Breaking ‘Basel Syndrome’

Dearest Rachel –

I wonder if, after November’s fiasco, whether I haven’t developed a mild case of what one might call ‘Basel Syndrome,’ where I’m simply more comfortable in my hotel room (or in this case, cabin – everything has a different name at sea, for whatever reason) than I am out wandering around and mixing with people. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, but as regarding a place rather than people.

Of course, you might tease me by saying I’ve always suffered from some degree of this ailment throughout my life with you, but I don’t know if that’s entirely fair. Sure, I wasn’t much for mingling like you were, but remember, I had to approach you first, back in the day. Then again, I was deliberately playing against type – trying to reinvent myself – when I attended college, so maybe that’s a poor defense.

Still, I guess that’s what I need to continue to do here while I still can. When I get home, I’m a known quantity in the familiar circles I travel, and I can’t get much traction trying to reach out to others. But here, I can theoretically be whoever one wants me to be. I can be brassy and snarky, or quietly intellectual, and no one could say which was the real me.

The operative word being ‘theoretical.’ There is a certain persona that I’m comfortable with in public, and it’s not one that attracts attention. It’s only after I’m comfortable with a person or people that I can actually find myself attaining the level of conviviality I need to actually make connections.

But that, to borrow Ellen’s trademark phrase, is ‘too much like work.’ It’s so much easier to get comfortable in my cabin, where there isn’t music going during all waking hours to remind me that most people here are in groups, and I’m not. But that means that the status quo will remain the status quo, and I don’t want that, either. I have to get out, and break myself of my ‘Basel Syndrome,’ or I’ll never get anywhere.

But where to go, and what to do?

I did consider going on the SkyPad after I finished my last letter to you. However, when I got there, I noticed that it had a maximum weight. Well, I may have reached that at some point in the last year, I wouldn’t guarantee that I’ve held it after a week on a cruise ship.

When I booked this cruise, my agent asked what I wanted in terms of a dining room table. Well, I knew that if I was put at a table by myself, I’d never talk to anyone; I had to put myself in a position where I was actually put together with a few people, and I told her as much. So she put had me set at a larger table, in the hope that I’d find someone I could talk to…

It was a good plan… but plans don’t always survive contact with reality, now, do they?

I know I mentioned one couple – Tim and Jennifer, from North Carolina – who shared the table on the first night, and one other time, but for the most part, I’ve been on my own. While this means I’m in and out of the dining room rather efficiently, this seems to defy the original purpose of my being at this table. If this was part of some divine plan, I’m not sure I’m following the logic behind it.

Worse yet, I left the ‘do not disturb’ sign up, so Louis couldn’t get in here to fix up the room. Granted, back in Basel I kept the ‘do not disturb’ sign up the entire time (not that housekeeping would even venture into the room throughout my stay), but how is he going to make any of those cute little towel animals if he can’t come in?

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to give up; it may be outside of my nature, but that’s sort of the point. I headed for the Diamond Lounge, and discovered that there were a crowd of people there chatting with each other. Most of them were much more frequent cruisers than myself (quite a few of them being from Florida), and so they were chatting like old friends because they were old friends. But they were amazingly welcoming, particularly one… with your name.

Oh, don’t get the wrong idea. I’ve no eyes for her; she may be traveling with her daughter rather than her husband, but she does have one. She was just the sort who would talk, and give you the impression that you could talk with her. She had the ability to listen, and be reassuring, just like that. You two would’ve gotten on famously.

Apparently, I have been going to the diamond lounge at the wrong times. Usually, when I’ve been there, it’s been all but deserted. Evidently, the best time to be there is in the evening, before the second dining room seating. Well, now I know better. I’ll be there again tomorrow; I just wish I’d have known about this sooner, but better late than never.

It’s not like I found ‘someone’ out here on this vacation; it’s probably not as if I should have thought I could. But at least at this point, I may be starting to break my case of Basel Syndrome. And that’s a step in the right direction.

Until later, honey, wish me luck… I think I still need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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