Aesthetics Travel

Day 548 and Shame

I’ve got a pit in my stomach. My throat has the constricted feeling of embarrassment that gets trapped in your gullet. I failed and lost money on something stupid. I tried to do a pleasant vacation sort of choice over a long weekend. A “nearby” Riviera town was supposedly within driving distance. I thought what could go wrong. Let’s go to the Ionian Sea! I briefly thought I could enjoy something like a regular person.

I said yes as everyone was so excited by the fresh air and the beaches. It will be healthy and fun! I was worried it would be without the basics I need to keep standing upright but I wanted to try anyway. Consistent air conditioning is really important to keeping the rest of my bodily system’s functioning. It’s a very Marie Antoinette need, but once my spine swells it can go very wrong very fast. Summers are hard for me.

My system begins to cascade within a pretty short window. About half a day. Eight hours without being able to lay flat for a break ended up fucking me up badly in this case. The “oh it’s close, just a three hour drive” ended up being a ten hour ordeal over badly maintained roads. I was sick to my stomach and in pain as we took hairpin turns and popped over potholes. I was in so much pain it was over a 10. It was “lose consciousness” levels of pain as my body knew I shouldn’t be awake for it. I was afraid it would get so bad I’d need a hospital. Instead I settled for opioids. Keeping out of the hospital was probably wise.

I hate needing those kind of drugs. The “your pain is a 10” drugs push me off the plane of reality by a few ecliptic degrees, and suddenly I can tolerate the pain and discomfort again. I understand how addicts get made now. It’s not real comfort. It’s synthetic but most people can’t tell just by watching. The fake relief looks real.

I’ve never felt tempted to take pain medicine recreationally. It’s usually only when a pain is too big for my reality that I tap out in defeat and take an opioid. It’s when reality crushes my soul as one variable starts to degrade the whole machine. I only use it to stave off collapse. And I was very close to collapse.

What is fucked up is that people like me off the axis of reality. The hazy hyper vibe’d unreal “reality” of encroaching nihilism is bop. Dystopia seems cool and consumable.

But it’s not an adventure for me. Living when sick is a daily dance with the devil who could use any chance encounter to end it all for you. The kind thing might be to stop fighting. But I rarely give up so I must enjoy the sticky Sisyphean crawl towards towards reality and the search for my own dignity.

I’m ashamed because I couldn’t make good decisions in that kind of pain. When the first hotel turned out to be a scam I happily laid down a card to stay till Monday at another hotel. Anything to get me relief. I just needed a safe cold place to heal.

It was a bad decision. The air conditioner didn’t work. I couldn’t get comfortable. I was sleeping in a dark sort of cold room as I couldn’t work up energy to go to the beach or even see the rest of the hotel. Not that it mattered as none of it was air conditioned anyway. I decided to go home after I had built up energy reserves back from sleeping for hours. I couldn’t tell you how long I passed out for but it might have been close to a whole day.

Alas I was again scammed for my efforts. The hotel clerk says no you paid for four days so you cannot get a refund even if you leave early. No refunds ever. No early checkout. No one cares if you are sick. Fuck her but I said hotel California for me. I was sick and needed safety.

I made some efforts to get receipts and documentation. I asked a receipt attesting that they wouldn’t let you cancel for any circumstance and that I was sick but it made no difference. Maybe I can take to the credit card or even the health insurance to show that I crashed. I’ll work it out on the backend.

I often wonder why I need special care. Surely I can try to do regular things like drive to the beach. But I couldn’t. I lost 48 hours to driving and bad air conditioning and pain. I didn’t have the health to stay at the beach. I needed to go back to the city with air conditioning.

I felt so stupid. I tried to fight to hold space that maybe I was a person that could do a vacation. That I was normal. And it was firmly corrected by reality. And then you think this is why I don’t go on vacation. The additional friction makes it a hell. It’s not a joy it’s a visit to hell.

I cut bait quickly this time.I’m ashamed at now much I must firmly maintain the no. No I don’t want to go to the beach. No I don’t have the energy got a full day road-trip. And definitely no on an empty stomach.

I feel like I’m not fun. That being friends with me is joyless because I can’t agree to fun things like a weekend at a beach. I find myself in tears having failed again at trying to do a nice normal fun thing. I ruined the weekend for myself and everyone around me.

Fun with me is being in a dark room. We watch television. Or maybe a movie. We make fun of a plot hole or bad casting. We sleep a lot. If we are at my home we do the chores. We keep up with the farm. There is no reason to turn consumption of recreation into a thing. It just hurts me. No cheap facsimile of an American vacation in a resort in a cheaper country.

That hideous example of colonial expectations of western domestic standards turn out to be required for a disabled woman. Air conditioning and short trips keep me alive. And at quite a cost. Since no one will refund me any of these damned scam hotels. I should have known better. It will probably take me a week or so to recover. And I’m so ashamed.

Aesthetics Travel

Day 547 and Cruel Summer

The cruel summer is the season after silent spring. It’s hot out. Unnaturally and unseasonably so.

And people aren’t really prepared for it. Whole countries haven’t invested in air conditioning yet. I made the mistake of being outside during high noon. I was under shade and there were fans but I let my insides get simmered a bit while I ate lunch.

The exhaustion that overcame me was enough for ten siestas. A dozen forced naps would easily overcome even the most fervent consciousness. I’d simple done too much by existing and eating at the height of the day. What a foolish hubristic nature this mortal has.

What little defense the air conditioner has against the full force of noon will have to be enough. Sleep will find me if I can find an even small restorative space. One I know will disappear the second the key card is lifted from the auto electricity system.

Aesthetics Travel

Day 546 and Evil Empire

Sometimes it pays to get a little distance. Sometimes a little distance makes you feel crazy and alone. I am not entirely sure where my mind and body will find themselves this week. But it will be distant.

I’m a bit off the beaten path of my usual life. I’m on a Mediterranean Sea I haven’t considered since I was studying Attic Greek. It’s hot and humid and the air conditioning can barely push back the natural heat. Fuck linen weather.

The car uses natural gas and some gas stations without underground tanks are struggling to fuel as it’s too hot to pump. The gas expands. You think you are pumping but it’s actually just air. That’s a first for me. A little bit of climate dystopia today.

I push off into rolling hills. There is probably some ancient tribe with greater claims to democracy than a thousand generations of my ancestors. It’s like driving though a Maxfield Parrish painting. It’s misty and ancient and old country all while I listen to eighties tunes. It’s Evil Empire somewhere sometime somehow. The sun never sets on Bakersfield California or under the Tuscan Sun. It’s enough to make you miss Reagan.


Day 539 and Hurry Up and Wait

As summer travel is turning into a source of horror stories and tears, I decided the best way to handle transiting across various borders is to pad every flight with extra time. To hurry up and wait as a strategy.

This has naturally lead to some significant mind numbing waiting issues. Two hours in an airport lounge isn’t as fun as I imagined or even remember. Lounges seemed nicer in the past. Sitting in the liminal with lots of other bored, stressed, and otherwise disengaged humans gives you plenty to watch but little of interest.

My lounge experience went as you’d expect. People giving each other a wide berth while they sip mediocre white wine. Teenagers trying to not to look at their parents in case someone cool passes by. All forms of athleisure and sweat pants swaddling the asses of women just hoping for a comfortable flight. The occasional child demanding a cookie from the two poorly stocked snack sections

When it’s time to board everyone simply mobs the doors. No one care about any system. It’s just a throng of desperation yearning to get on and claim overhead baggage space. I’d like to be irritated as I paid for business class but status is funny that way.

I can’t even find anyone to Karen at to say I’m supposed to be up front. So I wait at the back of the line. No one is following orders because no one is giving them. I packed compact & sensibly but everyone else is testing the limits. No wonder everyone wants to get on as fast as they can. Overpacking must be a stress response.

The entire experience is a war of all against all. If everyone is priority boarding than no one is a priority. It’s just pushing and shoving and giving no fucks. Sadly I give fucks about decorum and politeness so I didn’t have the balls to try to make a run around. I just said and wait and wait. Hurry up and wait.


Day 538 and Anticipated Anxiety

For someone that dedicated years of my life to making travel better, I sure do hate it. I’m a country mouse, and a homebody, these days. The prospect of having to travel is making me nauseous today. It’s the anticipation that is getting to me.

I’ve been having nightmares for days. It’s probably the Melatonin I started taking to improve my sleep quality but it ironically appears to have has the opposite effect. I think I’ll stick to Magnesium.

I’ve never be a good traveler. I get terrible anxiety about all of it. The packing, the waiting, the transit that isn’t flying, the flying that isn’t the part of the final route; all of it makes me anxious. I only really relax once I’ve made it though customs on the other side.

You can see it in my biometrics. My average heart rate goes up. My respiratory rate ticks up. I get sick to my stomach. My body clearly keeps the score. I was prescribed Ativan for long haul flights but I’m just as anxious to take it as I know the dangers of benzodiazepines.

The irony is of course not lost on me. My doctors and my husband try to remind me that elevated cortisol levels for extended periods are just as bad for me as the occasional Ativan. The impact of being stressed is not great long term.

My upcoming trip seems like it might be a bit worse than usual as I’ve been reading news story after news story about how bad flying is this summer. A flight attendant did a remarkable job laying out all the ways you can survive the tumultuous times.

I’m doing everything she suggested and then some. I’m not taking any chances. I under-packed. I have long layovers. In one instance, I opted for an overnight stay on the return so as not to struggle with a late evening connection that could easily be canceled.

But I still suspect I’ll find new and exciting ways to learn how travel is a mess this summer. But isn’t that just the theme of the moment. Everything is a bit of a mess. And we are all a bit anxious about what any of it means and how we are meant to cope with the crumbles.


Day 537 and 54321 Packing

I’ve got a trip upcoming that I’m very anxious about as I’m heading to a hot climate and have to pass through fucking customs at Heathrow. It’s like the double whammy of packing horrors.

Heathrow is the origin story of previous company Stowaway. They confiscated $200 of makeup and I had to repurchase it all for a conference appearance in Dublin. I was so fucking pissed I dedicated years of my life to making cosmetics travel size. The company was successful in two ways. It got acquired. But more crucially now the entire cosmetics marketed has shifted to meet the need. When we first started no one made nice travel sizes. Now even Tom Ford makes mini-lipsticks.

So now that it’s easy to pack my makeup I get to obsess over my clothing again. I decided to give the 54321 packing method a try. It’s pretty simple. I saw a variety of permutations but it basically boils down to 5 shirts, 4 bottoms, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 bags, 1 swimsuit for a two week trip.

I ended up with 5 underwear, 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 dresses, and 1 handbag as my first pass and then realized fuck shoes need to be packed too. But I had so much space leftover it didn’t end up mattering. I packed ballet flats & high heels along with sandals.

For some reason this is as much as I can write today and I’ve been putting it off for hours so I’ll leave it there.

Emotional Work Travel

Day 533 and On My Own

It’s funny how marriage shapes your routines. Before the pandemic, and before my health struggles, my husband and I were apart regularly. We traveled and socialized on our own often.

Now it’s quite rare for us to be apart. With work from home and our new adventures awaiting us in Montana, our lives will remain close. We even tend to speak at the same conferences. Our work travel since the pandemic has coincided almost entirely. It’s a good thing we really like each other’s company as we’ve very much opted into a life together. It’s good advice to marry your best friend.

We have to deliberately take time apart. I even took a trip to Europe in March so we could remember what it was like to have a bit more space. We can’t let ourselves give in to little habits that encourage codependency. A little independence goes a long way. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Whatever aphorism you prefer really.

The only downside the our attempts to regain a little space is that it’s easy to forget how much the other person does in your life. I will neglect entirely to to eat lunch without Alex. I have been known to mix a bunch of protein powder and supplements into a glass of water. By the time dinner rolls in I’ll be starving and not entirely lucid. It turns out it takes a bit of remembering to bring back ones old skills and capacity. Marriage allows you find new independence and competence together. But it’s nice to remember you were whole and capable on your own before as well.

Aesthetics Emotional Work Travel

Day 531 and Overpacking

I used to be an expert packer. If you do some deep Googling on me you will find lots of travel tips as at one point I was the co-founder of a travel cosmetics company called Stowaway. I was on the road a lot and became quite practiced at getting my entire life in a carry-on.

I can’t seem to pull it off anymore. At first I thought it was because I didn’t travel during the pandemic. Then I blamed it on being modest disabled from all my various health nonsense. But I’ve just stumbled onto the real reason

I’ve got fantasies of having a life where I still do things.

By packing high heels and nice dresses and several colors of lipstick I am telling my disability “not today Satan!” Except then of course I don’t use any of it. Because I am in fact still disabled.

I packed an outfit for a black tie gala when I went down to Austin. Because you never know when you might appreciate having a gown on hand and it didn’t take up much space. Now mind you I still attended an actual gala, but I ended up wearing a tank top and camouflage pants. Crypto is low key that way.

While I am introverted, and not terribly keen on socializing, I haven’t quite given up on a world where I go out if I want to. I want to feel like I’ve got the option to say yes to a nice dinner or to a meeting up at a cocktail bar. Leaving behind my favorite pair of Gucci heels is cutting off some part of my life in my mind.

If I only pack comfortable clothing and sensible skincare I feel as if I’ve conceded something to my disability. If I don’t pack a nice dress, even if my entire trip is planned around being casually at home in an Airbnb, I feel I’ve somehow given in to the pain and fatigue.

I’m not entirely sure if this is something I can work through. Or even if I want to work through it. I hate having to make room for medication and supplements and knowing it means there is no room for a hair dryer or a second pair of heels. I’d rather overpack. I’d rather have some sense of optimism and ambition.

But then I’ve got to get through customs at Heathrow and I’ve got no intention of checking any of my luggage during a chaotic summer for travel. So it might be time to try getting back to traveling light. And that means fewer cosmetics and clothing.

Emotional Work Travel

Day 530 and Social Burnout

The week or two before I attended Consensus in Austin I could barely talk about anything else I was so excited. But I’ve barely said anything about the actual experience after the fact I feel so burnt out from the social exertion.

A friend of mine was a little hurt I didn’t tell them anything about my experience. They pointed out that it was a bit like watching a movie as it built up to the narrative climatic scenes and having it cut straight to credits. They were invested in my trip and then I didn’t do anything to tie up the story.

And boy did I have a negative reaction to that. I felt like absolute shit. How dare they feel like they were entitled to hearing about my life on a timeline that would make sense to them. I waffled between anger and shame. I apologized. I thought I’d made them feel shitty by not sharing. Maybe I did owe them a narrative as it was happening.

I went into some of my core childhood fears. Was I actually being withholding and deliberately creating distance because I felt I had violated my boundaries by over socializing? Probably! But also my friend kindly realized I was freaking out said “chill bitch I’m kidding tell me when you are up to it.” And then the relief flooded my body. I could just say no and my loved ones would understand.

I am feeling so burnt out being being around people I spent the morning debating if I should use my energy on a shower or save it up for a doctors appointment. Which is clearly a stupid and chaotic other/or agenda I shouldn’t engage in. If driving to an appointment that is supposed to be restorative for my health is so overwhelming energetically that I am not showering I probably should go.

I suspect I’m going to need a few days with substantially lower social engagement to recover. If I’m ignoring you it’s because I quite simply can’t be productive in a conversation with you without compromising my own boundaries. I appreciate everyone’s understanding.

Medical Travel

Day 529 and Close My Body Now

Menstruation is mostly an exercise in pressure changes. Cramping and bloating make for a good reminder that we are ugly bags of mostly water. Or if you prefer meet popsicles. But I don’t recommend flying while menstruating as the pressure changes, aka jet belly, that wreck havoc on your lower intestines don’t really need the extra help.

I’ve got a theory that shorter flights are worse for jet belly because all the fluids and gases that are rumbling about inside you have less time to adjust. If you’ve never noticed that your lower half is bloated and rumbling after a flight, well, lucky for you. But I’m pretty sure you are also lying.

Our flight got put in a holding pattern over Denver as we waited for a thunderstorm to clear out. I could not have asked for a better metaphor as my cramps kicked into high gear. My chatty seat mate kept trying to engage in conversation and all I could think was I’ve got to shut my body down.

And then as if being crampy and bloody wasn’t embarrassing enough I started humming a twenty year old techno tune from Madonna. Yes, I remember the lyrics to her James Bond song.

I’m gonna destroy my ego

I’m gonna close my body now

This turned into a mantra as the pain and discomfort threatened to kick my stress responses into a cortisol spiral. I began a series of breathing exercises and kicked myself into a meditation so deep my poor husband couldn’t reach me. Madonna might have had a point. Ego destruction and closing down your body has a place during intense pain and discomfort. It only has to hurt if you let it.