Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We May Never Pass This Way Again

The trip to Australia was amazing for so many reasons, and it's nice to know that some truths about myself are still self-evident and some no longer apply.

First off, my ability to sleep on a plane has not improved with an exponential increase in the amount of time spent airborne.  Having purchased a product called No Jet Lag, I was looking forward to arriving in Sydney ready to go. I diligently followed the directions, popping what tasted like a sugar pill every two to four hours in hope of staving off my typical zombie-like reaction to crossing time zones. Having stayed awake the entire first leg, I looked forward to conking out on the second part of the flight from LA to Sydney. Wishful thinking. The flight was unusually rough (the pilot's words, not mine) so between the pitch and yaw of the plane, the numerous meals and snacks served (god forbid I should sleep through those!) and the worry about skipping a jet lag pill, I was wide eyed and bushy-tailed the entire flight. All 14 hours of it. As an aside and under the category of FYI, and having four Qantas flights now under my belt, I feel I am somewhat qualified to  point out that Qantas pilots rarely put on the seat belt sign, even when the plane is rocking and rolling. And the flight attendants, the majority of whom are older men who resemble British butlers until they open their mouths to speak, keep serving no matter what. If you're flying to Australia, you have to fly Qantas. It's an experience all by itself. At any rate, we arrived in the morning, and I was fully functional until riding a bus through Sydney at 7:30pm, when I promptly fell asleep in my seat. I'll take it.

The rest of the trip was just fantastic. I spent some quality time with my daughter, seeing where she lives and goes to school.  We saw all the sites we could squeeze in, ate a lot of really bad things, spent a lot of really pretty money, and all in all, had a great time. The highlight, of course, was the Bridge Climb. I knew it would be and I wasn't disappointed. All the working out paid off in the first ten minutes when I was able to scamper up four long ladders to reach the beginning of the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There were one or two tense moments when I looked down at the roadway and nearly lost my nerve (and my lunch), but I persevered by reminding myself that I could do it. And I was able to literally talk myself through the few intense anxious moments I had. My therapist, if I still had one, would have been proud. And while the view was so worth the effort, the bonding experience with my daughter and sister was even better. It's an experience I will never, ever forget, even if I didn't have the official pictures to remind me.

The week ended with a trip to the Blue Mountains, where we met up with some native wildlife and saw some amazing scenery. The last day was spent on a walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi, where I pushed myself to finish even though my mind was willing but my legs were not. After all, when would I ever have the opportunity to see this part of the world, this view of the Pacific, again? 

Getting back on the plane after saying goodbye to my daughter was hard, but I was looking forward to heading home and letting her get back to doing her thing.  I started popping those pills on take-off and once again, spent the long hours wide-awake until our final descent into Los Angeles, when I fell into such a deep sleep I didn't realize that the thump that woke me up was the plane touching down on the runway. There's a metaphor for life in that somewhere, I'm sure. Perhaps it's just my bizarre way of acknowledging that it's not just the destination that's important, but the experience of the journey along the way. After all, as someone wise once said to me, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."  More and more, as I get older, that seems like pretty sound advice.

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