There are places I go, whether on foot or by car–whether passing through or staying a while–that are like instant decompression chambers for me. Whatever has been weighing on my heart and mind seems to fade away into the distance with every step taken, every thousand feet traveled by car, bus, ferry or train. Flying used to be in that category too, but post-9-11 security hassles and the resultant grumpiness of the industry and travelers alike has meant that I need some of that other kind of travel just to recover from the flying days anymore. But that other kind, oh, it’s amazing how much it can do to change me.
I’ve had the sort of trip that was more like a descent into the maelstrom as well. The true recognition of my need for therapy and medication for my clinical depression didn’t happen for a long time over the years of sliding downward but rather in the few hours of being driven home from a long weekend getaway in a favorite decompression place to the place where my depression was gathering up a thunderhead over me at work, when I simply started crying and couldn’t stop. It was a dark, grim day for me (not to mention for my poor husband the driver), but it was at least purposeful in bringing out into the open what had been lying hidden in me for ages, and in leading directly to my finally seeking and getting the help I needed. What’s more, thereafter when I or we took off on any of those favorite walks or rides of renewal and anticipation and refreshment, it actually worked again, and the good wasn’t undone by the return lap of the journey.
It’s been a good long time since that ugly, interminable day of rain and tears. My life is inexpressibly happier; even though I had been able to find much happiness to paint over that swinish inner angst and agony, it was still only a pig in lipstick until I could remake myself rather than trying to remake the rest of the world to distract me from my own brokenness. That, in itself, was a journey of letting go of unwanted burdens and lightening my attitude and perspective. And it made me so much the better able to appreciate and regain that wonderful sense of freedom, the shedding of cares and escape from ordinary and tiresome things that comes when I take off on one of these expeditions. Short or long, real or imagined, they let me let go of what small troubles I might have, take a deep, strong breath or ten, hold still in awe and enjoy what is right around me, and then come back to the rest of life with a renewed ability to find beauty in them, too.