Thursday, 17 March 2011

Home and Away

So I am back home. I left at the end of January when the freezing winds were chilling me to the bone and I arrived back in March and the frost was still there to welcome me back. But I am glad to see it. I was happy to leave the winter but now, the frost is welcoming, familiar, comfortable. Needless to say I don't cope well with temperatures of 30 degrees plus. It felt so great to be able to put on pyjamas and get under a duvet, where I had gotten so used to lying in a vest and shorts and barely tolerating a sheet over me to keep the mosquitos off. It was so great to sleep in a quiet room and not have to wear ear plugs to drown out the noise of fans.

My trip was immense. I don't even know how to begin talking about it. It feels as though I have been gone for an age yet I know if I hadnt been away I'd probably be marvelling at how it can be March already and wondering where the last two months went to. Coming home I see all my presents from Christmas and my birthday are still in bags waiting to be appreciated. It reminds me of the amount of time we've been gone.

Yet in other ways it just feels as though the trip wasn't real; maybe just a long dream. The adventures already seem far away and separate. I don't want to forget. I need to finish writing the travel journal so that I will always remember everything we did.

My house seemed unfamiliar to me when we returned. I didn't think much about home while away. I have always had a surprising tendency not to miss things which worries me slightly but can be helpful: the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind' expresses it. Maybe it's a subconscious coping mechanism. Maybe it's a type of dissociation to stop me from feeling the pain of loss. I have felt what it is to miss someone or some place, but it's not usual for me.

Anyway, I had thought about home a bit in the last week, knowing that I would be soon there. I imagined myself enjoying each room: lying on the floor in the library, living room, dressing room. I imagined myself in my kitchen twirling round as I do sometimes when I'm excited.

But it was strange coming home. The house was the same; no one had moved anything or changed the dimensions, but the appearance of my house was unfamiliar, like I was looking at someone elses house. This surprised me. I'm not really sure how to explain how it felt. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad thing, just a curious thing.

I woke up in the night on my first night back and couldn't for the life of me figure out where I was. I was looking at the pictures on my bedroom wall: a forest, a lake but I didn't recognise them. It took me some time before I knew it to be my own bedroom.

So where was I and what did I do? To tell all would take me another two months but to summarise, we travelled to Dubai, New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka. NZ was the main stay and was fantastic. I have always wanted to go there and the country was just how I imagined (although very expensive with our currency exchange). We did so much, I barely had a minute to reflect on things while we were there. Some days I coped better than others. On average, I was OK. I enjoyed myself and functioned reasonably well although there were times where I just felt it was all too much and that I was just dragging myself around the world but not really getting the full experience because of my mental health (I always cringe at the term 'mental health').

Our stay in NZ was coming to an end when the Christchurch earthquake struck and we were extremely lucky (or blessed?) that we left Christchurch a few days before it and had our flight booked to return to it the day after. We had very nearly booked to come back earlier so that we could spend more time in the city and had we done that we would have surely been in the middle of the earthquake. It was so shocking to see the images of devastation and to compare them to our photos of the same places that we had taken only a few days before. We were both quite affected by the gravity of this and I think it did have an emotional impact too.

In NZ and Australia we visited some old friends who had been in the cult that I grew up in (people that have also now left the cult). This is something I should probably talk more about but for now I will just say, it was a special thing to spend time with people who can relate to the context of my life in a way that the majority of the world just wouldn't be able to fully understand. Having grown up in an environment so different from the norm, it is hard to feel one really fits in the world. I probably fit in more than I feel I do now, but spending time with others who grew up the same way is special because they already know how it feels to not 'fit in' and they understand all the reasons why and the difficulties that a person has in trying to live a normal life after growing up in a cult like the one I was in.
Having said that, each persons experience of the same cult will differ. I was in a smaller pocket of it which was more sheltered from some extreme rules so in some ways I was better off, however my dad was one of the leaders which brought a whole other set of experiences with it that others may not have had. It's complicated.
I know this is all very vague and I'm sorry for that. It's a big thing for me to even be able to describe it as a cult without feeling a lot of guilt so I am pleased to share this much with you.

This post has been too long and if you've managed to read this far I am very impressed!

For now I have to go, the jet lag is catching up with me and I am starting a new job tomorrow. It's in the same place I already worked before my trip but at a higher level and if I was allowing myself to think about it at all, I would be having panic attacks because I would be scared shitless about it. It is to do with parts, in that I feel the person that trained for this job at uni was a 'part' that is not me and so in myself, I don't feel I have the knowledge or skills to be able to manage. But I'm bordering on allowing myself to think about it now so I will go and just hope for the best.

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