One of the important things about any journey is the homecoming.
I drove up the hill of the George Washington Bridge, and when I saw that Manhattan skyline, I began to cry. Tears of relief—I’d done it—and returned safely, tears of joy and pride—there’s no place in the country like it—my stinky old New York. I imagine I’ll have some moments of “when did this happen?” Like Bilbo returning to the Shire, but rather than being able to correct what seems wrong, I’ll need to adapt.
I pulled up in front of Tom and Alice’s house in Long Beach, and the boys ran out to meet me shouting “Grammie!” I remember when they were younger, they did this every time I arrived at their place. It’s an amazing feeling. I dashed out of the rig to be smothered in big hugs and happy shouting. Alice came out on the stoop to take a commemorative, “She made it!” photo. Inside the house, taped to the wall was a giant wonderful banner they made for me, colored in rainbow colors, of course. It was the homecoming I had dreamed of in some of my darker, lonelier moments, when I had to remind myself that I did have a family who loved me.
I eased my way back into life among people by just spending a couple nights with the kids, and then beating it up to Ed and Richard’s place in Wallkill, for a two-week visit. The were flying to Florida for a week, the day I arrived, so I had a giant driveway for cleaning, organizing, unpacking, and detailing The Beast, and a house in which to shower, sleep, and do my laundry in. It was quiet, I was no longer in motion all day, every day, and that was just perfect.
After they came back from Florida, I was so happy to spend time with my bros, until we hit the first little bump in the road. A plan for a whole day and evening out of the house socializing, hearing great music live, and visiting with friends, sounded like a great idea. Especially because we had a 5:PM church meditation service built into the day. But after picking up Willie, the family pooch, and visiting with the friends who had cared for him all week, when I thought we were heading home, there was yet another gathering to drop by that I didn’t know about. I truly enjoy my brother’s friends, but at this point, I was spent. It was a bit of a stretch for me to chat, joke around and tell stories with another group of people. I pulled it off, but I guess it cost me. I wasn’t able to fall asleep until three in the morning, and the next day, felt like I’d been beat with a stick.
I had plans to meet a friend that day who had just moved to her new home, and I was enjoying her company so much, that we turned our lunch date into an all day affair—riding back up to her old house and hanging out, keeping her company as she culled and packed the things she had on her list. Richard and Ed invited her to join us for dinner back at their place, and so it turned into another long night, (by my just-out-of-the-monastery standards). I enjoyed it, but again, I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards.
By the third day, I realized I was just falling apart—cranky, frustrated, feeling angry for no reason—and then I got it: After 13 months of being totally in the driver’s seat of my life, suddenly I was taking my meals with other people, instead of just eating when I was hungry. I had knocked the hell out of my circadian rhythms by eating at a later dinner-time, and talking and visiting until 10:30—not at all “late” for normal grown-ups, but way late for what I was recently used to doing.
I talked it over with friends, and took some steps: had a six o’clock dinner, and put myself to bed at nine pm that night. No, not to sleep at nine, but rather to be quiet and read, then listened to a book on Audible for a while. I slept like a baby.
When I talked over my internal experience and my understanding of what had been going on, my brother reacted by saying he had no idea I was "feeling so fragile". That made two of us! I had no idea about it either, until I started to crack-up emotionally. I’d gone merrily along for the ride with him, as I’d always done before—dropping in on his life, his work, and his very full calendar— and thankfully, I was able to step on the brakes before I slid too far off the road. As I transition back into the life I left behind, I’ll have to keep checking in with the internal monitors. I have been changed by this experience, and will need to ease back into the familiar relationships and activities. I love my family SO much. They have been generous and gracious and incredibly supportive. All the people who asked me while I was on the road, “How are you ever going to go back to New York City?” I always answered them with the same statement: “My family is there.”