The second morning I wake with a severe ache. It is not muscle or bone. It is an ache for safety and security, for knowing where I am and how to proceed through the day. I am still 350 miles from home. I want nothing more than to be home, in the place I have spent years running away from. My throat tightens in an attempt to choke back the rumbling of fears and doubts that rise with the sun, and loses.
My call wakes my husband at 6:30 AM. He stays true to his promise and prepares for the five-hour trip to retrieve me. I hang up as sobs of defeat release within the thin nylon walls, my pillow my only friend to help hide my embarrassment. Gradually, my breathing slows and muscles soften and the hard edge of willpower that has fueled me across the past months dissolves. But a different strength starts to unfold. I realize I have trained for this journey for far longer than the few months leading up to it. I have endured thirty hours of labor giving birth to my son, have held the hands of loved ones as the warmth of life faded, have worked three jobs to gain the education that has led to a successful career, have stuck out the crashing waves of my husband’s struggle with drugs and alcohol after Viet Nam. Faith in my ability to endure and move forward on my own mounts. The tears I thought had washed away the fragile scaffolding of success instead uncovered the foundation of the spirit where my real support lived. I redial and cancel the rescue.
I head to the cafeteria for a quick breakfast, knowing I will need this nourishment to get through the morning even though I would rather avoid showing my red eyes and blotchy face. I meet the women I met yesterday at lunch and they ask if I am OK. I assure them I am and hurry on, knowing there is no way they believe me. The cafeteria is crowded with the usual jolly occupants–why do I not share this cheery attitude? What is wrong with me? The crowd is actually good for getting lost in. and I grab some oatmeal and fruit and gulp it down in a corner. Then I race back to my tent to prepare for the day. My tent mate meets me with a questioning look. I just tell her it has been a rough morning and leave as quickly as I can, hoping to put distance between desire and doubt. I ease onto wet roads under heavy skies and merge into the grayness. It feels strangely comforting and safe.