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Today is re-entry day. Since I was traveling yesterday morning, the remainder of my day still felt like a break from my “normal” life. I spent the afternoon relaxing in a kayak, then came home and made very yummy wraps for dinner, settling in to catch up on my blog reading (I had over 56 posts in my feed) and pet the kitties before curling up in bed late into the night. I felt relaxed, a bit energized, and motivated to head into four steady days of work.

Then I woke up this morning. And it was not pretty.

I set the alarms to go off early this morning, to get up and go paddling in the morning mist on the lake. While yesterday’s paddle was lovely, there were many boats on the lake (including lots of fishing boats), and I was looking forward to a quieter, more nature-focused paddle. But the alarm did not go off.

In fact, I didn’t wake up until my phone sounded the auto-update for my Twitter feed, at 9am. I rolled over to turn off the volume, and discovered I had the most resoundingly atrocious headache. It was so bad I took 2 naproxen and went back to sleep. For an hour.

I’m not someone who usually sleeps in. Being self-employed means I set my own schedule, but I know that I am most productive in the mornings, and try very hard not to waste this precious time. When I woke up again at 10am, I was physically exhausted, and frustrated with myself for missing my most productive time window. I pulled myself out of bed, only to discover massive hairball experience in my slipper. Which I discovered with my bare feet.

Hairball cleaned up, vertical and moving, I wanted to finish putting away things from my trip that did not get taken care of last night (laundry down the chute, toiletries put away, etc). It seems, though, that a side-effect of the headache was butter fingers and a loss of balance. Many things were dropped (only a few broken). And I walked into the wall three times.

And I hadn’t even left the second floor of the house.

At some point, I gave up. I laid back on my housemate’s bed (I was putting away some jewelry I borrowed) and stared up at the ceiling. I felt completely defeated, and I needed to discover why. I closed my eyes, and focused on the breath.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe —

Ah, there it is.

Hidden deep behind my heart was the source of my headache, clumsiness, and general malaise. It cowered like a stray animal, ragged and hungry, wanting desperately to be fed and yet vicious. Tears began to wet my hairline as I tried to coax out whatever information was available.

I am terrible at re-entry.

I spent two full days with my birth family. It is the longest we have been together in over 5 years, first time we have all been under one roof in seven years. It isn’t that we particularly don’t get along. As I look back on it now, I believe we are simply different people, living different lives, walking different journeys. But this makes for some challenges when we get together. Challenges that are usually unspoken, and never addressed. Which, for me, are the most painful kinds of challenges.

I love my family, but being there hurts.

I am watching my mother’s dreams die, the few that are left. I am watching her die in a minimum-wage job she doesn’t particularly enjoy, but has had for nearly 15 years. A job which is ending soon, she tells me. I am watching my step-father’s family fight against one another and pull apart at the seams. I am watching my sister discover her dreams, while at the same time hiding pieces of herself from the rest of the family and the world.

And I am here, now, back in my home. I am 500 miles away, struggling to follow my own dreams, struggling to make my life my own. I moved away from my hometown 5 years ago, and have spent that time trying to discover who I am outside of the narrow definitions I grew up with. After five years, I have really started to stand in my own skin, my own beliefs and feelings.

Being there made standing in myself really difficult. And really, really painful.

As I lay on my back, sobbing into the ceiling fan, I felt the full weight of my travels wash over me. The depth of struggle, the depth of my fears, the depth of my journey in the last five years and longer. I could do nothing but feel, and breathe.

After much time, I rose. I showered and dressed, fixed a lovely lunch for myself, and sat in silence. I am not as ready to dive into my week as I assumed. And I’m okay with that. I will be quiet. I will be gentle. I will go for a walk and listen to the trees.

I will remember that I am okay in my own skin. I am walking the path I have chosen, walking the path life has put before me. I struggle to understand why I have been given this journey without all the (physical) tools I need, and contemplate this as I am grateful for all the gifts I do have.

This beautiful chant of Libana‘s has been running through my head since I rose, tender and gentle and full of self-love. Remember to take a moment to breathe in your own beauty, and remember: You are not alone.