What does the word Home mean to you?
Does it fill your heart with warmth and love or dread and fear? Or a combination of both? Not having a home can certainly leave you feeling anxious, after all, shelter is one of the basic necessities of life, and yet a Home is not just a roof over your head. How far past the roof and four walls of a house does your Home extend? Is it your street, your neighborhood, your city? Is it a person, a place or a thing? Or is it all in your mindset? Can you feel at home by simply setting your mind to accept that your present location is home?
As I observe myself and my friends struggling to find a stable home is a world where renting is the norm and having to move every year or two is common, I wonder what kind of effects this is having on our wellbeing. What kind of effects will this constant instability have on us and our children? It really was not so long ago where most people never left the home they were born into, or the town they grew up in.
I live in a place that is in between, neither my home nor not my home. After having lived in the same house for my entire childhood, it feels like every place I have lived in since is just a temporary home. And that is not to say that I pine for my childhood home, although it does hold many fond memories. I have rented all my adult life, except for a bit of time right out of University when I moved back in with my parents to try and pay off student loans. And now, during my divorce and regrounding, again I find myself living in my Mother’s house. And it is my home, and yet not. It is a place my children and I reside in. It is a sanctuary against a sometimes-exhausting world…but somehow my heart does not recognize it as home. I can’t tell you why I honestly do not know.
I know that I have found places that immediately felt like home and others that I could not connect with no matter how hard I tried to make it work. Being a bit of a gypsy, I have moved across the country and back again. I have lived in large cities and backward little nowhere towns. I can tell you that the sense of home has nothing to do with the size or location of the place you live. Yes, it can be more familiar to live in a certain type of place, but the sense of home it doesn’t seem to stem from there. I know that people have a great deal to do with it, that the connections we build with others certainly assist in making us feel at home, and yet it’s not just that either. I have lived in cities with great people and still not felt at home, somehow still left years later feeling “other”. I have also landed in a place and known that it was home immediately prior to meeting another soul.
There are places I have been that feel like home whenever I return, years later still home, no matter how long I have been gone. Is it in the air? In the energy? In a past life that your soul still knows? I am not sure what it is. I just know that it cannot be forced, it cannot be bought and for myself at least, it rarely builds over time.
As we all navigate this new world, where being home can no longer be defined simply by the walls we live in, how do we build the same sense of belonging and safety into our subconscious? As a parent, I have tried to become that sense of home for my children. I have consciously set out to be the calm in the storm that they can run to no matter what happens. I think though that while this may be the ideal when they are very small, perhaps I have done them a disservice as they grow older. You see, psychologically as much as humans crave the safety and security of home, we are also driven by a healthy need for adventure and growth. By constantly attempting to be their calm no matter what the expense has been to myself I have both stymied their natural growth and modeled selflessness that has been detrimental to myself.
Maybe that is just it, maybe we can all still have the stability and safety of home by actively building it into ourselves. By believing that we carry everything we need internally. By quite simply believing that no matter what is happening externally, we are worthy and strong and resilient enough to always be the calm in our personal storms. When your dreams are full of images of home you are dreaming of yourself, the exterior is who you are to the world and the interior is your inner self. So maybe this is the answer to my musings, maybe for us to navigate this current world, where our dwellings are constantly in flux and flow, the true sense of home can be built into ourselves.
If this is really it, then how can we embrace this mindset to really build this solid foundation into ourselves. I think that the best place to start is by taking the practices we currently lavish on our dwellings and begin to replicate them in our self-care routine. Think about it, what do you do regularly to take care of the place you live in? Externally you might mow the lawn, watering the grass, paint the walls and clean the windows, plant flowers and tend a garden. Internally the floors are mopped and vacuumed, windows are cleaned, mirrors cleaned, everything is dusted and tidied, laundry is done and garbage is regularly sorted and removed.
How can we do this for ourselves? I mean the outside might be the easier and more acceptable chore list. Get regular haircuts, wear clothes that fit and support your lifestyle while also showing off a bit of your personality. Exercise and eat well, this may seem a bit internal, but it certainly shows externally. However, I don’t think the stability comes from this to-do list, I believe the reason you do these things has to be in line with self-worth and not driven by a need to be seen a certain way. We have to take care of our physical self, not because we want to project a certain image, but simply because we are deserving of self-care and personal expression. Have you ever experienced trying to make a healthier habit change and found that it just didn’t last? Can you identify the reason you wanted to make the change? Did you want to change because you deserve to treat yourself better, or did you want to make the change to be more worthy? If your choices are driven by a sense of lacking, you will fail to fill the need no matter how much energy you pour into it.
Internal self-care list, what is yours? Mine fluctuates depending on my daily needs, but I have added a few consistent to do’s that have assisted me greatly in learning to honor my needs and wants. I think the first and hardest priority in anything to give my mental health a boost. I was raised to keep my emotions and anxieties to myself. I have spent years trying to sit with my emotions instead of hiding them. I am learning how to share my feelings even the ugly ones. I think that when it comes to mental wellness, we all must find what works best for ourselves as we are all very different. Speaking to a professional may assist me, but it might feel like pulling teeth to my sister. Regular meditation helps me to stay balanced and process and yet to another it may just accelerate the negative self-talk, we all subject ourselves to.
I LOVE to read, so when I hit dark times, I search out books that can give me a deeper insight into any given situation. For another, it might be listening to music or painting. Having a creative outlet is so key to building self-worth and resilience. Writing is a great outlet, it can help you to release all the thoughts that run rampant in your head, or it can help you bring clarity to the jumble of thoughts that keep you up at night.
Most important is sorting and removing the junk that accumulates, this is both an internal and external job. Regularly take the garbage out and remove items that no longer serve your needs. Get rid of your drawer full of free t-shirts that you never wear. Say goodbye to negative self-talk and defeatist attitudes. Don’t like something about yourself? Ask yourself why, and then either change it or embrace it as is best for you in the present moment. Clear anything you have bottled up, any sadness, anger or fear. Clear space to make room for what your heart needs right now.
One of the things that I have had to learn to embrace is to let go of the idea that closure will bring peace. Others may disagree with me on this, but personally, I feel like the idea of closure is a fallacy. Understanding why something happened, can’t release you from the trauma of it happening. I think it is natural for all of us to want to seek answers, we have been raised to believe that 2+2 always makes 4 and when it doesn’t, suddenly we are faced with a crisis. This I believe is where faith and hope have to come into play. I have faced and continue to face many personal trials, all of them at first seem utterly heartbreaking and devastating. And yet life goes on, the day to day doesn’t stop, just because everything in your being seems to be screaming that it should, and with time and work and growth it gets lighter to carry.
So maybe, I haven’t felt like home, because I was seeking an external place to define myself by. Perhaps every physical home is temporary until we feel at home in our own soul. I think it is time to build home into my daily routines and my spiritual practice, into my first waking thoughts and self-awareness. Home is loving myself enough to give myself the same calm stability I have been trying to give my children, while still allowing myself the freedom to go on adventures along the way. In the iconic and wise words of Dorothy Gale “There is no place like home”.
~Namaste – Michiko @SweetSerenityYoga