A whole week after my last post, I finally get to attempt this one: how do I move on having come back home?
Well I can unpack Toto from his cardboard box in the hall:
Or I could try to say something about the journey back:
And I will do both those things but I think I need to try to write something to help myself move on psychologically before I do those things.
So where am I now?
I’ve been back for nearly a week. I arrived back in time to overlap with my daughter for about 24 hours before she flew off for a year in Russia. Having seen her off from Heathrow, J and I had an evening in rather an empty feeling house before driving up to Glasgow to pick up our son from the end of his freshers’ week there so the three of us could go across for two and a half days of a family wedding in a hotel, chapel and castle between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Yesterday our son went back to Glasgow and J drove the two of us in a now rather empty feeling car us back for 9.5 hours. She doesn’t much like being driven and I don’t much like driving so our driving is pretty much always that way around. In long trips like that we find that we get more time to talk and catch up with each other than we do from week to week. That was one part of our “divertissement” week a month ago.
All that has gone very well, it’s been excellent in fact, but none of it has been remotely normal. Children don’t come and go that far and for that long, that often. Similarly, I think this was the first wedding I’d been to since J and I got married ourselves and that was nearly 21 years ago.
So today feels like the start of the new “normality”, certainly the “normality” for the next year. I’m still between jobs academically but of course I have a terrifying backlog of things to do on that front. That backlog isn’t just from the last two months sadly. Rather it’s a guilt and shame laden pile that has accumulated savagely over at least the last five years. In that time I had found it increasingly impossible to deal with both my clinical/NHS commitments and my academic ones. Part of the problem, as I see it has been that that the NHS washed its hands of the sort of research I think psychotherapy needs, leaving me less and less able to service both what I thought clients and colleagues in the NHS needed, and what I thought needed doing academically. The latter included quite a lot I had atually undertaken to do with people all round Europe and some further afield. The sense of persecution and of failure that was accumulating with the “overdue work” list was one of many things that had led to my opting to give up all continuing clinical and NHS managerial work. I hope I will have more time, more energy and, perhaps just as importantly as those logistic “more” issues, also more independence of thought and that all that “more” will allow me to do more with my academic and research ideas. That was one of the big “pull” factors in resigning from the NHS. There were some equally strong and darker disillusionment “push” factors too which I’ve touched on in this blog (http://www.psyctc.org/pelerinage2016/i-woke-at-about-02-15-last-night-and-couldnt-sleep/)
So here I am back in the everyday world. For a lot of the next year I will go to sleep in the same bed I woke up in; I’ll have household/family tasks that will need doing; I’ll have my own research/academic todo list and Emails reminding me that I’m due/overdue on things from that and inviting me to add new things to it; I hope I’ll have a paying job and that will add tasks to all that.
I’ll speak mainly English (oh boy did a bit of my Spanish amuse my daughter who points out that I was speaking a mixture of terribly accented Spanish and a word that is pure Italian!), and 95-99% of the time I’ll speak it to native English speakers. I won’t work my legs and body in anything like the way I have for the last two months (though I’ll try to get it some good hard work regularly); the sun won’t blitz down on me as it did almost every day after I crossed the channel. Most days I won’t see new and amazing architecture and other sights. Above all, I won’t have hours pedalling along in which I can ponder, let fleeting fish thoughts come into focus and not get lost in the dazzle of the everday. I won’t have the rather bizarre challenge I took up, of turning some of those experiences into this blog and site.
I won’t just go back to where I was before the trip. One resolution I made months ago, as all this came into soft focus, was that I would get new experiences on a weekly basis by committing one day a week to that. That’ll be mostly exhibitions in London but we (J and I) will keep up our love of the theatre and I hope we’ll get a bit more cinema and I or we will get some architecture and more cycling and nature. That feels good and right and in the spirit of the trip but I know there’s a continuing task if so much that was superb (and psychologically challenging) about this trip is not to be lost: to keep up some of the reflection time.
A few times in my life I have tried to keep a diary, but only many years ago and I always failed within probably a month, possibly within a week! I know that I fell off from the thinking and writing and that the problem wasn’t just the author, it was also the readership: I either failed to be enough audience to my own pondering in the “locked diary” model, or else I would find that I couldn’t write the “openable diary” without some sense of who might open it.
Creating this site, and particularly creating this blog, has been a different. The comments on the blog have been wonderful to receive, all of them, and I think it’s provided the right compromise for me, a trustworthy tightrope or high bridge between the Scylla and Charybdis of narcissistic and of histrionic neediness. As I started it, and started giving people the URL, putting it in my Out of Office message and my Email signature and encouraging some trusted people not only to read but to comment, I obviously hoped that it might amuse or otherwise appeal to some people who know me. I’ve also had the hope that it might become a useful resource, psychologically and/or pragmatically, for anyone else contemplating cycling all or part of the route.
I have huge amounts I still want to say that came from the trip. Some are things rooted firmly in particular places or days while other things aren’t so located but stretched across periods of time or the whole trip: ideas that kept bubbling up as I cycled. I have lots of data that amuses me about the cycling and the geography and might amuse or even be useful to others. I have loads of ‘photos I want to share. I suspect that I do have quite a lot of useful bits of advice to give others.
More selfishly, I also know I have a need, or a real desire, to keep something going: so the blog is going to continue. I think I’ll set myself a rough target of one or maximum two posts a week. At this stage that be a challenge to restrict myself (halfway there already for this week, no, this is a “last week’s” post!), I suspect that as the months go by, things may change and I may struggle to do one or two posts a week. I know the other pressures will impinge more and the memories of the journey will fade. I trust that I will take up a paid, part time post and my employer will rightly expect a good return on its investment in me. I know I will I get dug into those todo lists and persecutory piles of guilt about overdue things already undertaken. I hope I will find time too to get into the more vague, and more personal, pile of things not even started yet nor shared with anyone, things that I’d be sad to die without having at least started. I suspect that I will find it harder to be quite as open about myself and my thoughts as I felt able to be out there on the road.
Oh dear yes, as I list all that, I know that as it rolls back onto me and I can see it’ll be difficult to protect a day a week for more simple experiencing and for writing something. However, I’m sure this is worth trying for my own pleasure and perhaps a bit for my own sanity.
To those who have followed bits or all of this so far: no-one needs to follow along more unless it continues to appeal or amuse you, much though the support has been wonderful on the actual trip. I’m not really as needy as I sound, I have good friends. AS Gregory so beautifully put it, there are fine people out there who would still like and discuss with me even if I did talk aloud to my bike, or worse, even if I did treat Toto as a sort of throne and speak with him in a sort of “royal we”!
I am back home and lucky in all I’ve got. I’ve even got that that next cycle trip to Rome to look to when I need a bit of escapism! OK. I think that’s the gist of what I knew I needed to say today; I shall hit the “publish” button and move back/on to the todo lists!
[Hm. Quite a bit of tidying up of typos and terrible grammar over a week on: 27/9/16.]