It feels positively surreal. If I felt uprooted when I arrived in Japan, it was nothing compared to my departure. Within 40 hours of having decided to leave, I arrived at the airport in Norway. I feel as one of those toys in the arcade claw game machines where a metal hand pulls them up and dumps them into a slot from which they emerge on the other side of the glass as if in another world. This new world I've come into should be familiar - it is after all where I was born and grew up - but it is as though I haven't actually arrived properly, and my mind definitely hasn't shifted back to this reality.
It's funny how in all of this the people I communicate with seem to be divided into two very distinct camps: those who assume I will return to Japan as soon as I get the chance, and those who assume I most certainly will never want to do so.
The truth is, I am torn. That is, "never" isn't really among the options I consider. I already loved Japan as it was, and the last week have only strengthened my feelings. I feel as though I packed in such a hurry that I forgot to take my heart back home.
But even if I know I one day will go back, I don't know when. Right now, there are practical issues. I have to wait for the situation to be clarified. I have to rest. I have to stay home long enough to warrant having gone at all. I have to figure out if and when my employer wants me to return, and what use I can be there then.
On top of this, however, are my own feelings. The notion that I somehow "deserted" is hard to fight. The sadness for what has happened is overwhelming - perhaps even more so when I no longer have my own security in mind. The fear for what might still happen - now only provided to me through the media (I am more than a little disgusted with some of the angles they are using) - is all-consuming. Only a very little seed of happiness to be safe, at home, with family, closer to friends, is pushing through all the gloom.
I notice that today - for the first time since Friday - I have laughed a little at other things than earthquake-related gallow humour. I caught myself "liking" a few status updates on Facebook that had absolutely nothing to do with Japan. I enjoyed walking outside today, even if I didn't enjoy the snow and cold (for someone who has had spring for weeks, Norwegian "spring" was difficult to readjust to). And I'm sure I'll gradually start to appreciate being home again.
My friend Tami has been talking about survivor's guilt, and I guess it is similar to what I am experiencing. While I don't feel "guilty" for surviving, I guess I do feel guilt - or, more accurately, shame - for having this reaction at all, when others are so much worse off. My experiences were not traumatic enough to warrant leaving, my safety was not sufficiently compromised, my hands could still have been needed to help. It isn't survivor's guilt, but rather, "abandoner's shame". Everyone - including myself - explains all the very good arguments why I have no reason to feel this way. Unfortunately, my feelings aren't inclined to listen to reason.
One of my friends suggested I let this rest for a while and allow Japan to recover from the immediate shock and start to rebuild. Then they might need me, and then I can consider returning, to look for my heart among the debris, as she put it.
Thus I have decided not to decide whether to return, at least not for a while. It depends. It depends on so many things - most of them out of my control. My primary focus is to rest, to recover, to not drown in all my mixed feelings.