24 Hours in Canberra

I got there in the end!

Unfortunately, sans Nathan, but it ended up okay that he was home to look after everybody and I didn’t have to fret about anyone’s safety or security. It was also kind of nice as well to have a little mental break where I could just be by myself, do whatever I pleased, not answer to anybody or have to coordinate with anybody else’s plans, and not have a single person or animal relying on me for anything. It has been a while – life with new kittens has been hard work, especially with integrating them into our household, and dealing with Rupert getting older. Even though it’s for work, I think Nathan sometimes underestimates the benefit of the change of scenery that he gets whenever he does business travel once a month – something I don’t really get. So it was kind of necessary. Let’s call it a mental health day, or two.

The whole trip lasted about 28 hours, or a little longer after a long delay on the flight home (which was probably always going to happen, being the day before Good Friday). I spent both days at the National Gallery of Australia – the whole reason behind going at all was to see their Love + Desire exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces on loan from the Tate. Including Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott, which are such a big deal for me personally. I had often wondered whether I would ever get a chance to see these two paintings in my lifetime, or whether they would be one of those wistful regrets that would haunt me when I’m ninety and can’t go anywhere.

Everything was amazing. I just can’t even describe how wonderful everything was. I loved it all and I’m so glad I saw the paintings. Part of the reason I had to split the gallery into both days was because seeing The Lady of Shalott was so… overwhelming, that I just didn’t have enough any… anything left in me to look at anything else. I wanted it to be the last painting that I saw on that first day, so I could go back to the hotel and savour it.

Photos of paintings in art galleries are so boring generally, because how can a phone camera capture the majesty and emotion of these pieces? There is a big reason why it’s so much more valuable to go see the paintings in real life, but here are my best attempts – from the exhibition, as well as some from the rest of the gallery:

I also scheduled in a hefty dose of hedonism for my one night away – glitter bath bomb, Bachelor in Paradise, room service French fries, a face mask, breakfast in bed and letting myself sleep for about 12 hours. Utter bliss. Nobody growling or trying to push me off the bed, nobody snoring, nobody racing around or knocking things off my bedside table at 3am… yep, bliss. I missed everybody for approximately 30 seconds though, I promise.

There was another surprising little development that I’m rather excited about. I have terrible flight anxiety to the point where I will feel nauseous, break into a cold sweat, hyperventilate during takeoff, and have teary panics for days or sometimes weeks before a flight. It’s a ridiculous thing, especially for somebody who has been flying since they were two years old, somebody whose Qantas frequent flyer number is so old that it’s one digit less than the current ones. My phobia started almost overnight when I was about 26, for seemingly no reason at all, and was amplified by the news coverage of MH17 in particular.

Anyway, this time was a bit different. On the way there, I had my usual deathwish kind of dramas actually getting onto the plane and took a boatload of valium, but the moment of terror during takeoff was only about thirty seconds. On the way home, an old man talked to me the whole time, and my fear level only ended up reaching about thirty percent of my normal levels. This kind of thing never happens – I hope it continues. I’m going to Adelaide next week, and I’m already working on myself to keep this kind of positive attitude going.

I am going to have good flights
I have turned a corner with my phobia.
All of my fears of the plane stalling during takeoff are unfounded and will become less and less of a dread for me going forward.
I am going to sit by the window just behind the wing so that I can see the flaps extending and retracting and the wing changing shape to adjust the speed, so I will know what each unsettling noise signifies and that it’s nothing to be afraid of.
This will make me feel more in control of the situation.
I am going to kick this, it’s not going to cripple me forever.
There will be a time in the future when I have kids and I can attend to their needs during takeoff, rather than having panic attacks that will inform their feelings about flying.
They are not going to inherit my fear of flying and let it limit their lives.
Basically, it will be fine, I will be fine, everything will be fine.
The phobia has peaked, it’s just going to get better from now on.

Positive self talk is powerful stuff, so I’m actually a little excited about my next flights and seeing myself in action after this attitude shift.

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