Homesickness Is About Something Else
What I learned from being in an uncomfortable situation, far from home
After 23 days of travel, it happened:
I arrived in Maryland 2 days ago, after spending two days in NJ on my way down from Cape Cod. I’m staying with my high school best friend, whom I still talk with on an almost daily basis, when I’m in AZ. We haven’t seen each other in about 7 years. We spent a lot of time together in high school, mostly partying. We drank a lot of beer, and used every ‘non-addictive’ drug known to man at the time. We stayed out late, drank too much, and went to the local diner to eat fatty foods and recover, at least once a week, for years.
Now we’re in our 40’s. I’m a certified health coach, personal trainer, and former massage therapist. I pride myself on active parenting, self-awareness, and self-growth. I make a lot of effort to have consistent, healthy dietary and lifestyle habits. My friend, however… only seems to have personal rituals that revolved around staying up late, drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, and watching TV. The only vegetables I saw pass his lips were some carrots I put in a bowl in front of him. He said they went well with his beer.
What I realized, as I was sitting in my (guest) room yesterday afternoon crying because I missed my sons (who are at summer camp) and my house, was that…well, there were no tissues or toilet paper in the entire house, so how was I going to blow my nose?! But aside from that… I realized that I felt very disconnected from myself. I missed my sons and my house because I missed myself. Being around my best friend, and his overweight, online game-addicted kids, and staying in his super dirty, messy house, temporarily overwhelmed my state of inner peace and connectedness. The disorganization and dysfunction of their life was like a tidal wave over all the success I’ve had in my own self-care. I was caught off-guard.
I needed a cry and a healthy meal. And…a box of tissues.
When I travel, I gravitate toward beautiful places and calming, relaxing atmospheres. I intentionally spend time with people who inspire me, or at least who have similar values. My relationship with my best friend is great. He’s super supportive…always, ALWAYS there when I need him. And I’m the same for him. This trip is helping me realize that our friendship is based on our shared memories, and on the love and presence we give each other. It is NOT, in almost any way, based on shared values or lifestyle choices. I was ungrounded for a minute. I actually considered cutting my 2-week stay in Maryland short because, I told myself, “this environment is not good for me”. Which, if I think about it, is debatable…
Traveling means I will not always be in control of my surroundings.
I have chosen to spend time visiting with an old, dear friend, and that experience can be as varied as the types of cereal in the cereal isle. If I want to enjoy my travels, I have to expect that uncomfortable things will come up while I’m wandering around. I have to be able to land on my feet, or at least get up, reasonably quickly.
My homesickness was about a feeling of powerlessness.
One of the main intentions of my trip was to put myself in many different situations/ locations because, I thought, I’d inevitably find some rock-solid truths about myself, that don’t change just because I’m somewhere new or uncomfortable. And I did…or, I am.
Today, I’m feeling much, much better. My situation has not changed, but I’ve decided to push through my two-week stay in Maryland. There are lessons here for me, and I’m safe. I’m not going to run just because I feel uncomfortable. But I do need to make some changes, so my stay can be more enjoyable.
Here are a few of the things I learned from feeling homesick yesterday:
- I am not my surroundings. No matter how overwhelming the smell in the bathroom, no matter how sticky the kitchen floor, no matter how checked out the people around me are…I am not that. I am not them. *deep sigh of relief*
- I can have an affect on my surroundings. I cannot change people. However, I do have a voice. I can ask for what I need, or I can make some changes on my own, if the people I’m staying with are ok with that. For example: I asked my friend to have his kids clean the toilet. I mean, really clean it (And the floor around it, geez). If they don’t need it clean, that’s ok. But I need some cleanliness, so let’s figure this out! I asked my friend to do the dishes and put some clutter on the counter away. I cleaned the rest, and cooked dinner. I felt good about that arrangement.
- I need a safe space. Before I came to my friend’s house, I made sure that the room I’d be staying in was going to be in good shape. He closed the door weeks before I got there (to keep the cat out), and made sure the lock on the door worked. The sheets on the bed might have been clean, but they definitely had stains on them. I happened to bring a sheet I had bought at a thrift store earlier in the trip, so I used it as a fitted sheet for the bed. I went to the dollar store and got an air freshener, box of tissues, toilet paper, hand soap for the bathrooms, and some cleaning supplies (including bleach for the toilets). If my friend was not willing to clean, I was prepared to do it. I wouldn’t be able to do this in every situation, but with a best friend of almost 30 years…sure I can.
- I have to forgive people and accept them for who they are. Once I realized this, I felt a great surge of love in my heart, for my friend and for his teenage boys. They may not be in line with my values, but they’re lovable, and they deserve respect.
- I may have OCD. I’m laughing as I write this, but it might be true. I’m really not sure. But…a dirty, messy place is very, VERY difficult for me to relax in. If I can’t relax in a place simply because its messy, that’s on me. I can blame the place as much as I want to, but peace comes from within, not from countertops and bathrooms.
- I need my self-care habits. They cannot change. My self-care habits align me with who I am. They remind me of my values. They make me feel at home within myself. Going walking or running, or doing my little self-care exercises are all healthy habits that I’ve honed over years. They bring me into the present moment, and they’re good for my body. Putting well-rounded, nutrient-rich food in my belly gives me higher levels of energy, and decreases the likelihood of feeling down. I’ve got to have consistently healthy food, even if it’s not every meal. Having alone time, journaling, and listening to my inspirational speakers on YouTube are an almost daily must. These habits are even more important when I’m emotionally challenged.
- Getting outside is a must for me. It’s like shaking out dirty laundry. I breathe fresh air, I move my body, and I provide myself with different sensory stimuli. This is a great way to refresh my thoughts and my mood. It also separates me from any perceived negativity, and helps me have a sense of autonomy….which leads to:
- I need my autonomy. This is also a must for me. I don’t mind depending on people. In fact, I think it’s good for me. But depending on people for weeks on end…no. I need a rental car or a bike, at least during stints of a long stay. It takes pressure off of the people I stay with, and helps me feel safe. If I need to get something or need to do something for myself, I can.
Homesickness seems to be about a loss of self. A loss of connection to self. Look around you, feel your feelings, then ask: Who am I? How do I help myself remember? Journal. Create a list of things that help you feel vibrant, and keep it with you when you travel.