Fifty Shades of Melancholy – The Post-Camino Blues
July 10, 2012
Re-entry is always hard for me. I know this. It always has been, ever since I've been old enough to travel without my parents. Wherever I travel, life is always more exciting, intense, and more meaningful than when I am sitting in my living room or driving to the grocery store. I never want to come home and am always several shades of melancholy for, oh, about the length of time I've been gone. I've heard the phrase from one of the FAA engineers who we constantly see on our travels: “30 days off = 30 off days.” Yep, that's me.
And it's not like I live in a shack or have to slave away doing, well, anything. I have a beautiful home on the water, friends and family here who love me, the constant, fun challenge of trying to keep up with my teenage son, and a fledgling business that's ready to take off, once I put some work into it.
Yet, when I'm traveling, I'm somehow different. Especially on this trip. I'm more alive: younger, stronger, more beautiful. The physical intensity of walking six hours a day was invigorating. The desire to connect to people and the joy of making the connection was life affirming. The time walking alone, just listening to the birds, tractors, and my own footsteps, was refreshing. I should be happy to have had such a remarkable experience, right? So what's the problem?
The problem is that I miss it all. I miss the solitary 6am departures, the easy camraderie of fellow pilgrims, the deep friendships I made, the daily walking meditation, and the exquisite exhaustion at the end of each day. Each and every day there was a goal and its accomplishment that could be measured in different ways: in kilometers, in hugs, in the number of times I laughed out loud. I miss the coffee and the great food that I didn't have to cook (and I like to cook at home). But not just that, I miss not knowing where I'm going to sleep each night and who I'm going to meet next. I even miss the bottom bunk, heck, even the top bunk. I miss the sweat and the snorers and the stick-clickers coming up behind me on the trail.
So, what's a melancholy girl to do? Here are some of my coping strategies:
- In anticipation of the post-trip blues, before I left I cleared my schedule for the month of July, so my five off weeks of re-entry would be gentle. No trips or huge projects. This has been a really good thing. During this time, I'm giving myself permission to take the time to be melancholy in place and be ok with it.
- The best remedy, unintentionally, has been the continuation of the blog writing. In Spain, I was hard on myself for not keeping up, especially at the end, but in reality, the writing since I've been home has been a blessing. By writing every day (and I crave to write every day), I have the opportunity to revisit and reassess the experience and the feelings that came with it. I can live it again in this reality for the couple of hours it takes for me to write a post, reaching into memory aided by the pictures downloaded from my camera. When the post is finished, it's a goal accomplished and I can turn off my computer and do the things I need to do at home. Because I've had the opportunity to share it all with you, the Camino is staying more real for me and I don't feel like it's slipping through my fingers.
- While I didn't listen to much music on Camino, I am immersed in it now, leaning toward the light metal bands that Morgan likes, loud, with headphones. I'm sure my family loves the sound of my voice (I'm singing harmony, Susie!) when I belt out the lyrics from songs by Staind, Sick Puppies, and Disturbed at the top of my lungs. It's comforting, somehow.
- I am in touch and swapping pics with a few of my Camino friends. It's fun to see the Camino from their point of view and I'm amassing quite a photo collection that I will edit and make into an amazing album. I anticipate creating a Camino photo show will be a nice way of remembering the experience and keeping it with me. Heck, I might even write a book from these blog posts, although I'm sure the world does not need another book of someone's experiences on Camino (or does it?).
- My best tried-and-true method for diminishing re-entry blues is to plan my next trip. In fact, I always feel a little adrift if I don't have a departure date scheduled to somewhere exciting (or just somewhere, really). Problem is, with Morgan starting to drive by himself on Saturday (!!!!!) and with the end of our full-time homeschool – he's starting some community college classes this fall – I'll be staying home rather than traveling with George. However, I do have a trip in the hopper – to Italy! It's not until next May – Susie has a friend in Naples and we have been planning to visit her since she moved there last year – but it's something to look forward to. Susie likes the mountains, too, so hopefully we'll have the opportunity to travel to the northern part as well. The delicious anticip/ation of the next adventure really does lighten the shades of melancholy.
- I have also been thinking of how to incorporate my youth, strength, and beauty better into my current activities. What were my lessons of the Camino and how can I use them to make my life more meaningful off the trail? Stay tuned for the next blog entry for the answer to that one.
So, there you have it. As I write this, I have been home exactly two weeks and feel like I am dealing with re-entry pretty well. Just writing this post has been helpful. Yes, I still miss walking out of the sunrise in the morning, but you know, the same sun rises in front of my house. The sunrise has always inspired me, but now it reminds me that, even though my Spain Camino has ended, a new Camino has begun. And thanks to that Spain Camino, I am armed with the lessons and experiences that I believe will make me a better person for this Camino, refining my shades of melancholy into gratitude for the past and excitement for the future.