“A trip has been really successful if I come back sounding strange even to myself; if, in some sense, I never come back at all, but remain up at night unsettled by what I’ve seen.” – Pico Iyer
One of the deepest beauties and absolute horrors of parenting is how it anchors you in routine. Children are like metronomes, as is the school day with its bells and schedule blocks. As is the soccer season and the grid-like formation of summer’s camps and lessons. Which is not all bad. It’s soothing. It can provide a safe place from which to work. If, that is, you have enough ideas in the hopper. And that’s when routine is less good – for forming, finding new angles and positions.
This morning, a group of us huddled on the sidewalk outside school. The bell had just rung, and the children run in with a great whoop of spring noise. People had been away – some by plane, others just across the state. One friend, who is a breezy, happy person, said of her return: I’m feeling really bitter to be back.
I know that feeling. The soul, which can get cracked open on a trip, re-aware of the huge possibilities that life holds, is bruised upon its return, forced back into its routine. But what about the ocean? it pleads. What about the 1,001 ways of living I just saw in the city, all of which I could be doing instead of this – this humble daily routine?
Coming down below cloud level on the plane yesterday, the straight lines and brownish-green patches of the Midwestern landscape could not have been a better visual metaphor. Behind me was New York – riotous in color and shapes, seemingly endless in possibilities. Here is a very known quantity of days lived in a certain way to a particular beat.
The trick is taking those experiences – so many richly textured conversations, the taste of Szechuan noodles and fresh croissants, the sound of bagpipers on St. Patrick’s Day, the glow of candles in a tapas bar, the cool silence of St. John the Divine, bookstores small and large – and hold them in me, without malice or false expectations, without disappointment. To soak them in and realize they are me just as much as tonight’s math homework or today’s taxes. It’s all there.