I learned a great word in the New York Times crossword puzzle earlier this week. The clue was: “Whatever” and the answer was “meh”. (Maybe you had to be there, but bear with me.) Try it out:
“Wanna go to the movies?”
“Shall we invite Fred and Mavis over?”
“How you doin’ today?”
Perhaps you have to be American to relate to that word, or at the very least to have lived in Canada and done the NYT daily crosswords for three months. At any rate, I can relate to it well at the moment. I am in that homeless, culture-shocked, jet-lagged space where nothing fits in its groove. I experience this whenever I travel and return home. Back from Germany, Thailand, Bali, it doesn’t matter where – my being hasn’t caught up with my skin yet.
But I experience it most of all when I’ve been away for three long months, completely engaged and in high momentum in what Eve calls my “alternate reality” for our stay in Canada. It shows up in simple ways (Where am I? Where’s the bathroom?) or more complex (Who can I tell this to? Who’d be interested?) Habits don’t have a home and have all got lost.
And I can’t work up an interest in things. Azaleas in massive bloom? Meh. New crack in the car’s windscreen? Meh. Choir tonight? Meh.
Shall I write a post about this astute article I read on how to start a housing co-op? Meh. Enchant my readers with insights about communication? Meh.
It’s not a great place to be in. Left to my own devices, it probably wouldn’t be much of a week.
I have, however, an ace up my sleeve.
There’s a certain amount of this phenomenon that’s just jet lag, or whatever that complex thing is that happens to a body when it flies boxed in a small airplane seat for fifteen hours while crossing an equator and seven time zones. One just feels, well, pixelated, like when the DVD has a scratch and the parts don’t form a whole. There’s not a lot I can do about that.
The other part is the complex thing that happens to a soul when it is fully engaged in a place and its beloved people, and then is abruptly uprooted to another reality. I am beleaguered with all the things I didn’t find a chance to say, all the important things I still don’t know, all the hugs that didn’t get delivered.
But this is my ace up the sleeve: I have housemates.
Let me illustrate. These are the kinds of things that happen when you live in a communal household, and return after three long months:
Somebody dusts your desk and your computer and your bedside table. Somebody sweeps the winter’s grime off your deck. Somebody makes a big card for you and lays it on your pillow. Somebody has the lawns beautifully mowed and the gardens weeded. Somebody has created a garden full of exotic lettuces and herbs for your salads. Somebody has a meal cooked for you. Somebody has fridges and cupboards full of food that you can sneak into when you wake up disoriented in the middle of the night.
Somebody has been keeping track of all the things that have happened while you’ve been gone, and can’t wait to tell you about them.
Somebody wants to know how it’s been for you and what you’ve REALLY been up to.
Somebody has started interesting new projects to tell you about, projects that are beckoning with alluring fingers. Somebody welcomes you back into their lives – and into yours.
Rick and I are truly blessed. A few hours ago we sat on the front deck here, overlooking the Manning Valley and Farmer Scott’s cattle, eating a toasted sandwich made from a tomato borrowed from Somebody’s fruit bowl, besieged by birdsong and rustling tree tops. A few days ago we sat on the front patio of our Alternate Reality home in Nanaimo, overlooking the Georgia Strait and the islands and mountains beyond, drinking coffees brought to us from Tim Hortons by Aunt Verna while relishing her company along with that of my mum, my lively niece and the little grouse family that skitters in and out under the hedge.
Is that not a rich life? And I am momentarily overwhelmed by it, which of course is where “Meh” comes from.
Having said all that, I’ve just allowed a brief distraction by strolling through the photos of our Canadian summer. Suddenly there was my sparkling daughter and her new man, my wonderful son who stops my breath, my gorgeous mum – both before and after her broken wrist; our friends, our family, the places we saw and things we did…and guess what, it pixelated me again.
So – shall I go for a walk on my beloved beach? Shall I trim the tops of the exuberant hedge encroaching on my deck? Shall I write an email to a favourite cousin?
Meh. Rather nap.