Saturday, February 19, 2011

If You Don't Feel At Home In Your House, You Might Be One Too

My family moved a lot when I was a kid. I lived in eight different places before my eighteenth birthday. Since then, I've moved six more times in five years. Rather than disliking the constant change, I've always loved it, welcoming new environments, neighborhoods, and friends. However, one of the results of frequent change in living situations has been that no physical place feels like "home" anymore.

People are always telling me that they experience a special relief, a sort of comfort or safe feeling, when they arrive "home" after a time of being away. Home for them means the building where they grew up, or at least where they lived for a long period of consecutive years. There are particular smells, sights, sounds of home. The room layout is familiar. The yard hosts a map of well-known bushes and trees. Sometimes even the surrounding area will evoke the same feeling of "home", such as a particular nearby park, favorite walk, or community. Most memories are made and remembered in the house, though. And for good reason... their loved ones, possessions, milestones, and growing experiences are associated with the house. For most people their house is their home because in it are found the things that make them happy. 

But when you move constantly, maybe your mind learns to stop attaching to a physical place. I suppose some people have the opposite reaction where they become overly attached to a place because they are afraid of losing it. At least for me, the feeling of "home" is no longer found in a location. Instead, I experience a sense of home from my family and certain possessions. 

My family is the constant in my life. Anywhere they are gives me the feeling that most people have for "home". Whether I am at their current residence, or mine, or out on the road, or anywhere, if my family is present then I am home.

A more curious realization has been that there are special objects that also give me a small sense of security usually evoked by "home". They seem to be things that have been with me a long time, travel with me no matter where I move, and are a part of good memories. Here's a list of some of these things:

- A pair of black Converse shoes (currently falling apart).

- A leather journal I've had since I was fourteen.

- A small leather-bound Bible, given at high-school graduation.

- Some of my sister's artwork that she framed for me.

- My two guitars.

- Certain articles of clothing, mostly seasonal, like favorite t-shirts, a skirt, a scarf, a hat, or a coat.

- A thick plaid blanket given by a neighbor when I was ten.

- The Celtic necklace I always wear.

- My wedding ring and claddagh ring.

You could probably take most of my possessions away, as long as I had the things on this list and a few essentials (like hygiene and cooking necessaries). Yeah, I'd really miss my book collection, and the accumulation of yarn that provides hours of knitting, but the main items above are the important ones. I'm not so attached to them that I would be devastated if they were gone but it would definitely be a blow to my sense of stability. I think that this is a downfall. I don't want to be so clingy to "things". As these possessions wear out, it will be good for me to see them go, because nothing is permanent here on this earth. 

In one sense, I feel free. I'm not tied down to any particular place because of attachment there. My family is all I need to be "home", and the few special possessions help create that sense of home wherever I am. However, I'm not going to move about constantly because I do have a stable job (the vocation of my dreams), so that is a good reason to stay in one area! It feels good to move every few years, though, to experience the thrill of change. Every once in a while I'll feel The Itch that means it's time to go somewhere new; if I don't move to a new residence, I try to travel. 

There is continuity in my life right now more than ever. A stable church, a stable family, a wonderful husband, a secure source of income, and a network of friends keep me occupied and down to earth. When I ask myself what will be important to me on my deathbed, then answer is always that memories and people will be vastly superior to places and things. But there is always The Itch inside that simmers gently. When it rises up, I know that the side of me that yearns for the new ways of seeing, the unexplored, the vast world, will enter the scene again. 

I am a Traveler.

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