In January I got a very exciting but scary email from my editor. My Publisher in Poland wanted me to visit for their book fairs in May – they were really keen to have me over. My first reaction was total shock – ‘what me? Seriously?’, ‘Have you got the right person here?’ My second reaction was a tiny drip feed of panic that always passes through me when anything new or exciting happens.
People who know me, know about my anxiety. It doesn’t take over my life as such – but it is enough to keep me in a fairly static and safe routine. I’ve never travelled very far, let alone flown by myself, and I’m a hopeless over-thinker – worrying about every possible outcome or awful eventuality that could happen to me - including getting lost in the airport, losing my luggage, getting lost in Poland or accidently packing liquids/drugs/TNT in my hand luggage and being arrested at Heathrow (yes, this was a real concern!)
So although I was really excited by my invitation, the tiny trickles of dread were starting to filter through me. Those horrible questions: Could I cope? Would it all go wrong? Would I end up letting people down? Would I ruin it all? Would it be easier just to say no and continue with my normal plans and let them invite someone a little less, well, kooky?
Thankfully, I ignored my negative, annoying thoughts. Thankfully I said yes.
Last month, I packed up and flew out to Warsaw. I was bloody anxious, I had lists for most eventualities and a million books packed to help me through. I nearly broke my back carrying my case as a result, but needs must!
And I can honestly say it was one of the most special times in my life.
There were hiccoughs. My son fell ill while I was away and I ended up having a painful conversation on the phone as he sobbed through his snot about how much he missed me. I managed to sprain my ankle, not looking where I was going, and spent a few days nursing an attractive swelling. And on the very first day I discovered I’d only packed one shoe – so spent most of the trip wearing my heavy, clunky boots - much to the amusement of my hosts.
But, the upsides were amazing.
For one thing. Warsaw is such a beautiful place. It is truly breath-taking. Spacious, clean and green and so much history still to be found despite the total devastation caused by World War Two. Three days weren’t enough. I want to go back and explore some more.
The food. OMG the food! The picture says it all. I wanted to take the dumplings home with me. In fact I nearly did, but I feared arrest at Heathrow again (is a dumpling counted as a liquid?)
And the readers! How lovely was it to meet international readers of my book! That really was a dream come true.
So the moral of my brief international trip is that fears can be conquered. Yes, I’m still just as neurotic. I have a trip to Birmingham this week and I’m still making lists, thinking through every possible outcome. But I now know I can do these things. And with every new achievement, I feel a sense of pride, relief and a knowledge that I don't have to be held hostage by anxiety,
And that is one of the best feelings of all.