Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017 - Home, Sweet Home

The desire for home is deep-seated within each of us.  There’s not one of us who would say that he does not hold a special place in his heart for home, but there are many who do not have a “home” anymore.  Perhaps they never had it, or perhaps they have been away for so very long that they cannot remember it.  The desire is still there, though—the longing, the searching, the secret tears.  But for many, the satisfaction is always just out of reach.

Home, sweet home.

There’s nothing worse than sitting in your own home and feeling homesick.  This can happen if you have forgotten what “home” truly is.  While a home is the four walls around you, it is also much, much more.  Four walls can surround anything from a home, to a school, to a prison, etc.  No, home is not just four walls, although it does include them.

Home is a “feeling.”  Home is where you feel safe, where you feel comfortable, where you feel wanted.  Home is where you can set down the outer mask and be yourself and just breathe.  Home is flavored with your unique personality.  Home is where you don’t worry about judgment, and you don’t have to try to fit in.  It’s where you belong, where you can relax, where you can stop pretending for five minutes.  Home is where you keep your memories, where the past still lingers in corners and old chest drawers.  Most importantly, though, home is where you simply live—not survive, but live.

And yet so many people these days are bereft of home.  They wander around without an anchor, floating this way and that.  You can see it in their eyes.  Something is missing.  You can see it in their actions.  They are always searching for the next thing to do, the next place to go, the next item to buy because maybe, just maybe, they think they might find a moment’s comfort.  And perhaps they do—just a moment.  Then the eternal search begins again.  Watch them.  Watch their eyes.

But how is this possible?  How can so many people be without a home?  Oh, they might have wonderful houses or apartments to go to after work.  Perhaps they are large and lavishly furnished, or perhaps at the very least they are functional, but they are not “home.”  These houses and apartments are places where they sometimes sleep and sit if they have nothing else to do.  But they are not home.  At best, they are four walls that provide temporary privacy.

How did it happen?  Bit by bit, and yes, it was done purposely.  I could get into a million reasons why, one of which is that people without a firm foundation, without that solid anchor we call “home,” have nothing worth fighting for, worth living for, or worth preserving for the next generation.  As such, they’re easy to manipulate and don’t give much trouble when demands are made, no matter how outrageous, and of course, they’re great consumers.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Back to “home.”  You’ll recall the story of Hansel and Gretel?  They were led into the forest to die by their own father and mother (later versions say father and stepmother) who could not afford to care for them anymore.  But the children learned of the plan and Hansel left a trail of pebbles as they walked into the forest, which they then followed back home.  A second time they were led into the forest by their parents.  This time Hansel only had bread, so he left a trail of breadcrumbs, which were quickly eaten by birds.

Hansel and Gretel wandered in misery and hunger for a long time until they found a house made of delicious confections, which they began to eat.  It belonged to a witch who lured them inside with promises, imprisoned Hansel, and enslaved Gretel.  The witch’s goal was to eat them both, but they outsmarted her.  Gretel pushed her into the hot oven meant for the children, and they burned the witch.  Then they escaped with the witch’s jewels and went back home to learn their mother had died and their father had bitterly lamented the loss of his children.  They lived happily ever after with the witch’s wealth.

You know, at some point we all leave our parents’ home and strike out on our own.  It’s a natural and normal thing to do.  Most of us miss our homes dearly, and some of us then spend a good amount of time building our own version of home.  We do this for ourselves and our own children or children-to-be.  At least, that’s what people used to do.  Now it seems like many people find an apartment or house, but they do not build a home.  There’s a big difference.

And why is that?  Some may not have had a strong version of “home” with their parents.  Some may have been too busy with their electronics to look up and identify what home actually is in the first place.  Some may have been caught up in consumerism along with their parents.  There are many reasons why many people walk around today without a home, yet still they long for that feeling of home, just as everyone does.

Were you clever enough to leave a trail of pebbles so you could find your way back home?  If so, you’re among the lucky.  It means you didn’t burn all of your bridges.  It means you recognize the value of home—something which cannot be bought at any price.  It means you have come to a point in your life where you choose order over chaos.  Good for you.  Follow those pebbles home.  Now.

But what if all you had was breadcrumbs, like Hansel had the second time they went into the forest, and the birds have long since eaten them?  How will you get back home then?  You have no trail to follow, and if you keep going further into the woods, you will definitely find that house made of confection (if you haven’t already).  Do you think you’ll be lucky enough to shove the witch into the oven, or do you think that you might end up in the oven yourself?  I’ll give you a hint:  Most people end up in the oven.

No.  You’ve got to go back home, and if there’s no trail, then you’ve got to re-create home step by step.

First thing’s first:  STOP whatever you are doing.  Do not keep going into the darkness or you will surely find the witch.  Rest assured she knows you’re there and she’s waiting for you.  Don’t even give her half a chance to enslave you, because she’ll take it.  Stop where you are now, sit down, and breathe.  Don’t bother blaming anyone for your predicament, including yourself.  If this is where you are—without a home—this is where you are.  Deal with the here and now.

Next, understand what home is.  It is everything I said above and more:  safety, comfort, belonging, nonjudgment, relaxation, memories, etc.  But understand this:  You don’t just create it on a whim.  You build it, and building it takes work.  But what about the relaxation, you ask?  Yes, that comes after the work, which you must do daily.

Are you waking up in a place that is cluttered and dusty and dirty, with old laundry lying about and filthy dishes in the sink?  If so, you are waking up in a pad where you crashed the night before.  That might be okay temporarily for a college student, but it’s certainly not a home.  That’s not a place where precious memories are created and stored.  That’s not a place from which you draw strength.  That’s a place you want to get away from as soon as possible.

Do you want some pebbles to follow instead of some breadcrumbs?  Here are a few:

1.  Clean everything up.  Everything.  And keep it clean.  Every day, you must clean a little.  Every week, you must clean a lot.

2.  Throw out or give away anything you haven’t used in a year.  Get rid of the clutter in your surroundings, and you miraculously unclutter your mind in the process.

3.  Stock your clean cupboards and clean fridge with wholesome foods, and then cook them and eat them.  And share them.

4.  Fix and repair the small things that are broken, the squeaky door hinge, the hole in the curtain, the blown out lightbulb, etc.

5.  Get the laundry off the floor, wash it, dry it, and put it away.

6.  Get rid of the cobwebs.

7.  Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and put your phone away every day for at least a couple of hours.

8.  Add beauty and ambience, small decorations and things that make you smile.  Secondhand items are perfectly fine and often desirable.

9.  Add romance.  Yes—romance.  Make things with your own hands, no matter how humble, and enhance your surroundings with what you have made yourself.

None of this has to cost very much money at all.  In fact, it often costs a lot more money to be a slob.  Takeout food and takeout coffee can add up fast.

“Home” doesn’t just occur by accident.  It’s not something you stumble on to incidentally.  It’s something you make and something you continually maintain.  Home means work.  That’s right.  Yes, there’s relaxation, too, but you have to earn that.  You don’t get it until you work for it.  Home means responsibility and daily chores.  It just does.  If you don’t do these things, you lose your “home.”

No one wants memories full of dirt, clutter, disarray, and confusion.  You can’t sustain yourself through life’s difficulties—the witch who wants to destroy you—on a head full of junk.  You can’t survive and thrive on laziness and petulant, entitled boredom.  Even if you have a ton of money and you can afford to pay for someone else to make your living quarters clean and respectable, the witch will get you in the end because you have a head full of money instead of a heart full of memories, and you’re still lost in the forest—even if your shoes are nice.

The only way to get those memories is to work for them, to strive for them, to make terrible mistakes sometimes and laugh at yourself and keep going.  The only way to build a home and make memories and have that feeling of belonging is to do it step by step.  You earn it, and when you earn it you know it’s yours and no one can take it away from you.

Then you will know “Home, Sweet Home” in your heart:  Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.  (John Howard Payne)

That’s what home is.  Then you have the right to say:  This is me.  This is mine.  This is my territory, no matter how humble.  I built this.  I made this.  I strived for this.  I worked so hard and I’m so proud of myself.  This is where I can be myself.  I earned this place.  I earned each one of these precious memories that make me smile so much.  This is where I create peace.  This is where I share beauty.  This is where I make order out of chaos.  This is where I stand.

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