The Land of the Lotus-Eaters

In this old Homeric episode, our hero arrives battle-ready, an uncommon survivor of a decade-long war, escaped prisoner of a love-struck goddess, a blessed pawn intermittently thrashed about the wild seas by the wrath of Poseidon, though ultimately spared by the power of Athena. By this point in the odyssey homeward, where he’ll still need to outwit a mob of murderous opportunists lurking hungrily around his wife and estate, he has already weathered a secondary battle in the city of Cicones, the obliteration of a fleet of ships into splintered driftwood by Zeus’s vengeful squall, and the death of his entire crew.  Who here could resist the urge to bend his bow and approach with sharpened javelin in-hand when venturing yet again into uncertain terrain?

I returned to acupuncture last week after more than a two-year hiatus, and moving through some meditations in the soft and sultry darkness there (the first time I’ve been quiet and alone with my body since the fail in September) I realized that every part of me, from jaw to diaphragm to the arches of my feet, is similarly braced for threat and catastrophe. These past few months, I have been clandestinely trying to launch the ultimate FET cycle to bring my own protracted odyssey closer to conclusion, which has meant juggling the depression and exhaustion from September alongside the fear and resignation that naturally loom over the future when primed by such a past. We were blown off course by a stubbornly thin and unimpressive lining that canceled the November transfer, opting to do the Endometrial Receptivity Array my doctor recommended instead, which pushed transfer into December with beta poised for December 23rd, two days before Christmas. Marry this with first-quarter grades, which I ended up finishing at some Starbucks in New Jersey while it was still dark outside because (of course) they were due the same day as my endometrial biopsy, as well as a big fight with my husband and a scourge of fleas in my house despite religiously Frontlining my dog, plus all resulting laundry, vacuuming, and general disarray.  How’s that for a crescendo?

ten_wandsHere’s my selfie, fall 2015.

Somewhere in the stillness of that acupuncture room, a kind of lassitude born from pushing onward when one is chronically overwrought flooded my chest and abdomen, and I thought, Cancel, delay, not now, no, no, no more, no. I am cleaved from my body, disassociated, at odds with this uncooperative thing, which I have subsequently punished and coerced in various ways; she is frail, trembling, begging me to stop hating her, which I’m not even sure is a plea I can answer given the multitude of ways she has failed me. But when sailing headlong into the last chance, the situation warrants a clean rightness, patience, a set of circumstances and choices free from the threat of life-long regret, so I listened.

When Odysseus arrives on the shores of the Lotus-Eaters, he sends ahead two men to assess this mysterious new people and a herald to bring back word, but no one returns. This isle offers reprieve, of sorts, in that

…the Lotus-eaters did not plan death for [his] comrades, but gave them lotus to taste. And whosoever of them ate of the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, had no longer any wish to bring back word or to return, but there they were fain to abide among the Lotus-eaters, feeding on the lotus, and forgetful of their homeward way.

By my interpretation, I’ve always regarded this story as a cautionary allegory of escapism, akin to addicts who use substances to deaden pain and dysfunctionally avoid life’s harsh realities, a temporary solution while problems mount and fester. Ultimately, our hero drags his men, “weeping,” back onto his ships, where they sail swiftly into the deadly jaws of the cyclops in the following episode. So when we decided over dinner on Friday night to go someplace tropical for Christmas instead of facing transfer in December, I did wonder if I was just headed to the land of the Lotus-Eaters myself by postponing the inevitable. (Our version is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort and spa near the equator.)


I simultaneously feel the weight of how long this has dragged on without resolution, like the hero’s tumultuous ten-year journey from Troy to Ithaca. I keep thinking about bringing in the New Year having regressed, actually, in the progress of my life since last year I was, at the very least, 8-weeks pregnant. I’m caught somewhere in the debate between terming this ‘avoidance’ or ‘self-care’, though it’s probably a waste of energy to analyze and evaluate since non-refundable tickets are booked, and, admittedly, we’re really excited. I guess even the best of us are probably entitled to eat flowers in moderation.

16 thoughts on “The Land of the Lotus-Eaters

  1. Good for you, A. The thought of going through FET while finishing up for the semester sounds like self torture. M and I escaped to the equator last year for an adults-only get away. I can’t say my problems didn’t entirely escape me while I was down there. Hell, I even look back and a lot of couples would say we are weird, or didn’t seem “loving” as he hung out in the room a lot, eating a playing music, and I brought a stack of biographies of woman in comedy and drank a lot while on the beach by myself.


  2. Oops hit comment too soon.

    Guess I don’t really have a point, except holidays can really suck. End of semester is stressful enough. You got my stamp of approval. Enjoy your frozen rum drinks, get lots of sun and try to relax. My cheap tip: the spa treatments down there are probably crazy expensive. A massage was like, $280 and pedi was ridiculous. I brought a bunch of high end beauty products and my pedi kit. Buy some Jo Molone rose oil (mmmmmm) and have your hubby give you lots of massages. Have a good time, my friend. Xoxo


  3. The wonderful poem you used as a springboard for your essay also features a faithful wife, as you know. She waited 20 years, fending off the suitors you mentioned. Penelope went to her room a lot — the best she could do in the absence of a resort. Enjoy yourself!


  4. Maybe the resort is a kind of lotus-eating, but then I think a little lotus-eating can equal the best kind of self-care. Holiday cycles are the worst. Plus all the semester-ending and trying to time everything together at an insane time of the year… I think going off to a resort where you will have a different Christmas, relaxing and rejuvenating, away from physical reminders of your loss, is just a brilliant idea. You will hopefully come back refreshed and ready to begin again with the cycling. That’s my hope for you… go eat those tropical lotus flowers and nurture your soul that this journey has trampled all over.


  5. I know I’m late to this post, and all the other commenters have said what I want to say to you, only more eloquently. My heart continues to ache for all you’ve gone through this painful year. But I also want to add, I hate effing fleas. They got in my house, on my dog, on my cat, in my couch, in my bed. And you can’t get rid of them because the dog still needs to go outside to pee. That alone renders you deserving a vacation at an adults-only, pet free resort on the equator.


  6. Pingback: Retrospective | The Empress and the Fool

  7. Ah yes, I know that feeling: disassociated at the same time feeling everything in a completely raw sense, doubled over.

    Been going through my journey for a while now and I just found your blog. Your writing is exquisite.

    I’m on a break myself now, and take that getaway to “be with your body” in a totally different way! Enjoy. 😉


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