If you suddenly didn't have a home, what would you miss about it?
I experienced an intense moment of melancholy and loneliness on my birthday last Friday; in the middle of the day, between leaving one friend's house and meeting another friend later in the afternoon, I had nowhere to “go” or “be.” The attachment I have with this startled me. Why is this so important? What's the meaning and importance of having a safe place to sleep or go “home” to. What does that really symbolize?
Lately I've been spending a lot of time hanging out at libraries, coffee shops, and parks. A lot of time. Depending on what I'm working on, job hunting, networking, art, etc, I end up setting up shop at different locations in between finding places to stay at night. Although this process, in the scheme of things, hasn't occurred for that long, I still feel increasingly weary. When our basic needs are uncertain, daily, exercising creativity and long term thinking/planning is... challenging.
I do recognize, even now, that I come from and exist in a position of incredible privilege. While I experience my own fair share of challenges, I could be in a much, much worse off position. I'm grateful that despite essentially being homeless right now, I am not starving, I've been able to find a place to stay every night, I have a very caring community at my back, and I have a lot of skill and abilities to offer.
Yet daily we meet our values; what they look like, how we judge our circumstances and make our choices. The “I do this” or “this is important to me” statements aren't always coupled with the “why” questions. I think they should be, even to simply understand ourselves.
As I began brainstorming why having “home space” was so important to me, several ideas eventually came to mind: having the choice to retreat to shelter as needed, isolation/safe place to recharge (introversion), somewhere I don't have to wear a bra (I am not a woman who can comfortably get away without one), knowing where things are, familiarity, smells (smells like home/me), in “my” space vs “other peoples'” space (being a guest vs being at home), the favor of others opening their home to me, infringing on other spaces, permanence, security, possession, the importance of mess and order.
The last one made me laugh a bit, but I think it's extremely valid. We get used to a certain kind of mess or order. The way we wash our dishes (or the frequency), where we leave our things. This actually, I think, goes hand in hand with the “knowing where things are” and familiarity. Tossing mail on the kitchen counter for a day or two versus going through it immediately versus letting it stack up over time. Obviously different behaviors are more or less... constructive, shall we say, but each one of us has grown up and even created our own “natural” ways of inhabiting an environment we're comfortable with. When we share space with someone, like having an apartment with roommates, or moving in with a significant other, we have to deal with someone else's living habits. This isn't anything new.
Engaging in those habits helps creates home. Really this is all about “belonging.” I can stay with a friend, but I don't belong there long term. This is the “I know where I am and how to act within this space. I know the boundaries and know my place within them” idea. You know one of the major things I miss having space for? Cooking. I can make meals here and there at the places I stay but certain food stuffs require more time and space. I saw some video of someone making homemade chocolate candies and I thought, “Oh man. I want to do that.”
I swear it isn't all about chocolate.
So what does “home” mean, evoke, symbolize? What does “belonging” mean? These are external centering points; that “home” feeling we experience when we are, well, home, is a type of groundedness. We relax into ourselves, not battling against a whole list of expectations and images of what we “should” be. If I had to sum up what home means to me, that would be it. A place where I can be without the pressures, internally or externally imposed, of what I “should” or “shouldn't” be.
Ironically, how often does a home not offer that? Yeah, in many ways, I feel very grateful and privileged. Home, safe space, place to belong; not all kids have that growing up.
The trick is this; can we, can I, find home internally?
Well, yes. That is a practice well worth attention, one that is incredibly beautiful and important, and one I have had to rely on a lot lately. Not always successfully, but I come back to it. I find home in people, too, as I've said before, but we can never put all our home into one or two people. The pressure to live up to that is exhausting.
So perhaps we have many homes, of varying importance for different reasons. Home in ourselves, we always take this with us. This allows me to be comfortable, to an extent, in many different environments, to have confidence in myself, to find power in myself. Then we find homes in people, our family, friends, partners, lovers, coworkers, communities. Then we have the physical representation, a symbol, really, of home. That place, or places we use as the primary hub, home base. Beyond that, maybe a city, a state, a country. Home radiates out from our skin in waves, reflecting what we most identify with and where we can most safely express ourselves.
And make chocolate. You know, priorities!