The Heroine’s Return (a journal entry)

[something I wrote last fall, but it’s how I’ve felt all week and I just found it this morning again, so here it is…]

This morning, I’m home.

I’ve slid into home after a two and a half year adventure that I wasn’t even close to ready to end. But, it’s ended. And here I am. As my much-younger friends were settling into their dorms yesterday, renewing friendships after summer adventures, I –well, I was at the hospital, contorting myself in front of a digital imaging machine, getting my long-overdue mammogram.

That’s my present reality.

I’m 44 and a half years old, and I just graduated college last year. I don’t have the documented proof, but I’m pretty sure I might be the oldest graduate in the college’s sixty-some year history. Somehow, I figured it’d be a bigger deal than it was, this adventure of finishing something left long undone. But as it was, I managed to weave myself in to the student population better than I’d expected. After a semester, once I’d committed to full-time particularly, I found my place. I was the harmonic component, I think, sometimes the voice of experience, sometimes the alternate opinion, sometimes the confirmation of questioning. Somehow, I learned to fit in.

But this morning, I woke up, got dressed, made the bed, and set in to a cup of tea and the ritual I’m trying to make habit (or is it the other way around?) –three pages of longhand ramble that is supposed to help clear the brain and open a channel to whatever else comes around the bend, creatively.

I’m still a student, but this time, I’m doing it mostly from home, working on my MFA. But I still hope I’m missed in that alternate universe that opened up a part of myself I’d left long dormant. To be honest, I’m more than a little afraid I’ll have the same fade to grey I had the year or so that I stutter-started my way back with one fiction-writing class. I quit, out of fear, and sank into helplessness that I’d never manage to make this dream of mine come true.

But now, it’s done. This morning, I’m simultaneously writing and making a batch of orange calendula soap, stocking up for the two craft shows I have planned in the next couple months. Soapmaking is my side-gig, my way of adding to the grocery budget for now. It’s a meditative process infused with waiting, something that feels like the perfect fit for where I am now. It gets me out of the house every Thursday afternoon, as I pull my table and canopy out of the back of our Subaru station wagon, spread the green tablecloth, and set out the work of my hands. It makes me talk to people, gets me involved in a world outside my home, something I know I need after having two and a half years of close community, a community that I came to love.

Now I’m finding myself having to discipline myself into making a new one. And I’m rather terrible at it. All I want to do after Sunday morning church service is head home to a quiet, empty house and sit –and I know now that is exactly the opposite of what I need to do.

It’s not like I don’t have people. We brought our two younger kids home this year to do virtual school, a move that’s reduced the stress level at our house by half and reduced our expenses by several thousand dollars a year (adding to the reduction in stress somewhat). I have a group of women that I’m in contact with, in person on the Thursdays I’m at market and on facebook. I could probably call at least a couple of them for a coffee date without it feeling too weird. One woman in the group is a closet writer (quickly becoming my favorite type of person).

I’m doing what I choose, what I love, really. I’m not working a mindless job. I’m doing my work this morning with the windows open, the sunshine flooding in, the green smell of late-summer rain-nourished grass wafting in with the cool breeze this morning. My kids –two of them at least—are here, working on their own projects. This house is starting to feel a lot more like home these days.

After moving around for so many years (13 homes in twenty years), we’ve settled here, into our seventh year here in our little town, and our eighth in this neck of the woods. We’ll have been in our house four years in December. Four years of mortgage payments already. I think we’ve settled, and, for now, I feel the peace of something being right. Our bills are almost all paid on time, our budget has a lot more margin than it used to. Yes, there’s some debt (school has a way of doing that), but not without hope of getting it paid. My husband loves his job, I’ve finally found my calling and am equipping myself to do it better, our kids are healthy and for the most part happy.

And yet, I’m finding myself writing this this morning, trying to talk myself into being all here, finding the joy in front of me. Because for the last few years, it was unavoidable, unexpected. It just showed up. And now, I’m having to fight for it a little. To search for it.

I’m thinking of my friends this morning, heading to new classes, starting over, and I really wish I were still there. I don’t feel done. But I am done.

Or am I starting something new? I guess that’s where I am –in transition, and transitions have never come terribly easy for me, however skilled or experienced I am at them. Or maybe I’ve just never quite loved a place like I loved it there. I’m in that disorienting, dizzying place between. The place in the moment of turning your head from the road behind to the road ahead, starting to feel around for hope.

Yes, that’s where I am. I know this place.

Now all I have to do is find my way home.