“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou
My family has been ravaged by the wolves of disease; by physical disease – cancer mostly – but also by the disease of addiction and poverty. Four siblings and I have moved in and out of homelessness throughout our adult lives. I guess it is a good thing there are five of us. Someone usually has a place with an extra room, a blowup mattress, or even just a vehicle. We have all managed somehow to survive to middle age. But as anyone who has ever experienced this will tell you, it is a terrifying way to live. Like other soldiers of the far away wars, this is a battle fought by families and entire communities. The toll is invisible at first, but the wounds are deep and far-reaching. The shrapnel works it’s way out through a lifetime and a bloodline.
Home has always meant life to me. In its least form it provides safety from the elements, though some must fend off other vultures within their walls. Yet, full of its promised offering it brings sanctuary, restoration, healing. A good sleep, a shared meal, laughter…the courage to imagine.
I don’t know who it was who said “Home is Heaven for beginners.” My home certainly is. Or, as I often say, “On the highway to enlightenment I’m taking the local.” I guess that’s a funny way of saying I am very grateful for my home. I have a lot to be thankful for.
As a child I suffered a repetitive nightmare: I walked home from school, but when I entered my house a strange woman had taken the place of my Mom. And she demanded to know where I really lived – as apparently I was lost. So I went back out retracing my steps. Same address, street signs, neighborhood. I had entered some parallel universe where everything looked the same, but nobody knew me. Worse, I had no idea how to get back home. I’ve had a variation of this nightmare all my life, even recently. I don’t understand its meaning – other than to scare the living daylights out of me – but I sure understand the feeling. This is what it feels like to be without a place of your own, all alone in the world. It renders you utterly powerless and sucks the air from your lungs. But it also makes you compassionate for any sentient being just trying to hang on for one more day. This feeling is palpable in shelters – animal or human.
It seems my life has been a long search for home. Being in the world – and of it – is at last its own particular form of hell regardless of where you reside. Better to be in the world but NOT of it. The entry fee to that land has been pre-paid by grace. Yes, please…and while I wait as my mansion is prepared, I wait with all my heart and soul in the knowing that I do belong. I belong. And isn’t that what we all want, really?
“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come,
this is where I want to learn to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love.
This is the temple of my adult aloneness and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life.
There is no house like the house of belonging.” – David Whyte