Yesterday I returned home, from home. Contradiction? Perhaps not. Ireland is my home now, then again, so are the places where my children live. Sometimes that is Philadelphia and it’s suburbs where they were reared, sometimes New Orleans where two now live.
Home. It conjures images of holidays spent with family and friends, safe places, warmth and familiar comfort. Idealised images. Hardly the stuff of everyone’s reality. Yet we are, as a culture, obsessed with it. We outfit and decorate our nests with the care of young brides planning “their day” for years. We obsess about making the best choices. We choose houses and neighbourhoods for school districts, sometimes long before children are born. We make largely emotional decisions about the most significant investment of our lives. It is little wonder that we hold fast to the illusion of the “ideal” and deny what is often the “real”.
So in addition to Joseph’s Campbell’s wisdom, I will add Geneen Roth’s. The author of Women, Food & God reflects on what happens when you separate yourself from your story. I paraphrase here – but her message is that you are not your story; it is merely a familiar version of yourself. You without your story will come to prefer simplicity to complication, freedom over familiarity. You without a voice rehashing that version of you to yourself will begin to embrace that you are worth your own time, you will believe that longed for possibilities are out there. That you deserve a life without a “story”.
I’d already come to that conclusion (but still lose sight of it from time to time) when I made this home for myself in Ireland.
Having embraced that wisdom again, I am happy. I am finally home. Home after a lifetime of longing for the childhood home lost to me at nine; after inventing and reinventing facsimiles of it; after telling myself I was homeless once and would likely be again. By letting go of that story, I finally know that I carry with me the only sense of home I will ever need.
Apparently it was waiting for me to own it, all along.*
*An earlier version of this post originally appeared as Gratitude for…Homecomings, August 20, 2010