We are home, my husband and I, after three-and-a-half weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My body took the occasion of homecoming to let down and get sick.
It didn’t happen suddenly. The first day home was pretty good. I got up at the right time, no jetlag, got my first article off, sorted through pictures to go with it and sent them, too. I got my hair done–that was a real emergency case. We shopped for food. I went to a meeting in the evening about the Enbridge grant. (The group decided to fund the creation of a native-plant garden and history sign at the community town hall rather than a boardwalk into the wet prairie, which I had championed, but that was okay. I liked the garden idea, too.)
And then I got a literal gut reaction to being home. This has gone on for two days. I have started the antibiotic that I took to Congo for this very reason but never had to use while I was there. Jetlag is hitting, too. I am wiped out early in the evening and rising too early in the morning. It seems to be getting worse the longer I am home.
I managed to get articles off to two more publications yesterday and did loads of laundry but today I think I will just let myself be sick.
That’s it, really. My immune system is tied to my willpower. I’ve been barreling through an exciting but stressful journey. I couldn’t afford to get sick while I was away but now I can. In fact, I can be helpless and coddled. I can send my husband out for chicken soup and loll on the couch, by the fire, with the cat.
Why do people travel, after all? For new experiences, and we think they should be of the pleasurable kind. But pleasure doesn’t always change you. For me, travel is always at least partly about testing my limits, pushing the growth envelope.
This trip did change me. I feel more competent and confident about many things. I learned a great deal. People are impressed that we did what we did–they don’t add, “at your age” but it is there. Young people are supposed to be the adventurous ones, the foolish-fearless ones. Here we are at age 68, defying convention, paying luxury travel costs for a trip that was full of adventure and human contact but pretty grueling and hardly any scenery to speak of.
I care about results, about progression, about stories–including the story of myself. I want to see change, beginning in myself. I am as self-centered as they come, even while striving to become a better person–more compassionate, grateful, generous; more in harmony with the universe; a purer channel of love. I want to see those changes happening. I take satisfaction in self-improvement.
All of those qualities have to do with the way I relate to other people, of course, as well as the divine and the earth. So in that way I am not only self-centered. I try to use my self-centering tendencies to make myself less self-centered, if that makes any sense. I am just being honest about how much this kind of travel is about me as well as the good I think I can accomplish.
I often wish I could get out of the way and write more clearly and generously about what I see and less about how I feel about it. But right now my body is putting itself first and foremost in my attention, saying, this was a challenging trip. We’ve pushed the envelope. Can we let up now?