Here’s my Traveler’s Quandry: how do I maintain my trip to the stars after the plane lands?
How do I stay grounded but keep from letting my old habits grind me down to dust?
How do I live a transformation still in progress?
For the past 10 days since my return from Italy, I have been physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s not the usual end-of-the-day- stress that tells me I did-too-much-or-too-little. It’s not Stendahl’s disease of overwhelment that comes when you lose the battle to stay permeable to an unimaginable wealth of art and beauty to see and feel.
Now I feel like a wind-up toy whose spring just gave out. I walk around in a stupor, when I am walking at all. Most days, I can’t keep my eyes open. I eat dinner early and afterwards, I feel as if someone drugged my food. I drag myself to the nearest couch and bury my face in the cushions. I can’t think after 4:30PM. I can’t stay awake past 8PM. I can’t sleep past 4AM.
And it’s only Wednesday.
In this odd kind of jet lag, I feel as if I am floating above a bottomless gap between the life I lived in Italy, and the life I left at home and have perhaps returned to. Not sure yet. I don’t feel touched down fully in either place.
I am in the gap and nothing fits.
With nothing to guide me, I am tempted to start up my old routine. To Do Lists feel familiar; not good, just familiar. Old thoughts and old habits are tempting me with empty promises; if I have a goal, I will accomplish a life, they whisper to me.
In Italy, I discovered my life of wandering. Having no goals except one – to be alive right now – is the biggest challenge.
Still, the Goals are jockeying for position. Some mornings I awaken and there they are, are thinking me into existence. My old demons sitting at the table, drinking coffee, having the same tired conversations: The Money Monster (Is there enough money in the bank?) The Frantic Future (What will happen if this job doesn’t materialize?) The Morals Maniac (Did I do the right thing? ) The Scared Satyr (Is that pain in my arm dangerous? And what’s with your digestion?) The Guilt Gryphon (Will my kids be happy and self sufficient? How will it all work out for them?)
And finally, the Demon that makes the others look tame: The Who Howler:
Who am I and will I ever be the person, the writer, I want to be?
Behind all these demons is the puppet master. She looks a lot like me.
Strings move. Things change. Everything is constantly transforming and nothing stays still.
I have come home from someplace new, going to a new place. And all the time, I am right where I am.
Every day feels is a temporary framework around a moving scene. Each morning I take a last look at the person I was yesterday, and move on to meet the person I know I am becoming. Each day is a goodbye to the one before. Each morning is the first one that has ever been.
Your heart misses Italy, my friend Susan said to me yesterday. But my heart is not a whiner; she has a strong voice now.
I can follow my heart whether I am wandering the streets of Florence or walking the towpath along the river in Lambertville NJ. My pace is set by my dreams and my path forged by walking the walk.
The twilight time after vacations and journeys marks the ending of the old life you left behind, and the new one you have no choice but to embrace. In the gap is the inevitability of expansion. I can never be off my path; every place I make footprints is, by definition, my path. I am always the one traveling it, wherever I go.
So what do I write about now? The transition from a life changing journey to a changing life.
My plan for re-entry is to full embody the the person I am constantly changing into, and the person I see myself becoming. Expanded, Abundant, Happy. Writer, lover, yoga teacher.
For this moment. I have no plans for any of the others.