Returning To The Self

A few years ago, when I was home sick I spent three days lying around in my pajamas reading a Pride and Prejudice sequel.  It was heaven.  How often did I take time for myself?  I’m certainly not in the habit of wearing PJs during the day time unless I’m ill.  And taking entire days to read without feeling guilty?  Rare indeed.

Why is it, I wonder, women feel guilty for taking time for themselves?  Why do we feel we are being selfish?  Our family needs us.  There’s so much to do.  We have to be somewhere.  But what if it were absolutely necessary for our well-being to take time for ourselves?  And if we didn’t we’d become withered and die a little inside.  Would we do it then?

It happens to us all at one time or another.  We don’t plan it.  We go on about our lives and are so busy we don’t always recognize the call to return to ourselves. But there is a wild part in all of us that we must tend to.  It is the instinctual part of our nature that calls us home from time to time.  The call is strong, and we must heed it or die inside.

I recall a time in my own life when I was called home.  In my case it really was home. The place of my birth – England.  Twenty-five years had gone by since I was last there.  I felt empty inside.  I needed to reconnect with my roots.

But there was much against my going home.  At the time we had two small children and a mortgage, not to mention being a one income family.  It could never be. I was also afraid of traveling alone.  Part of it is due to my hearing loss, but I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage on my own.  That if some unforeseen thing happened I wouldn’t know what to do. But the call was strong.  As I lay in bed at night, I visualized what it would be like to go home and it filled me with joy.

When I heard out local library was selling tickets to win a literary trip to England, I bought one, certain that I was destined to win. I even brought the itinerary home to show my husband; not to influence him, just to share my excitement.  But alas, I did not win my elusive prize.

But my husband knew I needed to go home. He said to me, “Why don’t you go?”

“We can’t afford for all of us to go,” I said.

“Not we.  You,” he replied.  “We’ll find a way to pay for it.”

My mouth dropped.  I didn’t know what to say.  Was there ever a man such as this?

I invited a friend to join me on my trip and she agreed. We spent two weeks with a tour group, but the final week I wanted to stay behind to visit my family.  This meant I would have to travel from London to my hometown alone.  And later travel alone from the airport.  Again a challenging task for someone with a hearing loss and a measure of anxiety about managing on her own.

The thing that encouraged me on my mission was a friend who spent two weeks alone in Venice before she was later joined by her husband.  Her example spurred me on.  I thought: If she can be alone for two weeks in a foreign country, I can certainly manage to transport myself to my hometown to visit my family, and then find my way back to Canada by plane.

I have found that with every new experience, there will be a challenge to overcome.  Mine was overcoming my anxiety of being alone, and having to manage with a hearing loss when the time came to board a train or plane. But I wanted to go home so badly I just had to overcome my fear.

What I found out was that there are people who are willing to help you if you just ask them.  Our tour guide showed me how to find my way around the train station in London and I said goodbye to my fellow travelers.

I was unsure what train car to get on so I just followed everyone else and hoped for the best.  While traveling to Crewe I made sure that every stop matched up with the list of places I had written down.  I was still feeling uncertain you see.

Once I arrived in Crewe I had to find my way to a taxi and so I asked for directions.  Then when the taxi driver dropped me off at my aunt’s house I asked him to wait until she answered the door.  She had changed so much in twenty five years I didn’t recognized her.  And though I let the taxi driver go and entered her home, I didn’t feel completely comfortable until I saw some photographs of her from when I knew her last.

I spent the next week re-connecting with family and visiting my old haunts.  When it was time to head to the airport I was once again anxious.  Riding a train was one thing, missing a flight to Canada because I can’t hear the announcements is quite another.  But it was like God was watching over me.  As soon as I was dropped off at the airport I got in line and there was a woman in front of me who was also traveling alone.  I asked her to be my ears and she was happy to help.

There is not much in this life that I want as badly as I wanted to visit my home that summer.  I don’t pretend that it was easy.  It’s still not easy for me to do these types of things.  I have this idea in my head that I should know how to do them instinctively.  But the truth is, things don’t have to be perfect.  It’s OK to be uncertain, to make mistakes, to need help.

A friend once told me that you have to trust life.  Sounds easy, but it’s hard to do sometimes when life hasn’t always been kind.  But I’m learning.  If I hadn’t gone on this trip, I would have missed so much.  I spent three weeks on cloud nine soaking up the land, the history, and the people.  I came back with the emptiness inside me filled.

The call to return home doesn’t always have to mean a trip.  It can be any deep-seated feeling to follow your heart’s desire.  Or it can be as simple as laying around the house in your pajamas reading a book. You will recognize it when it comes.  You cannot to deny it, though you may try.  It is always a part of you and if you let it, it will lead you home.

Categories: Women's Lives

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