I returned home on Thursday after a 4-week trip away. I’ve travelled a lot this year but this one was a little different. For the first time, my two boys came with me, and I bookended work and clinic dates at either side of our time together.
Coming home is always a slightly strange experience. Everything is the same and different all at once.
Your brain does its best to click back into the familiar pattern. You know this, it tells you. All these things are familiar.
You agree, to the extent where a faint hint of a voice inside your head wonders if you ever actually left in the first place.
It’s your senses that remind you that change has happened. That there has been an absence. That you, in fact, have been absent.
I ran my hands through Merc’s mane and noticed the short strands that got rubbed last year near his wither had grown another inch, blending into the thick waves that extended up his neck.
My thumb and forefinger finger some newly created dreadlocks, gently pulling at the individual strands in an attempt to unravel them without causing the hair to break, a visual reminder that winter has lived here while I did not. The wind has had its way with my horse while my brush and comb sat waiting on the shelf.
Walking back, I notice the previously naked trees now have blossoms.
As I eat my dinner, I look at the clock. 6:30 pm. It’s still light, I marvel. We are marching towards spring.
My senses prod my brain again. See, they tell it. Things have changed while you’ve been gone. I scramble to catch up.
As I left the US, there was a distinct “back to school” vibe. Shopkeepers would comment “Are you looking forward to going back to school, boys?” and we would nod and smile, avoiding the inevitable questioning that would follow if we ventured to say we home schooled, even more so in our antipodean accents.
As a resident of the southern hemisphere, September has never held such transitions aside from the movement out of winter. But I muse, as someone who homeschools their children and runs their own business that the usual markers of rest, change and new beginnings of new terms, holiday breaks and even long weekends are not socially dictated to me. They are something I must find for myself.
Returning home from travel is not dissimilar to going back to school after a summer break. On the one hand, you are grateful for the routine and there are inevitably things that you have missed. But on the other, you must find a way to hold onto the newness of the person you’ve become, molded by the learnings and experiences you’ve had, and to weave it into the familiar, the regular and the mundane.
From a nervous system perspective, travel scrambles our brain maps in the best possible way. It forces us to be new as we are required to find ways to place ourselves literally and metaphorically in our new environment, challenging our old patterns and shedding old skins. This can be uncomfortable, liberating or both. Often at the same time.
The art of adulthood, I believe, is carrying forward the knowledge we have, with enough routine to keep us grounded, with a perpetual sense of newness and curiosity. For many of us, this is not a mindset or experience that is built into our day to day. It’s something we have to find.
With our horses, the emphasis is the same. How can we lightly hold what we know to be true about our partnership and our experiences together whilst simultaneously letting ourselves be new? What would change in our actions and observations if we allowed this to be the case?
How can we return to working with our horses, or meeting our day with blending the new and the familiar like the return to a new school year, or a coming home from travel?
It’s a matter of a perspective shift.
Some questions I’m playing with currently are:
Where is the opportunity for something new?
What can I let go of that’s not serving me?
How can I hold the things that I find heavy a little more lightly?
To new beginnings, both required and created.