I have lived in a number of house & apartments, some with gardens, others without, some near a subway, others further into suburbia. I have lived alone, I have lived with my former husband. I have lived in a shared house with 6 other room-mates who stole my milk and did cheeky things to my bedroom when I had a date over for dinner! Some of these places were homes and others were just places to live.
“Home” is a movable construct, which has become more clear to me during this last 18 months, after I separated from my husband of 14 years and have traveled more and worked to begin establishing myself as a single, yet complete woman and mother. What are the defining qualities of home for me?
I felt at home when I was sitting around my parents dining table on Saturday night after a long overnight flight from CLE->Toronto->LHR. I was sitting with Anna (I’ve known her all my life), Zoe (friends from the age of 3) and Farah (we met at 11 and then went on to study Psychology at UCL together). These three girlfriends have known me through my formative years – I have loved and engaged with these ladies all my life, and I know that they see me for who I am and support me in whatever I engage with – I feel at home with these people, as I feel at home with my parents, my brother and his family.
I did not feel at home in St Louis, in my house when I brought my first child home from the hospital, almost twelve years ago. I had had an emergency c-section so was sleeping on a air mattress in the sitting room. It was below freezing, there was frost on the insides of my windows and I remember going to the bathroom, with my 1 week old baby, at 2am, feeling so lonely in my marriage and wondering why my then husband did not want to be part of this new baby experience.
Yet, as I reflect, I realize that I felt at home when it was just me and my baby in the house, in a rocking chair and I was nursing him, bathing him, changing him, singing to him, lying him in front of the window, in the sunshine to help with his tiny jaundiced body. My son felt like home to me, as do all my children.
I felt at home in a sterile hotel room in Brazil last month with my three kids. It was in a city we had visited before and we were celebrating the love and marriage of our friends. We slept and showered and watched junior master chef. We talked and read and ate and enjoyed each other’s company.
To me, home is where I feel comfortable: where there isn’t regular and repeated and unpredictable conflict. As described above, home includes people. Home is where I do not have to question whether I am liked or loved, I know that intuitively. So, for me, home is less about a place, then it is about people. Yet, it also has something to do with the energy in a place, which is different from the people who are present, but I am not yet clear whether the energy of the place is a result of the people who lived there/have been there or whether it’s in the walls, the soil, the place itself.
I used to dismiss this concept when my “hippy” friends would talk about it. For example, I had a college friend who came over to my parents house for the first time and went to the bathroom. She came out announcing that the house had good energy because she was able to poop, and that was only possible in places with good energy! I definitely thought she was kooky. But, then, I started slowing down and paying attention.
As I searched for a new home for me and my children, I viewed over twenty houses and some of them I went to with my parents, when they were visiting. My mother, who has a spectacular sense of how to live in a place, how to arrange the furniture, the walls, the paint, so that the light and flow works, but has never been very hippified, started talking about the energy in some of the places we viewed.
I noticed it, because she had never said things like that to me when I was a child. And I totally agreed with her take on the places. There was one house that had wonderful energy – the sun shone through the windows, the sofas were well worn and the kitchen was old but you could feel the love, that many meals had been cooked there, that people had sat around the table and argued and talked and shared their passions! I was tempted to find a way to make an offer on the house, before my house had sold, even though much work was needed (to replace bathrooms/kitchen and fence in the backyard).
For some years I lived in a home where I did not know if I was loved, or even liked, and I felt vulnerable and not enjoyed for who I was. I did not feel at home, in my house because of the unpredictable conflict-driven energy. It wasn’t until it changed that I learned that I have much to offer. When commenting to a friend about how supported I was and have been during this last 18 months she said: you are a loved and supported because you are a great friend. You are the friend that makes me want to be a great friend.
Over the last eighteen months a few people asked me whether I was staying in Cleveland and whether I was staying in our home. I knew I was going to stay in Cleveland – I have created my own family there, people who love me and my children. Sometimes you fall and see who catches you – I’ve seen that, felt that: I am loved and supported and I’ve been held.
But, I knew I had to find a new home for me and my children. I needed new energy. I was struggling to find a way to describe this. And then, like so many things in my life right now, a metaphor appeared on the pages of the novel I was reading: Like roses, which can’t thrive in soil which has grown many roses, and suffer from the disease called rose sickness, humans are like this. Trying to grow in a place where a part of you has died won’t work. Sometimes you have to uproot yourself and start again.
So, think about this: Where is your home, who is there and how do they make you feel? Loved? Safe? And if you’re not thriving, yet can’t change your living circumstances, can you remove some of the old soil, add some fresh soil and nurture yourself, so you can continue to grow and bloom?
Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2015