Recently, I went back to the states for a three week tour of my old stomping grounds. I had some amends to make, a hurricane to work around, and a lot of emotions to feel.
I flew into Raleigh, North Carolina. I’d had an early start- I arrived at the airport for 3:30am BST in Newcastle, had a layover in Paris, and arrived in NC at 3:30pm EST. I’m bad at math, but that is a lot of hours. My grandparents picked me up at the airport. I spotted my Papa getting out of the car before he saw me, and I ran to him. The traffic people were rushing us on but we took our time saying hello. Mema gave me a huge hug, too, and I breathed in the Carolina air. We went to Cracker Barrel for an early dinner. I drank my weight in sweet tea. That night, I slept in the ‘cloud bed,’ the most comfortable bed in all the world. It was one of the most restful sleeps I’ve had in quite some time.
Due to Florence, the Hurricane even the BBC was reporting, I had to move some things around, which meant I spent a bit longer with my grandparents before I rented a car to head to Virginia for a week. We lost power for a while, but we were very fortunate not to experience any flooding and hardly any rain. Many others had it much worse.
It’s a different pace of life down there, hurricane aside. I’m not used to it anymore. The slowness and stillness and peace of it all is hard to describe. Every day I could just sit out in the sun room with my Mema and a cup of coffee and look out the windows at the lake and watch the breeze blow through the trees. If the weather had been nice, I’d have spent every day on the boat. But I kept myself busy, I worked and went shopping with Mema and saw old friends and ate lots of Taco Bell.
I also saw some estranged family. It’s been so long now that it’s hard to put a finger on the exact reason it all fell apart. It happened all at once, and also incrementally. I cannot make amends to those who won’t see me, and I try not to beat myself up for other people’s feelings about me. I own simply what is mine, and no more. Rejection is always painful. Rejection by your family- doubly so. But again, I can only keep my side of the street clean. And I can only take so much.
And I rented a car.
The long of it is- I hate it there. Virginia is the scene where the worst times of my life were set. It’s where I lost my Uncle and my mother. It’s where I suffered countless abuses by the similar men with slightly different faces. It’s where I almost lost my life to domestic violence, and where my drinking career was especially volatile.
The short of it is- I had unfinished business. Also, my incredible baby sister, the light of my life, lives there. My point is- you can go home again. At least, you can try.
As soon as I got into VA I pulled up at a Starbucks to caffeinate and freshen up before going to my friend’s house I’d be calling home for a week. When pulling up, I immediately saw someone I knew from those dark times I mentioned previously. Thankfully, they didn’t see me, but it kicked my anxiety into high gear. That night I made some amends and went to a 12 step meeting. I am so grateful to have the support of my recovery community wherever I go.
The next week was spent seeing old friends, making more amends, and spending as much time as possible with my little sister. I surprised her by picking her up from the bus stop. I brought lunch to her school and met her friends. I took her shopping and trying on bridesmaids dresses and we got matching necklaces and Mexican food. When in the car, she was the DJ, and we danced to the point of ridiculousness. When she is with me I can feel our mom smiling at us. And after I dropped her off for the last time to head back to NC, I had to pull the car over and sob.
There are so many white work vans in the states. It seems that every single business has a white van with ladders on top, and they all send me into cardiac arrest until I realize it’s not his, it’s not the man from my past. I drove past the house we lived in, the one we bought together, the stores we used to go to, the restaurants, the bars. Everything was marred, made ugly by memories of the past life I almost didn’t make it out of. It made me remember. And now that the fog of alcohol has cleared, I remember far too much.
North Carolina (again)
Back in Carolina, I spent even more time with my grandparents. I helped them out at Rebuilding Hope, a non profit organization where my papa volunteers his time. We went out on the boat when the storm cleared, and ate packed lunches drifting across the lake. I saw some old friends and we talked as if no time had passed.
And before I knew it, three weeks were over, and it was time to head home. To my other home.
The return journey was a nightmare. I had two layovers and no time to spare. I spent a lot of time running through airports, and no time at all sleeping. And I was sad. It was so hard to leave my family behind yet again. I feel constantly torn in two between two continents, two places that are just so far apart. I’ve become some sort of hybrid person who doesn’t totally belong in either one. I walk the line between.
Finally landing in Newcastle felt amazing. I talked to Geordies on the plane and learned all about their family. I felt the cool air hit me and appreciated it in a way I hadn’t before. In customs, I felt halfway again, with my American passport and British Visa, but they let me pass. And then I walked through the double doors and found my husband waiting for me.
We met in that exact same place however many years ago, when I made my first trip over. That time I was a bundle of nerves, but this time I felt completely calm. I held onto him and through the fog of jet lag knew that I had really, truly landed.
I came home to flowers and loads of vegan food. I had a long nap (the first of many) and a hot shower and watched Dr Who. I re-acclimated.
I’m a pretty resilient person. I am not afraid of change, of learning something new, of taking the hard road or of saying goodbye. But I do get tired. This trip was pretty hard on me. It brought back memories I’d rather forget. My PTSD flashbacks are back with a vengeance. My insomnia and anxiety are through the roof. And I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
My recovery has given me the ability to go back, to rectify mistakes and make new memories and make myself useful. It isn’t easy but it won’t kill me, and I have some amazing people here to help get me through. Hopefully time will begin to heal these wounds.
Until then, I’ll keep rebuilding.