There it is. That inner snap I’ve come to know as the adjustment. Walking from another country onto a Thai Airways plane and slipping back into the Thai language and culture. Or transiting through a US airport from Thailand and flipping back to English while trying to curb the subtle bowing and other Asian ways that have become natural and that don’t make sense there. Sometimes I forget that part until someone’s puzzled stare at the white lady acting weird jolts my conscious to shift my subconscious behavior patterns.
Re-entry. While I’m more adept at it these days after years of practice, there is still always that moment it hits me like a flash of recognition of the shift of where I am and what “goes” here. My first experience with re-entry was in no way smooth and I fell down a lot as I tried to hack my way through the overgrowth to forge a path. I have now walked that path countless times until it has become a well worn track I can easily and automatically find and traverse when the occasion arises. I’ve pondered this journey of shift each time I’ve walked it, and while I may not be any wiser as to its complexities, I am at least more comfortable with its realities. And yet, as I continually stroll through this shift, new and recurring stumbling blocks still pop up regularly and unexpectedly. Hopefully the practice under my belt means I can catch myself before I fall splat on my face in the mud.
I’ve had many conversations with friends and colleagues about re-entry. It seems to remain a somewhat mysterious phenomena that lurks in the shadows. Why should people have trouble returning to places and cultures they know and in which they are comfortable? And yet, what does it mean to return to a place you haven’t been in years and yet which many identify for you as your “home”? What does it mean to be at home in a place you are not originally from?
And still, there are different kinds of re-entry. A few months ago I was reflecting on settling in coming off a resilience retreat followed by some other work that added up to three weeks of work travel - all very rewarding and all full on. There’s a pause, there, when I come home after being away for so long, look around my place, and try to shift my brain back into some semblance of life routine. And yet, I’ve changed, so naturally my routine must also change. I tried to remember that one thing I identified during the retreat that I wanted to start, stop, or continue in my reflective practice. And then I wondered how my retreat friends were faring with their one things. And I pondered the contradiction of returning home from a place of deep connection only to sit with this moment of disconnect. Re-entry is always more challenging than we expect.
And all the while, life moves on around us.
Re-entry can be difficult and even derailing. So, how can we better navigate it? How can we set constructive intentions for the shifts we know are coming?