I worked hard the past several months to prepare to travel and take time away from my home in Maine. I’ve rented my condo and now stay in a flat in Glasgow. I’ll be here two months, to settle my mind before I move on elsewhere. Or I may return to Portland after I leave here, as I continue to move forward.

J. Lauren Sangster and her mom at a Kentucky amusement park around 1998. Sangster channels her late mother’s combination of curiosity and calm when she needs to short-circuit feelings of panic. Photo courtesy of J. Lauren Sangster

I have no way of knowing which direction life will take me. I’m going with the flow – or, in the case of living here in Glasgow, letting the wind and rain take me where they will as I explore my new surroundings.

I felt no reason to hang on to many material possessions. I don’t have anyone to leave things to, as Mike and I had no children, and his family is here in Scotland. I had an estate sale last August to sell nearly everything we had. Before the sale, I gifted the family with items they wanted, and that I could get to them.

I’ve felt emotional at times as I’ve carried out my plan to sell possessions, and to travel. I miss the relaxing familiarity of my surroundings. I miss new friends I’ve developed a strong bond with. I miss one of my favorite places to eat, which I just started going to again. But I also feel free.

I’m now regularly tested in my belief that we are to live in the moment. If I’m not careful, I feel anxious about not knowing what’s coming next.

I have felt anxiety and panic for years. I phoned my mother when my feelings became overwhelming, until she passed away in 2016. I never had to ask Mom to calm me. I told her why I was feeling panicked, and she started a conversation about anything else.

The last time I phoned Mom during an attack, she quickly starting talking about trampolines and wondered whether it would be good to get one for the grandkids. She considered the safety issues, and whether one would take up too much space in the backyard, but then commented, “Wouldn’t one be fun to have, though?”

I felt calmer by the time Mom finished talking. I didn’t forget the reason for my panicked feeling, but it seemed far away as I envisioned jumping on a trampoline and flying free in the air before a bouncy landing, with knees bent, so I could fly back up. Mom knew me well.

Because I can no longer call Mom for her soothing conversations, I’ve gone to the swings on Eastern Prom the last few years. I get a good solid high swing going, and point my toes up to the sky on the forward momentum, as I lean back with my head toward the ground. I think of Mom and smile: reverse trampoline jump!

I will find ways to calm myself each place I travel to. Or, come back home to swing. Either way, life is good.