Traveling is an exercise in taking yourself out of context.
–Jason Gruber (person on Twitter, who was apparently traveling that day.)
I retweeted the quote, because it perfectly expressed what I’d been feeling. I left Utah and all my usual surroundings. I brought the internet with my in my phone and computer, but increasingly I find myself feeling detached from the goings on there. It is like all those things belong to another life, one I’ve been scooped out of.
In a strange way, I’ve also been put back into a context that I’ve been absent from for a very long time. I’m staying in the house where I grew up. Everywhere I look there are reminders of my childhood years, teenage years, even of my visits as a young mother. I was so glad to fly free and build my own life, because the possibilities excited me. I’ve always been a person who sheds excess things. I got rid of my school yearbooks. I discarded most of the objects from my childhood. (with the exception of books. I keep the books.) Yet here I am in a place which remembers all of those things and stores many of them in solid form.
I would have thought that I’d worked through all this “past and present coming together” with my past visits. It’s not like I’ve never been back, I’ve come every few years. Except, in a way, I haven’t ever come back at all. My visits here have always been short, a week or less, bookended with travel. It was just enough time to visit with my parents and see a thing or two. This trip, I’m holding still. I’m looking around at the house, at the neighborhood, at my old schools, at my hometown. I’m thinking about these things and about who I was. I’m also thinking about who I am now. The more I think, the more I realize that this location is full of people who knew me long ago. Meeting back up with Rae Carson in January showed me the value in reconnecting. Part of me wants to reach out to people. But habit is strong, and, truly, I’m here for my Grandma, I shouldn’t be flitting about like a social butterfly.
I did walk to my old elementary school and back. I’m certainly not the first person to walk in her childhood neighborhood and discover that it feels smaller than she remembered. When I can pick up and drive 800 miles on my own, the walk to school and back does not have the same adventurous feeling it had when I was nine. I did take some pictures for a post I intend to write about what California looks like to me.
Tomorrow I get to have lunch with a friend whom I’ve known since I was twelve. She’s one of the few that I kept in touch with, even before Facebook was a thing. I expect we’ll talk endlessly and wish we had more time. I wonder what pockets of memory we’ll uncover in our conversations.
Home feels very far away and not just in miles. I’m pretty sure it is just a coping strategy of my brain to pack away the home thoughts so that they aren’t cluttering up my thinking space. I certainly am glad that the anxiety has calmed down, or maybe that has just shifted too. Instead of jolts of momentary panic, I’m having restless dreams and my teeth ache. With certain sorts of subconscious stress, I clench my teeth together. I’m not even aware that I’m stressed except after awhile my teeth will hurt. I’m not certain whether it is from being away from home or concern about the long drive ahead of me. It could also simply be triggered by my surroundings and all the churn through my childhood memories.
I remember coming home from college for the first time and realizing that though my parents had kept a space for me, I’d changed so that I no longer fit that space. It used to feel like hard work to retain my changes when I came home. I suppose that was one of the reasons I kept my visits short during the early years. Then it was habit and I had piles of neurosis telling me that I couldn’t leave my home for long anyway. I no longer feel like my surroundings are trying to press me into a space that I’ve grown out of. Instead I feel like I’m living small. I’m occupying a guest space, trying to make sure the house is run as Grandma expects it to be, and be myself in the space that is available. I’m keeping a tight rein on the part of me that wants to reorganize all the things. Because if I lived fully to the edges of me, I would do that massive reorganization. Which would be unnecessary and intrusive. This is my mother’s house, not mine. There is nothing wrong with the way that my Mom organizes. I just have a compulsion to control my environment. I can do that again when I go home. So I focus small, and that means that I feel out of touch with all the things that are not right in front of me.
I miss Howard, Kiki, my house, and the cat. Five more days.