Let’s Go Home
–Rumi, from Open Secret
Late and starting to rain, it’s time to go home
We’ve wandered long enough in empty buildings
I know it’s tempting to stay and meet those new people.
I know it’s even more sensible
To spend the night here with them,
But I want to be home.
We’ve seen enough beautiful places with signs on them
Saying This is God’s House.
That’s seeing the grain like the ants do
Without the work of harvesting.
Let’s leave grazing to cows and go
Where we know what everyone really intends
Where we can walk around without clothes on.
I had an epiphany over the weekend. It’s been two weeks since I returned from the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) annual conference in The Hague. I’ve been busy following up and following through, connecting, getting organized, processing my notes, but not taking time to be still, to be quiet. Sometimes going deep can be disruptive. If still waters run deep then deep diving swirls the sludge around; and what was lodged and decaying starts surfacing: There you are doing the backstroke, eyes closed, sun on your face, when BAM you run right into that shit!
All this talk of tribe, belonging and home began to rattle like that indefinable sound from the back of the car that makes you check the rear-view mirror over and over and over again. What IS that noise???
I am a Third Culture Adult (TCA), but I was never a Third Culture Kid (TCK). And yet… I attended five different elementary schools in two different states, two middle schools, and three universities. I lived in six different dwellings before 7th grade. I’ve moved from coast to coast seven times, bouncing back and forth from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast and Northeast of the United States.
Eleven more dwellings before grad school finished. This was my life BEFORE I left my passport country for love. Through all this, I found my home in my people. My tribe. Wherever I went, there was always one person with whom I felt myself. That was really all I needed to feel grounded and at home.
Having been a part of four different blended families up until now, I have had opportunities to adapt, to try to fit in, and to feel like an obstacle rather than a part. Being on the outside has felt normal for as long as I can remember: not comfortable, but normal. I often feel awkward, introverted, and different though it doesn’t always show. I have a difficult time being inauthentic, so social niceties, small talk and banter about the weather is an added challenge. For me, the challenge is in staying. Leaning into the discomfort. BUT, I do it.
What IS that noise??? I think, as I pull weeds, mow, rake the dead away. It’s spring and we are preparing our home and land to be rented to an expat family for their spring vacation. It is my home, but we don’t live here anymore. The time I spend here now is to create someone else’s perfect retreat.
My husband can still describe the moment I knew this place was already my home. A year and a half later, after fighting the disapproval of his parents, we bought it, colored the white walls, put in a dog pen, brought home our two Bassets (a wedding present from his friends), took in an abandoned kitten and settled in. Our family seemed complete. We were light and hopeful DINKs (double income no kids). But, after several years, my husband’s work pulled us north, too far to commute. I was eight months pregnant and we took the first apartment that would accept our crew of pets: Kurtatsch, a town where Italian-speakers made up 2% of the population. We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t speak German.
We left our house and land, as is, bought a bunch of IKEA furniture and began nesting for the next phase of our family. That was eight years ago. We drive back and forth on weekends and holidays. We maintain our friendships there, while we live on the outskirts of this little South Tyrolean village and participate in local activities. It is beautiful and the people are kind, practical, and solid. I love it, but I feel fractured. I feel fatigued living in between these two worlds (not to mention the world I left behind in my passport country). I want to go deeper, but I’m always leaving.
What IS that noise??? Pull, pull, rake, rake, rake. Sun, cherry blossoms, overalls. Tribes, belonging, connecting, identity, fractured, torn, pulled, trailing, following, stuck: swirling from the depths. “Stay on the surface,’ I tell myself. ‘Backstroke, remember??? Sun on the face? Sound of your own breath? ” I think about how I’d found home in the people I loved and how from the moment I met my husband, I knew he was my home. I uncover this old love poem referencing the time difference we played with during our four years of courting across the Atlantic:
Eye to eye
Heart to heart
If loving truly is an art,
Use my brush, my voice, my ink
To paint me, to sing me, to draw me to sleep.
When all the nights become one
When the dawn meets the setting sun
I’ll wake inside you, warm and light,
I’ll make my home in your sweet night.
—written in Philadelphia from Waking Dreams (2000ish)
But, WHAT IS THAT NOISE??? I haven’t been feeling anchored lately. Little things tip me over. My relationships feel fragile. I feel marginalized and left out, but I stuff it. Is there an equivalent to “compassion fatigue” for expats….is there “outsider fatigue”? I try to explain to my husband what it is like to live for years in a state of perseverance, how much energy it takes to stay…and leave. I feel fractured and unsettled. Let’s leave grazing to the cows and go where we know what everyone really intends, says Rumi. I want to be home. The land grounds me. Dig, dig, dig. Trim the lavender. Even when I am alone, here, I belong.
My home changes with the seasons, the weather, with the people who live in it, love it and leave their creative marks. It changes with the death of neighbors and birth of children, with the animals that inhabit it. And what of people? People change like houses. If we find a home in someone else where will we live when they change?
I put the garden gloves away and the noise stops. My epifania. I feel lighter as my energy shifts to a higher frequency. There are other ways of staying, then not leaving. Belonging doesn’t always have to do with people. There is always an Earth below our feet and the sun, moon, and stars overhead. Let’s…. go where we can walk around without clothes on, says Rumi. It’s time to go home.