Wednesday, December 30, 2015

... evening light at the Jefferson Memorial
Much has changed -- and I'm still trying to decide just what that is and what it means ... .

So much has happened since our return from the great adventure.  It all came to a crashing halt yesterday when I hit the proverbial wall and I'm still reeling from the impact!

In the days immediately following our journey up the Yellow Brick Road, everything seemed normal -- or however normal is now defined.

Landed at SFO on Saturday, December 5th.  Had two days off (Sunday and Monday) as is my usual schedule -- and reported to work in full uniform on Tuesday.  Except for having experienced the highest point in my long life just a few days before, one might have described my return to schedule as totally without incident.

In my pocket was the only evidence that it wasn't all a fantasy -- the presidential seal -- to be shared with my co-workers.  Otherwise, everything appeared to have returned to "all systems GO!" and I was able to close off the larger-than-life adventure; save it for re-living in those few minutes before sleep each night.

My week was completed with office time at headquarters; filling out travel information and turning in receipts for processing; answering my co-workers questions about what-it-was-like to meet the president, etc., then -- after a few days getting back into real life it was time to deal with Dorian and the need to take on Christmas shopping, finding a tree, digging out the ornaments, making the calls to find out who would be coming to dinner, etc. 

Each night I'd sit at my computer and try to post the story of the National tree-lighting ceremony, and each night I'd give up and go to bed early to avoid trying to organize thoughts that defied every attempt.

Then it was over.  Spent 5 days at home and resting.  It was then that "the world" re-entered with all the hoopla of the holiday season; the awful news of the debates of the presidential campaigns; the new dangers to America's Muslims from the unenlightened; ISIS; Trumpism!; and Tamaya's 18th birthday celebration on Saturday evening (family had postponed from December 1st).  And then it was all over -- everything in the foreground that needed taking-care-of had been done, and it was time to return to work and "normalcy."

Yesterday I returned to give my regular two-o'clock presentation at the Visitor Center and found myself unable to cope with the new celebrity status -- the image of my appearance with President Obama in an embrace on the stage before the giant Christmas tree had been aired on PBS several times, locally, and it's as if the gloves are off -- and I've become a true publicly recognizable "celebrity," and suddenly I'm experiencing a feeling of vulnerability that is new and strangely discomforting.

Did you send this to me?  Would love to know ... .

My feelings of a personality "split" has grown, and thinking of myself in the third person -- which had started out as a joke -- has become quite real, and disturbing.  "Helen" is now personified and sharing life with me.   

Found myself unable to deal with the lines of visitors in our lobby, waiting for tickets to my two o'clock presentation -- and ended up sitting in one of the downstairs offices to get away from whatever madness this had turned into.  Elizabeth, our lead ranger, found me there and said, "... we're going to have a capacity crowd, so you'll need to stay here until we clear out the theater for the next seating.  We'll call you when we're ready."  And then, after years of comfortably sharing my story with friends and strangers with ease, I was now in full panic!

Everything went as planned.  And I walked into a crowded little theater and a hushed audience -- and climbed onto my plain wooden stool to begin my talk.  My palms were sweaty.  Thoughts scrambled.  The first words somehow uttered themselves, and I was on automatic pilot.  I was miserable with no idea what had changed -- except for some X factor that was unidentifiable at that point.

My talk ended about ten minutes (by the wall clock) before it should have.  I'd left out a lot of my story in a rush to end the experience.

I was close to tears much of the time, and had no idea just why that was.  Yet, the audience was clearly not disappointed.  I'd communicated enough to satisfy expectations, but that was no more understandable than anything else ... .

It was in those few moments after my talk ended that I settled for this explanation:

This was the first time that I'd not been sitting on my stool as folks arrived.  They were always coming into my space.  I'd insisted, always, that I introduce myself to my audiences.   It was in the small chatter that the tone was set -- that identifying the faces I'd speak to, the eyes ... .  Had never wanted to be presented.  Today, they were all seated and waiting -- and I'd walked into their space.  Had I always known this?  Could it be as simple as this?

Can it be that I'll not return to the sense of magic that I've always treasured -- without the need to understand until I've processed, fully, the Great Adventure?

We'll see, as I allow myself to re-live it in small pieces over the coming days.

Maybe it's just too big for that ... .

Maybe some things are simply felt too deeply for words to convey ... .


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