I live three blocks from the house where I was born. But.

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.

10 thoughts on “I live three blocks from the house where I was born. But.”

  1. I’ve lived away from my “home” for so long, that I realized it’s futile for me to continue longing for a place I know I will never go back to. Ironically, by choice. And so I made where I am now my home, and the friends I met over the years, my family. And it is through these efforts that it’s been a long time since I felt the pang of homesickness – something that was once so palpable and so sad to me. Now, with my new family, the little place we’ve carved out for ourselves in the neighborhood and my friends, I am home.

  2. You are absolutely right – and your story is an inspiration.
    Thank you for this thoughtful comment!

  3. You pose a great question. Home. Hmmmm. I, too, have lived all over the country. Maine, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and New Jersey. They all have given a bit of themselves to me and I’ve wrapped each of them into my sense of self.

    My home alters, shifts and moves, just as you describe life. “…life is both cyclical and linear, moving forward and always, somehow, looping back”.

    Right now home is my fleece, flannel pjs, happy sounds of my children playing, the tranquil click of the heat warming my office and my rockin’ new Liberty of London lamp shade.

  4. It’s interesting what you say about friends of the heart. A woman who commented on my blog recently spoke about “heart friends,” which she defined as those friends you don’t see every day or talk to all too often, but the kind that know you in your heart, the kind we can pick up with after months as if no time has passed. I have those kind of friends, so I’m searching for the go-to “drive me to the airport” kind, but it’s clear to me that they are both equally important. They serve very different, but equally necessary, functions. I think without either type of friend I’d feel incomplete (or DO feel incomplete). But those moments, like you speak of, when we are with our “heart friends”, sharing a space with them, those are the best moments of all.

  5. I live across the street from my childhood home (and my parent’s home). I am so happy to be near them but I often feel embarassed and judged when I tell people that I commute an hour to the city for work, and live in the suburbs. I think that if I worried less about what others thought and more about what makes me happy such as my home and my family, I’d have (more) inner peace!

  6. Love this post. And having haled from your neck of the woods, lived in multiple cities in the US, and overseas, and now in another part of the country, I certainly understand the sense of cycling and looping through one’s tracks.

    I’m not sure there’s a “home” for me anywhere. But as I’ve gotten older, that’s been easier to accept. Even to see – perhaps – as a positive. Inner home or geographic home.

    One note, my friend. At your age – I’m not sure I’d use the term “midlife.” 30-something isn’t midlife. Nor is 40. You have a few years yet, believe me.


  7. I too think of home as a combination of where we are and whom we are with. I am glad that both your place and your people feel like home to you.

    As for me, I’ve got some of the people. The place? Not so much. But I’m working on it.

  8. I never felt at home where I grew up (in Chicago), while I immediately felt at home in New York… as if I’d lived there for years the day I moved into my tiny studio apartment on Thompson Street.

    With no sense of direction in most places, In Paris I always seemed to know exactly where I was.

    In St. Remy I felt like I ought to live there, a place I could write and think… I fell in love with the feeling of the place.

    In my yard and my neighborhood in a micro-climate of specificity in Los Angeles I find the feeling of Provence—rosemary, lavender, praying mantises… like a cloister in my mind that I dreamed of long before it appeared before my actual eyes.

    Still, it doesn’t feel like home the way I had wished home felt in childhood, more like a nice hotel where you’re staying long enough to unpack, but don’t kid yourself that you’ll be living there forever.

    But soul friends, Anam Cara as John O’Donohue calls them, they root me from within my house across the country from Seattle to New York and Atlanta with tendrils falling across Europe and Hong Kong… and those new sorts of connections forming in the authenticity of this vast space.

    I’ve gone on a bit, sorry… your post inspired me to write, which is my personal benchmark of the writing I love most.

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