The last hour or so of my time with Sarah was strange. You’d think that as the psilocybin wore off the experience would be less disorienting than it had been for the previous five hours, but that was not the case. The transition was very gradual, and since there had been so many twists and turns during the journey, so many surprises, even some shocking revelations, I suppose on some level I was prepared for more. At last however, I found myself returning to familiar territory, felt a momentary sense of relief like after each wave of fear, but quickly replaced by a relaxed acceptance that the spirit medicine journey was coming to an end.
Sarah and I tried to debrief a little, reviewing my goals again, this time through the filter of what I had experienced. I definitely felt altered, but not in a way that I could define very well. And so, gauging how much progress was made on those goals wasn’t really possible there and then. Sarah assured me that more time would tell, that there’s a period of integration, re-entering the life I lived prior to the journey as the altered person I was. By this process, more would almost certainly be revealed.
I remember that during this debrief there were minutes-long pauses interrupted by me quietly uttering, “Wow.” I remember staring around the room and noticing it looked different somehow than either before the journey or during it. I remember the moment that I realized I hadn’t looked at my phone for, by then, nearly eight hours. I remember the moment I recalled that I still had to drive a minimum of an hour home.
Saying goodbye was a little bit sad. It’s rare to share an experience like that, one of such magnitude, one of such intimacy and vulnerability, and now we’d be separated by our perspective worlds, even by an international border. But we scheduled a time to Skype in a week or so, to check in on how the integration experience was going, Sarah assured me she was available for additional follow-up counseling sessions, hence there was no feeling like the connection was severed or over in any way.
The first steps outside were filled with wonder, quickly followed by a very brief let down. It was dark out, and a there was a cloud-covered, starless and moonless sky, and so there wasn’t nearly as much of the great big world visible to me as there otherwise might have been. Then, once in the car, the ordinariness of the inside of the vehicle, the mechanical, mindless — after years of driving — act of fastening my seatbelt and starting the car, inspired a moment of nearly wishing I was still under the influence of the spirit medicine, even with the risk of enduring more waves of fear. At least, I thought, I could tell that the medicine had fully worn off, and so I had no fear about driving home at all impaired.
This let down lasted all of a minute or so, before the task of choosing the music for the ride home needed to be made. It felt like an important choice. I wanted something beautiful rather than edgy, pretty and happy rather than sad, something on the light side that wasn’t mere pablum. I quickly scanned the radio, nothing fit the bill, and for a moment I envisioned driving home in contemplative silence, not a terrible thing by any means, but I think I’ve made it clear how central music is for me.
I remembered that I had taken my wife’s car for some reason, it had a single-disc CD player rather than the 6-disc stereo in my car, and so I knew my choices of CDs would be limited, and I had no idea what was already inserted as I hit the play button.
Much to my surprise, though it was January 17th, I was greeted with the swinging jazziness of Ella Fitzgerald singing Let It Snow. And though I insisted on a strict, Christmas-Music-Only-In-December policy at home, I was, despite my usual Jewish humbuggery, overtaken immediately by joy, a huge smile stretched across my face, and I put the car into gear knowing I’d found the perfect music to fit my mood and headspace.
By the time I was preparing to cross the border, thirty minutes later, I was still listening to Christmas music, and I had myself a mischievous good time handing my passport to the U.S. border officer, knowing what I knew and what he did not concerning how I spent my day. With nothing to hide or explain, I was allowed through, and as I accelerated up to 70mph on I-5, 20 minutes from home, I was downright giddy, singing along with the tunes.
I hadn’t felt that good since I’d been diagnosed, and suddenly I thought of George Bailey on that bridge again, only this time it’s as he realizes that Clarence Oddbody, Angel, 2nd Class, had granted his wish to end the nightmarish glimpse of what the world would be like had he never been born, returning him to the life he’d known, a life where there might be a financial and legal reckoning awaiting, but a life that he much preferred, with his family and friends.
I envisioned a personalized version of the ending of the film:
“World?! What do you know about that?! Merry Christmas!”
Overcome with joy, Howard runs back to town in a veritable blizzard.
“Yay!!!. Hello, Bellingham!”
He runs right down the middle of Holly Street.
“Merry Christmas, Horseshoe Café! Merry Christmas, Wild Buffalo House of Music! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Bellingham National Bank building!”
That’s how I was feeling. Elated that, at least for a while longer and however reduced in scope, I had my life back.