Forgive the alcoholic reference – this has nothing to do with drinking.
This hangover is the one that you deal with the day you come home from vacation. All those euphoric feelings from the whole week mount and mount and build and build – until they come to a crashing plunge the moment you get home.
Well, for us, it happened before we got home. We got that hangover feeling the minute we got off the plane and stepped into LaGuardia airport.
I don’t know if a worse greeting exists in an American airport than the one travelers get in LaGuardia. As a New Yorker myself, it is embarrassing that this is the first impression starry-eyed jet-setters who have longed to come to the Big Apple get upon entering New York. The traveler is welcomed with stark, white, bare walls, no cute shops, no smiling airport attendants…nothing aesthetically pleasing or inviting at all…just bright yellow signs for Baggage Claim and bright green signs for Ground Transportation. No art, no decorations…just a solely functional terminal. You almost feel like you mistakenly got re-routed to a communist country, not a trend-setting city like NY. There is no evidence of that city personality AT.ALL. in LaGuardia. What a poor representation.
It’s funny, because we noticed the beautiful airports in Denver and Reno right away. Bright and colorful, they had art, life-sized stuffed wild-life displays, a circle of inviting Adirondack chairs around a faux fire-pit table…nothing like LGA. Not even close.
Our second dose of reality occurred once we got our baggage and were waiting to be picked up. After being smacked with the humid, dank, stenchy air, we were further welcomed with a long line of cars fighting for a spot near the curb, congested traffic and blaring horns, noisy people on cell phones simultaneously trying to give their location and wave down their rides. Chaos. Nothing like the peaceful environment we had just come from. You can palpably feel the stress you just spent 9 days shedding seeping back into your pores, all the way into your soul.
If that wasn’t enough pomp and circumstance, after we fought our way out that mess, we were delighted with our first impressions outside of the airport: bright artificial lights and overnight construction on the Grand Central Parkway. Jackhammers pounding, bumper to bumper taillights and obnoxious drivers weaving in and out trying to a gain a sum-total of about 6 inches.
Yup. Welcome to New York.
Where did the pine trees go? Where are the mountains? What happened to the sprawling valleys and the cattle and all the space?
Why aren’t I smelling fresh air and pine instead of exhaust fumes?
Tell me again why I live here???
And then, the let-down sunk even further when we got home. Now, don’t get me wrong…there really is something very comforting about pulling in your own driveway and being greeted by your cats at the door and seeing all of your familiar things.
But there is also the unpacking (a task I hate only slightly less than cleaning the tub), the laundry, the mail to sort, the bills to catch up on, the fridge to clean out with all of the food that went bad – and now feeling starved because, to your body, it is only 9pm even though the clock says midnight – and there is nothing to eat because all the food in your fridge went bad. (And they don’t even give you peanuts on the plane but charge you $25 a bag).
It’s similar to the feeling I get when I need to take a personal day or be out sick: it’s more work to get ready for a sub and catch up when I get back than to just be present and teach; it almost feels like it’s not even worth to miss a day of work.
In the same way, if the let-down upon coming home from vacation is so severe, is it worth it to go?
The answer is obvious: of course it is. I don’t need to list all the benefits of vacation. We all know why we go.
Still, it doesn’t make the coming home any easier. It’s always a little bit of a let-down to come back to reality.
But the story gets brighter. Let me tell you when I felt the peace of being home (and yes, I finally did feel it).
After we made some frozen wings and pizza (all we had in the freezer), after I fed the cats and threw out the junk mail, after I took a shower to wash the travel dust off…I gingerly slipped into bed as my husband was trying to calm Gigi, our adopted outdoor-but-sleeps-with-us kitten. As I laid down, my husband started his nightly ritual: finding a sermon to listen to online as he falls asleep.
As I settled in next to J., with Gigi on my legs, hearing God’s Word, the feeling of peace finally came. The comfort of my company and my surroundings added to my peaceful feeling, but it was hearing God’s Word and truth that brought rest to my unsettled soul. Proper perspective started to come back…not unlike the slow, shaking-off of a hangover stupor.
God’s consistency and presence, no matter where we go – beautiful mountain tops or disgusting, noisy traffic and highways – are what genuinely bring true and absolute peace. He supersedes all of that. He is where home is – and all that home means: peace, security, rest, contentment. Not beautiful landscapes or valleys as far as the eye can see. It’s the Creator of these beautiful things that brings the feeling of peace, not the things themselves.
And we ALWAYS have Him – whether 10,000 feet up overlooking the stunning majesty of Lake Tahoe or stuck in traffic on the GCP.
When I heard the comforting familiarity of His truth, the timelessness of His wisdom, the rock-solid reliability of His words – my travel-tired heart rested and sighed:
It really is good to be home.