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Panic... At Lunch in Crete

There was absolutely NOTHING to complain about today. It was my second full day on Crete. I had breakfast overlooking a beautiful sunrise from the hotel patio. I was with my mom and a colorful group of travelers enjoying fresh fruit, soul-comforting hot coffee, croissants, eggs, and more. What could make for a better relaxing morning?

The itinerary for the day was to travel to this small town and experience a light lunch, cheese making class, having our fortunes read from coffee grounds, and more. I was as excited as everyone else, even if I did feel a bit aloof. Feeling apart from things and everyone else was not a new feeling for me. I have been experiencing the sensation of living in bubble, unable to truly communicate with the world. It might sound cliché, but it does feel like a physical barrier at times.

Regardless, I was in Greece! I finally made it! I had been trying to make the trip to Greece since 2013, and here I was in 2019 (unknowingly on the cusp of a pandemic) finally seeing these gorgeous views.

I should have been able to put myself in the moment. Should have. But I couldn’t.

We took a nice tour around the town including morning shots of ouzo, seeing flocks of geese, viewing wine reserves, and tasting home made honey (which I totally purchased some to bring back home…because YUM). The whole time I felt myself part of the group yet resistant to be around anyone. I struggled and I continued suppressing my feelings.

One beautiful distraction after another kept my mind from dwelling on the anxiety swirling in my stomach. Our local guide brought out one of his donkeys for us to pose with for a picture. Many people in the group got on the donkey (who was saddled up) but I felt that pit in my stomach grow. I wasn’t scared of being on the donkey…I had ridden horses before…but something was holding me back from fully participating. I stood next to the donkey for a photo and almost immediately he swung his head around to lean on my chest. I stumbled a little backward out of shock, but he was intent on nuzzling with me and getting me to stroke his neck and forehead. The guide said donkeys are extremely sensitive animals who thrive on affection. I could feel comforting energy passing between myself and the donkey and it was really a special moment. It helped ground me, at least for a moment. It didn’t take long for other members of the group to gather around and wanting to see if the donkey would cuddle with them too. Immediately, the anxiety washed back over me, and I felt an urge to flee. Again, I swallowed it down and gave the donkey one last pat before giving someone else a turn.

We got to the site for lunch and our cheese making activity. By then my anxiety was like a kidnap victim banging on the trunk of the car. My insides were screaming. I continued to ignore it and sat down in attempt to have a nice lunch. I was almost mute. I couldn’t bring myself to react or even participate. It was such an effort to even sit there. The pain in my chest continued to constrict like a thick rubber band crushing my rib cage. Still, I remained stoic on the outside.

When it got time to form a line for the “Oracle” coffee ground reading, I lost it. To be honest, I was so used to suppressing this feeling around crowds of people I never thought the switch would flip. The group was having a great time standing in clumps in this line for their fortunes, taking more shots of ouzo, and here I was completely unable to exist in my own skin. I wanted to escape, rip off my skin, hide, anything to be alone, anything to be normal. I wanted the quiet, but I wanted to be a part of everything…I wanted alcohol…I wanted water…I couldn’t breathe.

Without saying a word, I broke off from the group and my mom, and wandered inside to this great hall of a room with dining tables and chairs stacked on each other. It was in the dead quiet of this packed up room that I finally felt my lungs inhale without a struggle. I walked around hearing my flats pad noiselessly across the brick floor and staring at the wall art. I stared at the light dust swirling in the air after the door shut behind me. I sat down in silence. I don’t know how long I was in there…hiding from the world. Could have been one minute. Could have been twenty.

I stood up on shaky legs and made my way outside to where my mom was still in line for the Oracle reading. My reading showed two figures walking together up a mountain – one holding the other back.

I felt in that moment that both figures were me.

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