|Not the same woman...|
Which I generally answer with, "Oh good, I really missed my cat and good beer."
And it's mostly true. I'm happy to have my cat sleeping next to me again, to not worry about how long it will be until the next good wi-fi and I am soooooo grateful to be back in the land of good beer and buffalo wings. I'm happy to have regular access to a washing machine. I was thrilled to spend Christmas with family and that I'll be among old friends for New Year's Eve. I am indeed glad to be home, but...
(oh you had to know that was coming)
...as grateful as I am for all these things familiar, I've a deep desire to be far away and alone.
Which brings me to the second things people ask, "Wow. That must have been a transformative experience, I bet you have a whole lot of processing to do, right?"
And I respond with, "Yeah, I'll be mulling this over for some time. Please pass the cheese..."
Because the truth is I don't know how to answer that question. Part of me wants to roll my eyes and thank them for stating the obvious. I mean, I stepped out of my life for 100 days. A life that was well established, safe and at least somewhat predictable. I may not have had a long term plan but I was fairly sure where I'd likely be in the next year or so.
And over those 100 days I lived out of two suitcases, on a ship with 500 other people. Together we visited three different continents, 11 countries and 13 port cities. We crossed the Atlantic Ocean, journeyed south of the equator and sailed through the Panama Canal. I met dozens of new people, heard a hundred or more stories, tasted new foods, danced to new music, played drums I'd not known even existed, and reconnected with long abandoned forms of creative expression. At 43 I found myself feeling deeply homesick. I battled and (mostly) came to terms with the sense of loneliness that has been my life companion. I cried, shook my fist at the sky, sent weepy emails to friends at home and yet by the journey's end when it came time to leave, stepping off that deck on to the shore and was one of the last things I wanted to do. I had come to love living on that ship, as well as the people on it and the experiences we shared...
After three and a half months at sea it took only about 24 hours for me to go from the World Odyssey gangway to the baggage claim at the Portland Jetport.
Yes, it was transformative. I know I am not the same person I was when my plane left the ground in September but right now I've only a tiny inkling of who this new person is.
When I'm asked about the trip and how it was I find myself faced with a traffic jam of thoughts; thoughts and feelings I've not even begun to assess and sort out in my own mind let alone summarize in 60 seconds or less.
And so I find myself wishing for a week of retreat from the world. A time to adjust to not being on board that ship, to convince myself that the past three and a half months really truly happened; to pause and take a deep breath before I jump back into my life and the processing really begins...
I know that in the long run, as with anyone who has had a life transforming experience, whether traumatic or amazing, I will only know for sure how it has changed me once I have started living my life again. It is only when faced with how things were that I will know who I am now and who I might become. There are no, "Tah-dah" moments in these sorts of things.