsetting one another far more than is necessary.
It’s an old pattern for us. One we haven’t tripped into in a long time.
Asha and I would move mountains for one another if we could – we each regard the other’s happiness as a top priority and frequently do all manner of things to gift a smile and a belly full of joy – but this morning, the stresses and strains of the Covid world, coupled with all the usual anxieties that come at this time of year, proved too much for us both.
We were a long way from proud of ourselves afterward.
Tears. Sobs. Snot. Apologies. And a gradual come down from a peak hour or so (could have been less, I don’t know – it felt like about a week!) that could so easily have been avoided if we’d just been able to catch the irritation imps before they escaped.
That horrible feeling after an exchange of cross-words with someone we care about.
That 10-ton weight resting on our heart space.
That crushing feeling.
The swirling emotions and confusion over how on earth we allowed that to happen in the first place.
And while it’s happening?
That awful feeling of emotional fullness that wants to burst out, yet none of those emotions feel positive.
Like one of those old cartoon scenes where Yosemite Sam screams into a jar, then runs to the top of a hill to release it.
No way to shake the hurricane inside without risking more misunderstandings.
Of course, looking back on it now, what was needed was movement.
One, or both of us, could have moved out of the energy, instead of sitting and stagnating in it.
We could have called what was happening and done something to break that state.
We could have sung, danced, jumped up and down a few times, thrown the ball for the dogs, gone for a walk, even put the kettle on and made a cup of tea… so perfectly British, I know.
And so, I’m passing the teachings from this on to you.
You all know what a ball of pink positivity I am usually. Asha’s the same, minus the pink.
World affairs right now are enough to slap the most optimistic of us down to irritable fools, deaf to all the wonders of the universe and blind to all the goodness still going on.
The place we all find ourselves is frustrating. On top of all the usual end of year stresses, Christmas lockdowns, spending, tax returns, dark skies, covid fear-mongering, infighting, negative media reports, and self-serving, disingenuous politicians we’d trust about as far as we could spit, we’re facing an uncertain future.
It’s wearing, to say the very least. Our tethers are losing length and our tempers, tolerance levels, and optimism are becoming increasingly frayed.
We need to remember this.
We need to remember that these are challenging times and we DO have the tools in our kit to allow us to do better.
This morning, Asha and I forgot for a while. You don’t need to.
If you feel yourself feeling overwhelmed, instead of snapping at a loved one, try offering support or some words of encouragement.
Instead of snapping back, take a deep breath and try to see beneath the surface to what’s really going on. It may well be that your loved one is a little terse because they’re struggling.
And when two people are struggling at the same time, it’s easy to create a powder keg.
Before you explode, remember the love. I promise it’s bigger than any other energy inside you or around you.
Stop. Breathe. Centre. Think.
What’s needed? Most of the time, the answer won’t be raised voices or harsh words.
And while we’re on the subject of love, try sending yourself a little more too – I guarantee, part of you probably needs it.
Until next time.