The house my parents lived in when I was born is three blocks from where I live now. Literally. And my parents live 1.2 miles from us. People always hear this, and think: wow, you really haven’t gone very far, have you? The truth is, I lived in Paris for four years, London for four years (one of which I spent in the US at boarding school while my family remained in England), and New Jersey for four glorious years of no-self-serve gas stations. I’ve been away. I’ve been far, far away, many times, and I am back. I’ve come home.
This tension seems to be at the root of much of my sense of myself. Multiple layers of meaning emerge: first, the discrepancy between what appears and what is, second, the way that life is both cyclical and linear, moving forward and always, somehow, looping back, and finally, the way that I am now, in midlife, understanding home in a new way.
The treacherous gulf between surface and reality
An old theme I’ve come back to again and again. The importance of asking questions, of waiting to judge someone until we really listen to their truth. Everyone has something to say, and very often their external identifiers do not tell the whole story. I was talking to a friend today who was beating herself up for being sad about things when everything in her life was so good. I related, of course, and shared my view that as long as we retain perspective about our troubles (vis a vis those of people in true calamity, for example) I think that both honoring and exploring our own sadness is healthy.
Cyclical and linear
This is interesting to me particularly in light of my recent thinking about the lockstep march forward of time, which I always envision in a very linear, straight-line way. I contrast that with a very real sensation of cycles, and circles, of life beating in my body and my heart in a decided nonlinear and non-straight-line way. I can close my eyes and see my handsome, smiling father at his 40th birthday, standing in our back yard next to the windsurfer that my mother gave him. Salient, potent memories like these contradict the intensely forward-moving, loss-invoking image of time that often saddens me in a way that I find both confusing and hopeful.
On Friday night, at dinner, I watched my two friends’ faces in the candlelight, animated and happy, so familiar and so dear. It is extraordinary to me that we have known each other 18 years now – half of our lives! I can toggle back and see K over the table at YY Doodles with a bottle of Great White and the other K at an arch sing, bobbing her head, singing her heart out. I can see those faces like it was yesterday, and those memories and many ones from the intervening years all collapse into the single moment of now, imbuing it with richness and also loss. With these women, I am home. I also got an email today from another friend from college, writing about how she feels like there is right now “so much and so little” at the same time, in so many ways. I immediately understood what she meant, and told her so. Friends like this sustain me. I don’t want drama in this life of mine. What I really, truly ache for are these friends of my heart, whose steady, compassionate presence warms my days. There are a handful of friends like this (some of whom are my family), whose lives thrum alongside mine in a visceral, reassuring way. They are companions for the journey, no matter what. And this, I’m realizing, is home.