Once we make real peace with who we are, anywhere/one we end up with becomes home.
I think I’ve been looking for home my entire life. I spent most of my early years convinced that I could fix the pieces I’d been handed, that if I just tried hard enough I could be the glue between the family I’d been given and the family I chose. I thought there was a way to force people to love me, to create the place I could only dimly imagine, by sheer force of will if necessary. Looking back, it’s really obvious now that that was never going to work but you have to try, right? In my case you have to try until you’ve hit your head against the wall so many times that you can’t see anymore and you finally admit, still grudgingly, that this is not a practical plan. I don’t let go easily.
As I got older I did begin to move away from that particular doomed enterprise. Although I still tried to involve where I came from, I started to move more towards a different model. My parents were no longer part of my day to day life and my home was theoretically something I created so I took a different kind of role in that. I started collecting people. I will admit there was not a great deal of thought or planning that went into this. I had a vague idea that if someone needed me in their life and I happened to be available, then it must mean that God meant me to be in their life. I started building a family, I started making a space. For a while this meant I lived with four other girls in a two-bedroom apartment. This was not emotionally wise or safe for anyone involved but I never questioned it. I wasn’t planning; I was just gathering pieces up and throwing them together as fast as I could. I was sure that, when everything was finished, it would look right. After all, home doesn’t have to be perfect and I wasn’t exactly working from a blueprint. What this did mean was that I was fiercely protective of what I was building. I felt threatened if relationships weren’t working out the way I thought they should, if our friendships weren’t meshing properly, if everyone wasn’t getting along. I took responsibility for everyone’s interaction. I had days of the week set aside to hang out with everyone individually to make sure that everyone felt like they had time and affection and connection. It was something of a complicated system and, if something went wrong with it, I got extremely upset and depressed. I was making a home and nothing (and no one) could get in the way of that.
That family lasted for a while and, despite all of the problems, it was important to me and there were some wonderful things that came out of it, amazingly enough. But people get married, people move on. I changed too. It was a couple years ago that I had my first hint that home possibly didn’t have to mean so much work. When everything completely fell apart, when I was at one of my lowest points (possibly my lowest) and I ended up on my friends’ couch, a complete mess. For the first time in my life I found out that sometimes home means people take care of you when you’re down, sometimes people are remarkably gentle and kind, even when you don’t have anything to pay them back with. I didn’t know that before. I always thought you had to work really hard to make those kinds of pieces fit, that bending over backwards and fighting every step of the way was pretty much part of the process. Yet here I was, laid out and exhausted, with no energy to fight much of anything and it turned out there were just people who listened to me and loved me. Maybe home meant something a lot different than I thought. I got sidetracked by that. I thought maybe they were the only ones who could love me that way; that my home could only exist with them. When they moved across the country, I was adrift. Where did I belong now?
When I went to go visit them, it was better and worse in a way. I felt back at home immediately but I knew I’d have to go back and how could I go back? J said something important to me and it’s stuck with me and evolved. He told me that he thought I would find that home was a moving target and that they wouldn’t stop being that for me but that I would find I had others. It was all a matter of perspective. Home isn’t a single place or person, which leads me back up to what I started with, which came from an email a friend sent me.
When I look back over the last year of my life, I have to admit that I find this to be so true. I cannot believe how many homes there are, how many places and people I have in my life. Some of them, particularly in the past few months, have been incredibly unexpected and yet I still feel that I fit, that I am loved, that I am a part of people’s lives and they are part of mine. It’s not mandated, like it once was. It’s not set in stone. There are people it would break my heart to lose but if I lost them, I haven’t lost my only place. People come and go and some relationships have a longer time set on them than others. I’ve spent most of my life holding so tightly to the people I love, thinking that if they leave, if it hurts that much, then I’ll never be able to put things right again. I always have felt like if I lose one or two pieces, the whole world falls apart but that’s really not looking at it the right way at all. Every person I’ve loved gave me things and I gave them things in return. You’re building something together. I don’t think home is a place or a person, although it can be both. I think maybe it’s what you build and take with you as you go.