Exercising The Muscles of Discomfort

This morning at 6:45 Greenwich Mean Time I got off a plane at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland and realized I had just done something totally imprudent: flown half way around the world to an isolated rock thousands of miles from my family. Alone. And 23 weeks pregnant.

This seemed like a fabulous idea when I planned it, and even a fabulous idea when I’d woken at the unfortunate hour of 1:30am the previous morning (day? night?) and fluttered around repacking my bag before heading to the airport. But getting off the plane, utterly along and un-tended, I had a tiny moment of panic, like, Shit! What have I done!

I chock it up to the exhaustion I was feeling, and the fact that I couldn’t check into my rooming house for another 6 hours. Now, 20 hours later, with a 5-hour nap behind me, I feel great. I’m back cozied into my bed, my bag unpacked in a pretty orderly manner, and I feel completely at peace. It’s a notable, and noteworthy, contrast from this morning, when I wandered the still-dark streets in 15-degree weather, towing two suitcases, stopping every minute to peer at the paper map, feeling like a sinking ship.

I think this little exercise in contrasts is precisely the point of why I’m here, and why I like to do things like this. When we allow ourselves into situations where we feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, under-prepared, lonely, anxious—and then get past it—we get stronger. More resilient. Less fearful.

By some measures it’s crazy to blast off for 24 days of solo travel in the middle of a pregnancy. This morning it seemed crazy by my own measure. Tonight it feels fabulous. I spent the day walking around, remembering the layout of the city, laying down the mental map of the intersections of the oddly shaped streets. With each outing I reinforced my own competence, my own ability to way-find and survive. I ate two wonderful meals, exploding with the rich winter flavors of this country. I read smart and provocative writing. People smiled at me.

I also found the memories of my mom, from our shared trip here just a little over three years (translation: a lifetime) ago.

Tomorrow I’ll journey out into the lava fields by bus en route to the Blue Lagoon. Exactly one week ago I was driving through the lava fields of the Big Island of Hawaii. Today I’m on this familiar/foreign rock in the middle of the North Atlantic. It feels good.

Little BBHK is growing inside me, and it makes me glad that he gets to feel his mama with a big smile on her face, and a strong sense of independence. I also have an overwhelming sense of gratitude—for the sensations that come with his presence, and for the support and love of his dad, who did the valiant work of tackling his own discomfort so I can be here right now.