© November 29, 2005/ Revised November 2013 – Melissa (Missy) Bradley-Ball. The last teaching tour of the year is upon me and with it the approaching holidays. With Christmas trees in every corner and holiday music playing everywhere I go, leaving family gets more and more difficult. The lyrics: “there’s no place like home for the holidays” really speak to me today.
But what exactly is “home?” It is sometimes said that home is where the heart is, so is “home” a place or an emotion? Is it a structure or maybe a state of being? Is it a place you must touch after running the bases? Is it more than a button on our devises? As the question of what actually is “home” is pondered, I am reminded of the many times I felt a sense of being “home” and also the feeling of “homeless.”
As a road warrior with another year of new health challenges, home is the best medicine when my body is preparing for more surgery. Nothing compares to holing up in bed, with several comforters: a four-decade old “wooby,” a 16 year old cat called “Da Meow” sleeping on my chest, seven down pillows, my favorite cashmere socks, a television remote, a stack of unread but not yet highlighted books, Jasmine hot-tea and my head resting on my husband’s chest. Everything is safe, comfortable and familiar
Home can be the feeling you have when you are with special people, regardless of where you may be. I immediately feel like I am home when I am with my life long best friend, Jenny, and her husband. Whether it’s been hours or months since we’ve seen one another, we pick up as if no time has passed. She knows me better than anyone on the planet and still seems to love me. I am fortunate to have several people who feel like home to me. So, is “home” about unconditional love?
In the story The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, who has been disillusioned, finally sees the importance of home and desperately wants to return there. Glenda the Good Witch has her repeat the phrase, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.” So what was it about her disillusionment that shifted her desire to return? What did she learn?
I learned a lot about disillusionment and home while previously married for more two decades. Although I wasn’t particularly young when I married, I was unprepared to understand the hard work, commitment and the essential cooperation it takes to have a conscious marriage. The fairy tales and romantic fiction (fiction being the key word here) we are all weaned on don’t particularly prepare us for the reality of a life-long committed relationship. After all, people typically don’t believe the euphoria will eventually end (leaving space for true committed and conscious love) because the chemicals surging through our brains during the early days – literally – dissipate. Even in a healthy relationship there can be times of disconnection and insecurity. If truth were told about relationships, would it be believed? I guess fairy tales wouldn’t be fairy tales if they told the rest of the story in the introduction. When I began my own conscious journey of healing in the mid-80’s after many devastating losses and transitions, my first therapist responded to my comment “I want to run away” with, “You know, no matter where you go, there you are.” It sounded like the dumbest statement anyone had ever uttered. It took many, many years to even begin to realize the meaning of his statement. I once thought I knew for sure. Now, with the certainty that it is an ever changing lesson, I find the meaning deepening with each passing year. I still have times I wanna run away (often after a 100 hour work week and flights on Delta, I playfully say, “I wanna run away to Scotland to tend sheep and be a bar maid with my husband, cat and best friends”).
Several years after beginning the healing journey, I began to learn the power of speaking my uncensored yet compassionate truth – about vulnerable feelings about others, my beliefs and the blessings and pain of life. Although extraordinarily scary at the time, being true to self, allowed an increased ability to connect with others. Anytime we aren’t connected to self, we lack the presence to be in relationship with others. There have been opportunities to relearn that lesson.
Sometimes we lose our sense of “home” when loved ones or relationships die. The transition of loss can be one of life’s most challenging and excruciating experiences because we have to grapple with a sense of “homelessness.” We experience the illusion of disconnection, although I personally believe we remain connected, although differently, to even those no longer “alive” through beautiful memories and the imprints they have left in our hearts. If the relationship was one full of turmoil, there can still be internal repair after that loss. Eventually we can find ways of remembering and understanding that may bring peace or a new connection.
When grieving the loss of my father (my first parent to die), my first home and first career, I didn’t, yet, have a spiritual home. Ironically, having been a church staff member for many years, that religious job did not necessarily mean a spiritual life. Being paid church staff doesn’t assure a spiritual life. In fact, a paid church job can be quite challenging to trying to live a spiritual life. As the saying goes, “if you like sausage, never watch it being made” can also apply to religion. Watching the inner workings of some churches, blow a hole in the idea of Nirvana. Church staffs are rarely any different than secular businesses when it comes to petty bickering, power struggles and politics. No one is immune to having to practice the process of love and Good Will Toward All Mankind. During my grief and I felt utterly alone – fatherless and unmoored, uncertain how to support my mother. I woke one Sunday morning with the certainty I would literally lose my mind if I didn’t find a church service to attend that particular day. Having quit my church job a few months before, I chose a place I had never attended and didn’t have the responsibility of “leadership.” I experienced – for the first time in a sanctuary – total love, acceptance and connection. While sitting through both services that day, I sobbed out of relief, finally feeling tethered to something. That experience was repeated every Sunday for many months. I felt connected to a Higher Power – or perhaps it was the first time I was finally present to God. I had surrendered everything and I had discovered my spiritual home. Later, there was the discovery that a spiritual home realizing it wasn’t a building, nor the group of people there. My spiritual home is really where the heart is and if God remains in my heart, then no person or institution can take that away. That’s another lesson that has occasionally had to be relearned .The feeling of home has occurred while teaching something where a true passion has been felt through speaking from truth and knowledge. So is home about knowledge and true. I have felt deeply at home with music. While singing a beautiful piece of music with a symphony chorale, music resonates through every cell of my being and everyone in the group is connected with one another. We breathe at the same time, we listen intently to be in tune, and while singing five meaningful words we crescendo and decrescendo together. Making music together is one of the ultimate experiences of connection and why music can be so healing for humanity.
After all this pondering, I believe that home is all about heart connections. A house doesn’t become a home unless there’s an emotional connection and love present. I know many who have huge and very fine houses, but the owners seem more emotionally “homeless” than the souls we often see living under a bridge. As human beings, we crave connection, sometimes no matter what form. Connection and belonging is a primal and essential need. In our culture, the need to connect to something is often so strong, we use anything to soothe the feeling of lack of connection…no matter how much it may dishonor our lives, our bodies or others. Without connection to our own heart and soul – first – the other connections may not last.
Making a true connection to self, to others, to our body, to our own truth, to the Universe, God, Nature or a Higher Power is essential to our well being. As a psychotherapist I see that the most pain in life is when people experience utter disconnectedness or a sense of not belonging. One of my two favorite authors, Poet, Philosopher & Priest John O’Donohue stated in his book, Eternal Echos :
“Perhaps your hunger to belong is always active and intense because you belonged so totally before you came here. This hunger to belong is the echo and reverberation of your invisible heritage. You are from somewhere else, where you were known, embraced and sheltered. This is also the secret root from which all longing grows. Something in you knows, perhaps remembers, that eternal belonging liberates longing into its surest and most potent creativity. This is why your longing is often wiser than your conventional sense of appropriateness, safety and truth… Your longing desires to take you towards the absolute realization of all the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart; it knows your eternal potential, and it will not rest until it is awakened.”
As we come close to the holidays, I sincerely wish you a holiday season of remembering and making new memories and that you truly will be “home” in your heart for the holidays.