Coming home after a month away is an experience that can make even the most ordinary life seem foreign and confusing.
The first thing that happened on my trip home is that I couldn’t figure out where to find the rideshare pickup zone.
Imagine a capital letter T, where you are standing at the point where the vertical line intersects the horizontal bar. The point the map was telling me to go was at the far left edge of the crossbar. The point where I should actually be going was at the far right edge of the crossbar. So how did I end up crossing two streets at the bottom of the vertical line?
The reason I don’t travel the world alone is not because I’m too scared, it’s because I can’t read a map.
It isn’t easy for someone to haul slightly over 2/3 of their body weight down a quarter mile of city sidewalks. (That’s like Chris Hemsworth in “Thor” mode schlepping 142 pounds of gear). I tried balancing my 49-pound duffel bag on top of my 48-pound suitcase but then the wheels quit turning. I somehow managed to get it over my shoulder and hang my laptop bag and carry-on over the suitcase instead.
Who is this insane, small-framed woman with the ludicrous quantity of bags? Why, it is I, deranged amateur traveler, forgetter of 35 years of airport lore. Go ahead and stare, Angelenos, I have no idea what I’m doing either.
Nearly home, I looked up and realized that once again, the rideshare app was about to send my driver onto a completely different street nowhere near my apartment building. No matter how many times I input our correct street address, it decides that our actual location is another building on the opposite end of our block, technically three streets away. Fortunately I caught it in time. Who am I and where do I live?
I got home late Saturday night and my senses were thrown into disarray by the gleaming black floorboards. Who has black floors?? Oh, right, I do.
I set down my vast quantities of luggage in a massive pile almost as big as our dining table. I looked around, reacquainting myself with the rooms I’ve probably spent more time in than almost any in my life. Our COVID apartment. Compact, uncluttered, all flat surfaces bare and ready for use.
“It’s like a high-end hotel room,” I exclaimed, making my husband laugh, because really it isn’t.
It was late, it was late, I was so tired I could drop. I started digging around in my bags for the VIP items I need for my bedtime routine. Where do these things go? Every cabinet and drawer I opened brought back a resurfaced memory. Ah yes, this is what I used to do every day in another life.
I climbed into bed, my own bed with my own pillow. So. Comfortable. Only a month ago I had been complaining that we need to replace our 12-year-old mattress. Home again, it is hard to imagine what issues I might have had with it.
Slept nine hours and had a long nap the next day.
Suddenly it was time to go back to work. What, now?? Right now? Even though I had only taken the weekend off, I felt thoroughly disoriented.
I forgot the password to my desktop computer - and whether I might have written it down anywhere - before suddenly remembering it.
As I logged in at work, switching computer operating systems, I realized I had forgotten an important keyboard command. It took me another day to remember that I have a working desk lamp.
Nobody else really noticed that anything had changed. One week I just went back to my old background on video calls. That was it as far as my colleagues were concerned.
People only know what you tell them.
I did a leave inquiry. In the past year, I have taken four hours of sick time and eight hours of vacation. Last fiscal year I wound up cashing out my one personal day, a decision that was definitely not worth it. Right now it feels like a day off to do nothing but sleep would be worth about $20,000.
I came up with a crazy idea. What if I took a random weekday off, a day when my husband might be on travel, and just... slept in and did nothing?
Who would that person be? A person napping while other people were at work and holding meetings?
The trouble with this plan is that I am still who I am, which is a person who is not very good at sitting around and resting. I go camping and decide that’s not enough, I need to go on a 7-mile hike. I worry that if I take a staycation day, I will waste it doing chores and catching up on my email.
Travel is supposed to be broadening. There is this idea that we’ll return home having been changed in some way by the experience. Ultimately, the question is: will we let it?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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