I was watching a Ted Talk the other day by Pico Iyer entitled Where is home? The theme of the lecture was what really defines what we call home, and can have more than one home? And, that got me thinking…
For me, my home has never been made of brick and mortar. It’s not a place where I keep my things, or even where I sleep. My home is a place where I have an intense sense of belonging, and that feeling of belonging is nurtured in self-acceptance and an intangible essence that I can feel comfortable in my skin in this place. Talk to anyone in a 12-step program for addiction and (s)he will tell you that running away from your problems by relocating your place of living, known amongst addicts as a geographical cure, is doomed to failure. The first thing you discover in your new place is that you packed your “old self” with you. The writer Marcel Proust expressed this a little more eloquently when he said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
As an ESL teacher in Toronto, arguably one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, I see first hand the struggles that newcomers have adjusting to their new environment. If you ask these people what their home is, they overwhelmingly identify it as they place they have come from, fled from, or escaped from. I think that fact illustrates the sense of “belonging” that I equate with home. It would be interesting to note what their responses would be to the same question three or four years down the road, hopefully after they and their families have integrated into the new culture.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown cites some shocking statistics regarding American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. For these soldiers, “coming home is more lethal than being in combat. From the invasion of Afghanistan to the summer of 2009, the US military lost 791 soldiers in combat in that country. Compare that to the 817 who took their own lives over the same period.” I was absolutely astonished when I came across this. I don’t think we can overstate the importance of feeling integrated, self-worthy, and accepted in our community.
So, if my home is not composed of a physical structure, be it a house, apartment, or condo, what is it? I live in many homes simultaneously. When I’m sitting with my wife, son, and my new daughter-in-law, I’m definitely home, and it doesn’t matter where we are. When I meet up with my running buddies for a long run or sit down with them for a coffee, I’m in a different home. The moment I walk into an AA meeting as take a seat amongst other men and women struggling with their addiction, I feel a sense of inner peace and spiritual calm that lets me know I am indeed at home. Most recently I have been working through some issues related to childhood sexual abuse, and the first time I opened up to other members of my group about the shame that I had been lugging around for 35 years, I saw empathy in their eyes and a feeling of benign acceptance; there was no denying, I was home.
Today I feel grateful that my home does not consist of something that can be taken away from me in a natural disaster or financial downturn. My homes lie inside me where they are constructed of family, love, belonging, passion, and honesty. Where do you call home?