Decompression Blues

I don’t think I’ve understood the concept of “decompression” until this year.  After returning from a great Burn, and rushing into an array of planned activities, I found myself out of sorts.  I didn’t feel like my feet could touch the ground.  I missed the Playa and the freedom from anxiety that I felt while out there.  On Playa, I wrote with abandon; at home, I felt inhibited and unsure.  My thoughts constantly returned to BRC and the childlike sense of wonder I felt there; and I was (and still am) clinging to my Guardian bracelet, which is showing serious signs of wear.

Ready to depart the Playa

What I eventually concluded is I needed to get busy if I was going to successfully re-enter the default world.  There was certainly plenty to do.  Between the multitude of bills eagerly waiting to be paid and the chores, delayed appointments, and the Jewish High Holidays, I barely had time to breathe.  That busy-ness became an excuse in itself for doing nothing consequential and avoiding the challenging stuff.

Encouraged by friends, including some Burners, I’ve decided to explore a hobby that combines my love of coffee and technology. I’m now the proud owner of a coffee roaster and am diligently developing my skills at turning green beans into dark brown delights of aroma and flavor.  The roaster was a birthday gift from my kids (not exactly a surprise – I had hinted broadly that it was what I wanted), and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll have figured out how to use it properly by next year’s Burn.

I realized as I studied coffee roasting on the web and in print that doing something was far better than struggling to get my feet back on the ground.  But it hasn’t resolved everything.  I’m still feeling lethargic and unmotivated – longing for the sense of excitement that I awoke to daily during my 17 days in Black Rock City.  I loved knowing that I was “of use” (anybody who’s read Cider House Rules by John Irving will know what I mean).  Very few days went by where I didn’t contribute in a substantive way to the mission of the Temple Guardians, help with our camp, or assist a virgin Burner struggling to acclimate to the Playa.

What’s surprising about all of my struggles to come back to earth since the end of the Burn is that I’m actually a homebody who resists going almost anywhere.  So, I suppose I’ve not only gained an understanding of the difficulties of decompression, but also of the meaning of the greeting we get at Burning Man: “welcome home.”  The desert may well have become the home I never want to leave.