I had excitedly and carefully planned for our long-awaited trip to Sydney, Australia. Traveling with our dear friends, I was the self-appointed tour guide. I had scheduled some planned activities for us, balanced with free time and optional things to do. We had some structure but could also be spontaneous – the best of both worlds! This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I wanted to make the most of it.
Our flight departed on New Year’s Day. Everything went smoothly and for a day or so, we were living the life of a vacation brochure, even if we were a little woozy from the time change. We made it to the Zoo and even a performance at the Opera House. But after being there a good day or so, the my plans went off the rails. Instead, I got sick and spent most of my time miserable in bed, counting down the minutes until I could take my next Tylenol.
Just a Cold
At first, I thought I had a mild cold – no big deal. I rarely get sick and sometimes I (mistakenly) think that all of this illness stuff doesn’t really apply to me. But gradually my “little cold” turned into something messier.
One evening, we ventured out and I thought a little food might give me some energy. With a little make-up on and a dress, I looked like maybe I was okay after all! (I sure wanted to be.) But when served a beautiful meal at a fine Italian restaurant, I couldn’t eat. I tried a bite or two but just couldn’t do it. The Italian waiter with his brown beard and kind, dark eyes was very concerned. He asked me if the food was okay. I told him the food was great, I was just under the weather. A few minutes later, I surprised myself by racing out of one of Sydney’s finest restaurants, in search of a restroom so I could throw up.
I wasn’t sure why I vomited. I had a cold and throwing up isn’t part of having a cold. Maybe I had taken medicine on an empty stomach and that had made me nauseous? It must have been an anomaly.
The next morning, after one bite of toast and two bites of oatmeal that tasted like sawdust, I ran out of our hotel elevator on a random floor, searching for a trash container where I could be sick. After that, I stopped eating and didn’t leave my hotel room. This was more than a cold. For the next two days, I slept around 20 hours/day. This was not how I expected to spend my time in Sydney. This was not part of my plan.
It’s the Little Things
Because of my illness, I didn’t get to explore Sydney like I had hoped. This sounds like it must have been a huge disappointment. In a way, it was. But I just wanted to feel better. As out time in Sydney drew to an end, I was given a huge gift. I started to feel decent.
The first morning that I woke up feeling slightly better. At breakfast, I ate a few crackers and they stayed down. I was so excited about eating three crackers. Yes. This small feat was now a big deal.
I took a long nap that morning, but then later I was able to eat a small lunch. I noticed myself smiling at a stranger near the elevator. I felt good enough to smile at a stranger! Later, I made a joke with the waiter, something I wouldn’t normally notice doing. I was on the mend.
Sydney’s Gift to Me
As we head on to Melbourne and then later New Zealand, my expectations for our remaining time Down Under are much lower. I don’t care what we do or see, I just want to feel good. All of a sudden, I’m easy to please.
My planning for our time in Sydney didn’t guarantee anything. And that’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes what we’re most excited about doesn’t happen. And then it was replaced by something even more valuable than any activity: the gift of feeling good and more importantly, noticing it.
Most of the time, I feel good and take it for granted. I don’t notice that my head doesn’t hurt. I also don’t appreciate that I can eat food and not get sick. I don’t realize how valuable it is to have energy and not need to sleep all day. Day after day, I live my life without giving thanks for my good health. I want to stop that. I want to appreciate how good I feel almost all of the time.
Perhaps this realization is Sydney’s gift to me. And if so, that gift is more valuable than any visit to a museum, botanical garden or tennis tournament.
I’m grateful for this gift. And if this is the way it works, I’d like to make one teeny-tiny request of the Universe. May I please not be given this gift again? It was a hard-earned. I promise I’ll do my best to remember that I’ve already been given it. Thank you.