This time last week, I was cruising at 3mph down a peaceful canal in beautiful bucolic surroundings and hating it.
My husband and I were taking a “relaxing” break in a narrowboat on the Coventry canal and gently chugging our way to a place where the canal widens into a lake famous for its kingfishers.
Why was I hating it? Because I was terrified. I was scared we would get tangled in weeds (we didn’t), scared we would hit an oncoming boat (we didn’t), scared an oncoming boat would hit us (it didn’t) and scared we would go aground. Actually, we did go aground, but were easily able to extricate ourselves. I spent the entire week in a state of almost paralysing anxiety, my eyes absolutely glued to the canal ahead, watching for moored and oncoming boats. As for steering myself, forget it. I tried three times and each time I forgot entirely which way the rudder should go and panicked to the point of whimpering screams.
Even as I shook with fear, I knew that this was not a normal way to react to a relaxing holiday. I should have been enjoying myself, looking at the lovely countryside, learning to steer with confidence. Instead, I was a shaking and gibbering wreck.
I have a lovely set of friends on Facebook. When I confided my situation to them, they were understanding and even had some good advice. Ground yourself, distract yourself, breathe deeply.
Grounding myself meant concentrating on the vibrating floor beneath my feet and allowing the stability of it to run throughout my body. Distracting myself meant looking for kingfishers along the bank and at the interesting gardens of all the canal side houses in the towns. Breathing deeply meant breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of eight. This kind of breathing soothes the body’s fight or flight reactions and also provides a distraction as you’re counting rather than concentrating on your fear. It all helped, although I still wasn’t able to actually enjoy the holiday until possibly the last day when we had passed enough boats for me to be confident we wouldn’t actually hit anything, and to know that, even if we did, the boat was robust enough to withstand it.
What did happen was something I hadn’t even thought about: I hit my head hard on the hatch one morning. It is still tender even now, a week later.
Looking back, I can see that all my fears were completely groundless, laughable even. At the time they were real.
I don’t know if there are lessons we can learn from past fears and whether there are ways of laying those fears to rest. If any of you have been able to do so, then please share in the comments, as I cannot be the only one suffering from this kind of baseless anxiety.
And, by the way, my husband is already thinking of another narrow boating holiday!
A Moodscope member