I’m home! Ok, I’ve been back for a bit over three weeks (has it really been that long?), but it feels like just a couple of days. I left peaceful, serene Bali and jumped right back into the fast-paced DC area lifestyle that I was trying to avoid. In a matter of two weeks I have been to Maryland (home), DC, Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, and Mississippi. It’s like I’m on a Get-Back-Acclimated tour of America!! Being back in the urban and suburban whirlwind is not quite what I expected of myself, but one thing I learned in Bali is to go with the flow.
Part of the reason for jumping back into the thick of things is out of wanting to start seeing friends and family that I have missed so dearly (still have many more that I hope to see in the upcoming weeks and months). Whenever I see or speak to anyone, after big hugs, kisses, and sometimes even child-like squeals, I am inevitably asked the same question, “So what’s it like to be back?” I understand the question, but I don’t like it! Mostly because I don’t fully know what the answer is. Or perhaps I’m scared of the truth behind the answer.
Living in my peaceful Bali paradise, I felt that I underwent a transformation. So much so that I feared that being back in the DC area would feel foreign to me. But I have experienced quite the opposite. My dad picked me up in the reliable 7 yr old silver Volvo SUV. We hit the same irritating rush hour beltway traffic and I found myself making the usual frustrated, complaining remarks about it. As I walked through the front door into my dad’s house (where I grew up from the age of ten), I felt nothing but the warmth and familiarity of home. I stepped onto the tan speckled marbled floor that mom and dad picked out and installed themselves. I took in a slow, deep breath while taking in the rest of the house. I saw the 70’s style sunken conversation pit that has held conversations, Eli’s (my younger brother) Lego collections, laughter and tears. I peered across the open floor plan to the large, naked windows looking out to the beautiful forest-like backyard where Bambi’s cousins like to visit in the early morning hours. I looked up at the tan carpeted stairway that every family member and many guests have at some point has slipped and fell down while trying to run up or down them too fast. Lastly, the corners of my eye took in the eggshell white walls that proudly held family photo collages, capturing a litany of great memories and highlighting beloved family memories who no longer walk this earth. Yes, all looked exactly the same as I had left it seven months ago. I felt the gentle welcoming assurance of an old favorite blanket that just wants to wrap its fluffy arms around me and make me feel comforted and secure. I was home. For better or worse, nothing felt different.
In the upcoming days I tried to rest and acclimate. Still incredibly jet lagged, I
found myself waking up at the crack of dawn, which surprisingly, I rather enjoyed. I wanted my “back home” experience to actively incorporate many of my daily habits and practices to keep Bali pumping through my veins. I would make hot herbal tea, minus the addition of fresh-picked red hibiscus, and prepare myself for morning yoga and meditation. I found a spot on the living room floor that looked out to the now leaf-barren forest. Not quite verdant rice fields and palm trees, but close enough to “be in nature” considering the chilly morning air. Following, I would blend a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie. This was my substitute for Wayan, the gardener, chopping open a fresh-picked coconut for me to have the meat to eat and fragrant, slightly sweet, nourishing coconut water to drink. I even had my dad out shopping at the local Asian markets in search of turmeric root so I could make some Jamu, a local cure-all health drink (still searching for that turmeric root!).
However, besides working to join parts my old lifestyle into current habits, I found myself disappointed to find that I only needed to make a few adjustments to acclimate myself. I didn’t feel odd or displaced at all! Everything felt normal and at home. In a matter of a few short days I had left one existence, flown half way around the world, and jumped right back into the rhythm of my previous existence. I started to question myself. Had I really changed? What did happen? I did actually go, right? With each passing day, those seven months away started to feel more and more like a distant dream. Is this what my friends felt like when they left Bali to return to the States? I’ve heard so many complain about how miserable they felt while being back in the U.S., and how they couldn’t wait to get back to paradise, where they felt at home. But this wasn’t my experience at all! I do miss the warmth, beauty, and peace of Bali. But I feel content here. I’m happy to be back and sharing and catching up with friends and family. Did I do something wrong? Did I not get the ‘full Bali experience’??
A slow-growing panic started to set in as a knot at the pit of my stomach. I felt my old ways of self-doubt, self-pressure, and need for perfection start to creep back in. I felt the gentle winds from a maelstrom of confusion and craziness starting to blow around me. I had quit my job, spent my money. What was I coming home to, besides my old room at my dad’s house?? What was I going to do with my life?? What do I have to show for this experience besides some blog entries and photos, neither of which I even posted enough of? How can even hope or dream of helping others ‘love the life they live’ when I’m STILL figuring it out?!?!?
Then, a small miracle happened. I let go. I took a step back and saw myself. I could see how silly I was being, and I could see that I had a choice. Behind door number one was serenity, patience, self-forgiveness, perspective, and personal control (maybe even a harp and some birds chirping as well :-). Behind door number two was the craziness of a self-induced storm fraught with guilt, stress, indecisiveness, heart-ache, impatience, and every pressure imaginable. It was so clear and easy from that point. I simply made a choice, releasing the pressure, the stress, and the confusion.
That was when I realized the change. My transformation that started in Bali (I have a lifetime to complete it), took place on a deep, but subtle level. I learned how to step back and see myself for who I really am – someone who is spiritual, beautiful, loving, intelligent, and desires to impact this world. And for the first time I learned how to really accept and love myself. I know that all will be ok, because that’s the choice that I have made. I choose not to let myself get bogged down in everyone else’s definitions of what success is, how life should be lived, and what I should desire. I choose to be free, to let my spirit soar and reach its potential.
So I now have my answer. It’s great to be back because I have finally found the most important home – within myself.