The things that make me feel safe and sound are mostly immaterial. Genuine conversations; freedom; music; being deeply understood. Physical objects rarely bring me comfort, but I do find myself fiercely protecting a short list of a few tangible tokens. Tasty, nutritious food; a balanced home; a distraction-free workspace; plants; unique pieces of art.
Take these away from me for too long and I slowly crumble.
Feeling vulnerable is strange for someone who foolishly considers himself impervious to life’s challenges. I’m often proven wrong in this arena, but my obstinate nature refuses to admit defeat – at least not until my fighting soul is bloodied to a pulp.
I’m used to feeling like I can handle it all, but only in the ways I’m familiar with. So could I really call that strength? Could I call it a superpower when I’m the one handing the trophies to myself, usually after enduring the flailing arms and shrieking complaints from strangers and family and furry pets? They’ll often unburden their emotional saddles in front of my feet and begin to cry with zero intention of curtailing, even one bit, their broken ballistic sirens. It can be a lot. But oddly enough, I usually ask for seconds and thirds, and sometimes more. The buffet is such a tricky bargain, if you think about it.
I’ve always prided myself on being that kind of supporter. And until recently, I would secretly resent my loved ones for not sending the boomerang back to me. And it’s not that they were actually withholding their affection; it’s that I was blindsided by my own clueless ideas of what perfect love should look like. How could I be so stubborn, as to try to define something so slippery and extravagant?
But the idea that each of us gives and receives Love in a unique way is not foreign to me. “Tell me I’m beautiful”. “Enough of the words, show me instead!”. “Did you get my text??” Or maybe, “These orchids remind me of the time you went all the way back home to get my favorite pillow just so I can feel something next to me while you went on your trip”.
Let’s call it undying grace, or something like it. Let’s see how many different flavors and sounds we could use to paint a picture we’d all be able to see with the same eyes. Hmm.
But how do we describe the one thing we’ll never “figure out”? The thing we forget to cherish until it’s dissolved between our most calloused fingers. It’s like the cool quenching spring inside an oasis nestled within a sea of parched desert. It’s like the exacting amnesia we get during the purest of orgasms.
Or is it just an inescapable addiction, one that both frees and binds us? Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said that it wasn’t really a sign of strength to endure life in a way that’s too familiar. If you ask me again, I’ll admit in telltale fashion that staying alive really is a goddamn superpower. But it isn’t the kind that’ll push me just a little further into the achy places, nor the kind that will romance the sleeping sensations back to life so I may grow beyond the edges of my former self.
But how hard is that when we don’t have the few vestiges of safety that we’ve squirreled away in our feeble hearts for so long? When that happens to me, I have to somehow re-train my monkey mind to remain calm, sharp, and ready to respond before getting thrown into a lab-rat frenzy, exploding with excessive ideas of outer space or obscure dream conversations. God forbid the shadow seeps out from under my skin, forcing me to do the real work. I hate it when that happens. But if, just if, I care for it the right way, I may end up one step closer to that syrupy goodness still waiting to be unearthed from inside me. From all of us.
I often have to step way back to look at the Big Picture – at least as much as my mind’s eye allows. But if I squint enough, I can also see microscopic patterns hiding in plain sight. Sometimes, when I least suspect, the little switch in my head glitches, and my mind balls itself into an electric tumbleweed, rolling aimlessly with stupid fury. This is especially true when my heart isn’t properly anchored, and more especially when the signals from my leaky gut are murkier than Municipal Tap Water.
In other moments, I find myself unbearably robotic, enslaved to an impossible schedule that my inner maniac deviously crafted like 3 weeks ago. I’ll often find creative ways to get off-track though. Then I ramp up into flow mode, frantically tossing out timelines and formulas far away from my line of sight. My footsteps can then follow my inner child’s treasure map. I become naive and eloquent and playful again. Done any other way and I feel completely trapped, aimless and helpless, a hamsteronaneverendingwheel.
In this particular aspect, my partner is the ultimate sage. She performs pretty much anything she does in a meticulous, painstakingly detailed manner. I’m in awe of how she regards even the most “ordinary” behaviors in such a delicate way…and here I thought I was detail-oriented! She helps me understand what’s really important, and I find myself giving more permission to savor each moment towards whatever madness I’m involved in. It’s much better this way, versus the mindless destructive dash towards the elusive finish line.
She teaches me more about my own corners and edges than the reflection in my favorite mirror. I get to see those blurry limits of who I am, like…How much can I surrender to something bigger and better than myself?, or How much do I still try to control every little detail of a life that’s always one step ahead of my ego’s grasp?
Maybe…. probably….actually, I know for sure it’s telling me that I need to develop more trust. Pfft, whatever. I don’t think my reflection knows I still tremble at the idea of getting exactly what I need and want. Like, what does he know? He’s always been trapped inside by those glossy four corners on the wall. What an imposter.
But if I sit down, shut up, and actually start to notice the little things occurring inside and around me, I begin to remember how the biggest chapters of growth have always come through a slow, painful simmer. And though I treasure the spontaneous outbursts of light as I feverishly scale through the uncharted corners of the darkroom inside my mind, the truth remains blurry until the Polaroid finally develops- after like 127 shakes.
For me, this is the essence of finding Home. Even as I wrote that, I thought, What a weird thing to say! Like, How do I find something that’s always been ‘right there’?
Well, it makes sense when I think about it in the way those silly sayings present them, like “It’s always darkest right under the lamppost” or “It’s hardest to spot what’s on your nose”.
We often think of Home in this mundane sense. We say, “It’s time to go home”, or “Home is where the Heart is”. But, what if our hearts haven’t thawed in years, making us unable to feel or, making us unaware of where we need to be? Does that make us all the prodigal child?
Maybe Home is more than something we’ve carried with us all along, like the over-eager marsupial anxious to be herself again. Maybe Home is something we build each day as we get more and more intimate with its smells, the elaborate pastel wallpaper, the fading paint, the quirky countertops. Maybe Home is Family– the people we barely notice, the ones by our side in our weakest moments, the angels offering nothing but the solace of quiet understanding. Maybe Home is the brief moment God and I are truly together, before my brain wiggles me back into the stark reality of time and space.
One thing I do know: Home is where I want to be. Always. More and more, deeper and warmer and fully nestled. It’s the place where we share the things that make us grin more than we care to admit. It’s the feeling that cannot be weaved, even through the magic of language. The bond that resides in our simplest memories.
And here, on this path, is where I’ll be for the moment, gently walking towards the horizon.