Back Home…and Back to Reality…

I got home from my monumental 40th “midlife crisis” trip on 26 September, completely worn out and drained in every way possible. After just over two weeks on the road, 10 flights and 8 airports (JFK-KFL-OSL-TOS-LYR-TOS-OSL-BUD-AMS-LHR-JFK), I slumped into the back seat of my ride as I zonked on the 1+ hour car ride home from that swampy mess called JFK.

The trip closed on a rather poor note, from the rather dodgy experience at Donostia in London, the downpours I got caught in, sleeping through my meal on the flight (had crisps and nuts with my single malt), and catching a rather nasty sinus infection. Is this symbolic of how things are “back” in reality?

I’m writing all this today, a week back in “reality” — and it’s been a rather dour seven days. I’ve not been able to go back to the gym, even though the foot injury thanks to a sharp arctic rock on Spitsbergen has pretty much healed; rather, this sinus infection, being hepped up on antibiotics, makes that counterproductive. Why do a cardio session when your nose is stuffed and medication is messing with your heart rate? So I’m just stewing here…

Frankly, the best thing all week has been the very nice chicken soup I’ve been making. I’ve always made a mean chicken soup with a very complex flavour, and this time it’s a huge pot brimming with onions and two types of garlic, cauliflower and carrots, garlic chives and cilantro, daikon and celeriac, enoki mushrooms and tomatoes, and even dandelion. Plus plenty of spices, especially paprika and cayenne… All ingredients are re-balanced on a daily basis depending on how the soup progresses… Yeah, I can stretch it out for days, useful when you’re ill and don’t feel like doing anything…

But really, since being back, the bigger challenge is this sense of hollowness. Some ‘normalcy’ of daily routine has returned. Thank goodness the jetlag this leg has been minimal, though my sleep is somewhat afflicted by medication and symptoms of this bloody sinus infection. It has also caused a recurrance of a problem with my lymph nodes, especially the sub-mandibulars on the side of the sinus infection. These were the same nodes that swelled to some crazy size last autumn that triggered a nasty lymphma scare. I still remember my doctor telling me, after all the tests were negative, that he was “surprised” that it was not cancer…

Needless to say I will have to go through another battery of tests in the near future to check these lymph nodes yet again, and there’s no guarantee of a similar ‘surprise’ outcome…

But most of all, I feel a sense of emptiness, now that the planning and execution of this trip has been done. Last time I had such an extensive trip was the spring of 2005, when I went around the world (IAD-LHR-DEL-BKK-HKG-GMP-ICN-HND-NRT-HNL-LAX-IAD) in a month-long trek. But when I got back from that trip, I had to move nearly immediately, so there was some purpose. This time, it’s like nothing. I came back to…deal with all the crap I left before the trip.

Now over the threshold and fully 40 years old, I can’t help but feel that this slow, downhill trek for the rest of my life has very little direction (but down). At this point I’m not sure I have any goals or aspirations anymore, to be totally honest. I’ve done many of the things in this life that I wanted to do, and I am certainly proud of my accomplishments. But having lost the love of my life, I don’t even feel I want to be with anyone else; frankly, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else. I remember the first person I dated after my break-up, and she said she doesn’t want to be someone’s #2. No one does, and she’s right. It’s not fair, not to the other person, nor to myself.

So I am cursed to remain alone, a fate I have pretty much accepted. At this point anyway, I wouldn’t be a good partner to anyone. She’s got her own life to live, and I need to just step back and be happy for her and her success. I’m glad I helped her towards her journey, and now, there’s little need for someone like me. It’s like my entire raison d’être has ceased…

Nevertheless, I’m not quitting. Just because it’s downhill it doesn’t mean it’s done. Still got a ways to go. I still enjoy temporary (but fleeting) bouts of happiness, and that’s all I hope and desire for at this stage of my life. I’m also lucky in some ways, since I am responsible for no one but myself — so I can take big risks that others with loved ones cannot. I can make big bets on the market without worrying that I can’t feed the family. I can embark on crazy adventures without worrying that I may not return in one piece. I can do whatever I want without compromise, without having to worry about those who would be dependent on me. In other words, I am free — unhappy, but free.

So in reflection and looking ahead, nothing has really changed, even as the ball is now rolling downhill with gravity. What’s facing me in the future, both in near and medium term, I don’t know, but all I can do is enjoy what I can and keep this game going as long as I can before the clock runs out.

Oh, the meaning of life…

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