Note: “Coming Home to Myself” is a collection of vignettes in seven parts. Below you’ll find Part Seven: Desert Roads. I wrote these articles as a way of coming to terms with major life transitions, with the hope that these words may inspire those of you who are finding your path and defining what it means to be your authentic self.
The work involved in achieving personal growth can be difficult and lonely, but you aren’t alone and you will get through each struggle you face. We are all works in progress, and there wouldn’t be progress without the work.
VII. Desert Roads
In April 2021, I drove toward the desert town of Twentynine Palms, California, late at night with Michelle. Jackrabbits scurried across the lanes as my headlights provided the only light other than the stars.
It was magical crossing the wide-open desert expanse—and a familiar feeling. Specifically, it brought me back to a time when I drove at night with my now ex-husband through the desert and realized I was falling in love with him. That was early into our relationship back in 2008.
As Michelle and I made our way along historic Route 66, the clock nearing midnight, I felt the excitement of our new love as she squeezed my hand and we sang “Hotel California” together, laughing.
I next queued up the song “29 Palms” by Robert Plant (from one of his solo albums) that I hadn’t listened to in a while.
As we got close to the town of Twentynine Palms, Plant—once the iconic lead singer for Led Zeppelin known for the power and passion of his voice—launched into the song. “A fool in love,” he crooned. “A crazy situation.” He went on to describe the thrill of seduction. I smiled.
Then the song shifted gears the way that old Led Zeppelin tunes do. Soon Plant’s voice got sad and reflective as he sang, “It comes kind of hard when I hear your voice on the radio, taking me back down the road that leads back to you. Twentynine Palms, I feel the heat of your desert heart, taking me back down the road that leads back to you.”
I was stunned, suddenly feeling my ex-husband’s presence palpably in the car, as if I had indeed been led back to him and could “feel the heat” of his “desert heart.” That was an apt metaphor given he was a desert guide (as I had been too at times) in a small desert town where we’d lived that served as an entry point to outdoor exploration.
I started to choke up and was relieved that Michelle either hadn’t noticed or was giving me emotional space. I wanted to keep my confusion to myself—as I found myself at the vortex of two major loves swirling over and through me on one desert highway in the middle of the night.
It was like a changing of the guard of soulmates, or was it?
As I drove straight keeping my teary eyes on the road, I let the push-pull of emotions rock me as the song played on. “The heat and the dust increase my desolation,” Plant sang. I could relate.
And then it hit me: love is like an energy or force that is always there and always capable of being tapped. It is eternal, knowing no beginning, end, or limit. You can find it at any point along the road.
While the ones we tap that force with may change over time, love remains steadfast. It is a constant in this world like gravity.
I thanked the universe for these two soulmates I had been sent and for the greatest gift imaginable: everlasting love.
It wasn’t until I wrapped up writing a draft of that experience in the desert that I realized the Robert Plant song contained yet another message for me.
It was the start of the weekend of the summer solstice in 2021, which meant that one year had passed since my ex and I had parted ways. As I sat at my desk listening to “29 Palms” to recall the lyrics and their impact, I kept skipping back to earlier parts of the song instead of letting it play all the way through.
When I finished writing and let the song continue to its end, I noticed Plant sang “I’m coming home” and followed it up with “gonna get there, gonna get there!”
I couldn’t believe it. I even checked the written lyrics scrolling on my phone to make sure I hadn’t imagined them.
As I let the message sink in, I recognized how close I was to truly coming home to myself, a hard-fought battle over that past year.
I also saw that I’d been running away, using road trips and other travels to attempt to satisfy an unquenchable restlessness that was only partially to blame on Covid restrictions.
It struck me hard in that moment: home is not a place but a state of mind. I realized that no amount of heading off to new locations would ever pack away or ship off my troubles and frustrations because the mind, body, and heart must always feel a deep sense of belonging deep within.
As my curious self continues to go out into the world to explore, I realized that I must stay firmly connected to who I am—not avoid or run from parts of myself.
I am hopeful that if I can learn to come home to myself at any moment that it will set me free to go anywhere, or to stay in and find comfort in familiar surroundings. While I know that my desire for adventure and freedom will lead me down many roads, I also know that all of those roads do inevitably lead back to me.
I’m coming home, I told myself as I stepped away from my desk. I’m gonna get there.
Maybe I already had.
Start reading the series at Part 1.