The question of ‘where or what is home?’ seems to be a huge theme for me at the moment. In a way, it has been with me my whole life as I have frequently felt plagued by a strange homesickness even whilst sitting in my own home, felt as a visceral nausea in my body at times, and other times just as a nagging sense of not-belonging. It has perturbed and puzzled me, and has sent me on a real journey in pursuit of home.
I suppose, like most of us, home as I grew up was my family home, and I was indeed blessed to have a very stable and loving home indeed. But, since I fledged the nest, to become my own person, it has never felt quite so simple. I have changed home so many times – at one point I worked out I had moved on average every 6 months for the last 10 years – seriously!
When I look back at my adult journey, it seems like I have followed a trajectory of inhabiting less and less permanent and stable homes. I’ve been a tenant, a house-mate, a lodger, a house-sitter, a joint home-owner twice, a volunteer live-in home help. I’ve floated through innumerable hostels and airbnbs as a restless, curious traveller. I’ve lived in a touring caravan, a static caravan, a campervan, a windowless box-room, and I’ve had two stints moving back in with my parents as an adult, one of which is now in fact. And it’s not just habitations I have left behind, I’ve also moved on from the safe ‘homes’ of relationships and jobs, never staying around for too long, always moving on.
And yet… here I am back at the family home; back at the beginning as it were. Yet this time it’s different; I know it’s not my home, I am here as a guest. A much-loved one of course, but still, a guest passing through. A guest passing through… I wonder at this statement. Aren’t all of us this? Just guests in these precious bodies, passing through on this earth-walk?
And so I continue to wonder – where is home for me? As I grind to a halt in my parents’ guest-room, and finally stop running, I feel a sense of bone-heavy exhaustion, a sense of ‘enough already!’, defeat even. I feel I’m being given a precious opportunity, to take stock of my choices and my journey to date, which has brought me back to this place; a life review if you like.
The last time I was here I was moving through a severe depression, and this time round I’ve only just caught the same negative spiral in time. Why does history keep repeating itself? Why am I continually running? Why do I restlessly chase transience and impermanence? Am I just a massive commitment-phobe? Have I been running away from home all this time?
A simple answer is, ‘yes, I have’. Because I have come to understand that home is within, it really is where the heart is, where it beats right inside of us; home is who we are when we are complete, it is our life-force, our birth-right. We take home with us wherever we go, or rather we don’t take it with us, which has been the case for me my whole life, I can see that now. And this is the source of my home-sickness. I have never felt at home in myself.
Yet… things are never so clear-cut. I’ve come to realise that, for every truth and definite stance that you take, the opposite is also true in some way. And so, as well as running away from myself, I have also been running towards myself, albeit via a rather convoluted path. It is through my constant running that finally, through the universal law of cause and effect, I face the deep wounds I’ve been running from, as the outcome of my life decisions come to land on my lap and I face the grief of a broken-heart and the angst of an uncertain future, fittingly, in the first home I really remember. Perhaps this great reckoning and opportunity for true homecoming was what my soul intended all along. I certainly like to think so, it seems empowering, and reveals a method behind the apparent madness that my life might seem on paper. And, not just that, through my constant journeying, I have learnt so much about the world and about myself. I have grown a lot and learnt new skills, as each closure leads to a new opening. On one level I have resisted commitment, but on a deeper level, I remain ever-committed to my own soul growth, and to sharing the fruits of my journey with others, with more and more consciousness of this fact through each goodbye/hello threshold and the opportunities and lessons it provides.
In this contemplative space, I search my heart and find I have no real regrets. I know I’ve hurt myself and others through some of my choices, through my moving on. But I am human, and I can forgive myself; through my mistakes and failures, I have learnt so much, and I know those others have too. I truly hold to the following Epictetus quote:
“It is not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.“
In other words, no experience is wasted, no matter how painful, as long as we learn the lesson we’re being presented with and move on in greater wisdom and self-knowledge. I’ve learnt about our human fallibility, our vulnerability, and how our pain and suffering unite and connect us as much as our love. I’ve learnt how we have to first and foremost be there for ourselves, to be our own safe place, to protect and nurture ourselves through all of life’s journey. I feel ready to think of home in a different way, by calling all of the missing parts of me home. I have rejected parts of myself, hidden them away, and running has been a defence mechanism, to stop me feeling the pain of these deepest of wounds. No more will I run from them – I am ready to feel it all, in fact I commit to this.
Yet… again, the yet… This, neither, is the whole truth. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle of the two opposites; a mysterious third way, where both polar truths come together to create something new. I know, for wholeness, we need to love and accept all of us, the good, the bad and the ugly – we have to welcome them all into our inner home. But we also need each other. Ironically, we cannot make this journey back to ourselves without the help, support and love of others. So, yes, home is within, but we have to let others into our home, and be willing to bring all parts of us into others’ homes too. Home is where our heart is, but it is also where our hearts connect.