Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy


Above the Alps
There are three parts, I always say, to a vacation, all enjoyable: planning it, taking it, and then remembering it. But there's another part you forget about, like you forget labor pains: re-entry. Some people may be able to unpack and develop their photos in a week and put their experience neatly into the past, but I was not expecting to feel so different when I returned. I needed time to incorporate my new sense of myself into my world view.

When I got back to California, I was so happy to see my family again! They descended on me as soon as I was past customs (the Kinder-Egg is home!). I was welcomed with hugs and chocolate and roses, it being Valentine's Day and all. I had managed my sleep so that jet lag was not a problem... but the culture shock was intense and disorienting.

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart
First: sitting in traffic in San Francisco. No one honking or shifting out of lanes. All these huge cars. Next: the loud music on the radio - so familiar, so insular, so much the same. And then: the great shock of going from a gal on her own in the world to a familiar context... (Who is this "mom" person you keep mentioning? The one who annoys you today? The one around whom your life revolves?)

I saw my normal life, as one does after an international experience, with new eyes. But after so many nights socializing in other worlds, my wonderful life as a consumer of entertainment felt detached. On my list of urgent items: catching up on Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Parks & Rec,  and The Daily Show.

I drink wine with my mac & cheese lunch now.
(Here's to Jenny!)
It took me weeks to stop floating out of my body every time I was alone with my memories, feelings, and imagination. I slid around town feeling inappropriate levels of happiness.... Was it my new Italian leather boots? The way I now tasted each bite of food? The new vitamins I was taking? The wine I was now drinking with meals? My kiss-the-world fantasies faded, but I was still looking at the world through what I now think of the Crema Catalana filter... seeing the world in terms of a sexy YES or an indifferent NO. My instincts were finely tuned. I wanted more from my life. I felt volcanic and amazing. I literally felt too WELL for housekeeping, doing taxes, or struggling with technological troubles at my desk. Over the past weeks I had built so much strength by fighting through my obstacles—the loss of my buddy, the sinus infection, #@$%& Mercury, the (also #@$%&) mountain. After a religious experience, the paperwork battles before me felt unworthy of my mightiness, and time at my desk was stultifying.

My last bite of Italian chocolate
But I was also grieving. No one ever has time to look at the 600 pictures you took while traveling alone. Stalking my fascinating Facebook friends when I should have been working, I returned to Carnevale again and again, friending people I hadn't even met. Talking to my friends who had been there, I learned that post-Carnevale blues are universal and hard to handle. “You are ruined for all future parties,” Autumn laughed. Fortunately Amos, who occasionally lives in Italy, helped me work through la febbre. “It's a real thing,” he sympathized—the fogginess, the heartsickness, the strange physical symptoms—and he poured me a glass of Prosecco one afternoon when I was close to losing it. To the detriment of the other projects I'd put on hold when I left, I immersed myself in blog therapy.

Et voilá. (I know. That's French.)

Back on my own path
The question now is, how am I to return to my normal life, wanting the new things I now want? I was already running at high speeds before I left. I've got books to finish, bills to pay, a house to repair, a kid to get to college, plus lots of souvenirs from my entire life to organize. But I have achieved something, at my ripe old age, that tells me I can do more with my life. I want to put all my talents to use, connect with stimulating people, make meaningful change, help the world stay good and become better, and—goddess willing—find ways to travel more, maybe even with my beloveds.

Italian mamas
picking up bambini
in the rain
Back in the PTSA, I'm unreasonably thrilled by things like the new food-separation program in the cafeteria, proud to accept an award for our Centennial book, and devastated by the senseless shooting of one of our dear students. This last one brings me fully, sadly, home, as I order butterflies to release in his honor. But even though disasters continue, San Francisco is nearby, and is as charming as any European city. And every day, the view of the bay from the Oakland Hills is as beautiful as the Bay of Naples was from Vesuvius. Indeed, you should come visit... (new Italian friends, I'm talking to you!)

Moving forward and moving on, I will drink wine with meals, order order artichoke hearts and zucchini on my pizza, and keep learning new modi di parlare. But today I have come to the end of this blog. Until Kristen and Jenny try again.. Arrivederci! And multi bacio. 

Thank you for reading along on this mindblowing trip. Especially you, Jenny. xoxoxo

In the meantime, if you want to keep in touch, follow me at www.kristencaven.com or Facebook or @krs10bc. If you want to read more of my writing, find books here

1 comment:

  1. you correctly said "arrivederci", that means "see you again" (I know you know it!). Italy is here and is waiting for you again. there's so much to see and live, and this time you have a new friend waiting for you.

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