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“You are home,” my mother softly said.
I was sitting beside her on the brown corduroy sofa in our family room. We sat beneath a picture she’d painted of a large, orange sun. I was around three years old, weepy, and desperate to go home.
As early as I can remember, I’ve always expressed a desire to be “home.” It never mattered if I was sitting in my own bedroom, eating in our family kitchen, or if I was at a party having the most wonderful time.
From out of the blue, I’d feel a pang in my chest accompanied by a sensation of sadness, a longing for home.
This wasn’t something I tucked away inside either. I was pretty vocal about the sensation I felt, even as I grew older. I’d declare it at work over lunch, on evenings out with friends, and sometimes while held in the arms of the ones I’ve loved.
Most of the time, the people I shared this homesick feeling with responded in kind. They wished to go home too—especially my work colleagues. They ached for a safe space, time for themselves, a physical destination, a compatible partner, or the perfect job. Our definitions of home may have differed, but our shared wanting for warmth, ease, and a sacred residence within ourselves felt universal.
In a child development lecture during my undergraduate studies, my psychology professor shared a photograph of himself cradling his infant son within his arms. He recounted a story of his son, four years old at the time, clutching the baby picture and terribly distraught. This scenario played out over many months in their home.
The professor explained, “My son misses being little and being held like this in my arms.” He went on to say that during this developmental stage, these sentiments are natural. Although, many witness the toddler’s emotions as alarming and negative instead.
The toddler, psychologists believe, is learning to separate and individuate from their caregivers at this time. They’re recognizing themselves as individuals and mourn the loss of this connection.
Yet, parents, teachers, and caregivers have difficulty understanding that the once happy-go-lucky toddler is now what they call “depressed.” As a consequence, the child experiences these feelings as threatening or undesirable and will suppress them.
We learned that feeling nostalgic and having waves of sadness are appropriate during this period, and throughout our lives, particularly during transitions. Allowing ourselves to have these feelings and processing them without fear or labeling them as “bad” is essential for our emotional growth.
Many spiritual teachers say that in addition to the toddler grieving their early physical and emotional attachments, the process of forgetting the spiritual realm has begun—our true home. This step is necessary for our spiritual advancement. Nevertheless, we grieve the union to the benevolent universe and long to easily recall our origin.
Those initial days of symbiosis with the universe, as well as with the parent, are deeply missed on a subconscious level, even as we age.
Sometimes there’s a void that lives within us, especially if we don’t feel entitled to our grief. Some may feel perpetually unfulfilled and lonely as if something is missing from their lives. Others may become challenged around relationships, endings, and changes.
And so, we seek to fill our holes, rather than be with what it is: our loss.
In a touching scene from the the film, “Almost Famous,” the main character (William) insists on going home. For him, home is the place where he can get work done and meet his deadlines. Penny Lane, another main character within the film, comforts him. She tells him, “You are home.” Penny encourages him to embrace the home she has found on the road—within the music, the company of friends, and the indulgences of life.
These two interpretations of home and their conflicting natures speak to many of us. They’re representative of the places and things we typically believe bring us home. Eventually, though, the characters realize that home isn’t found in any physical form—personal achievements or our earthly pleasures.
We can search far and wide for answers to our yearnings or for someone or something that will represent home. But the more we look, the more we see that home isn’t something given to us.
Home is cultivated from the inside out, by ourselves and for ourselves.
Home is where we have always known it to be, yet tend to forget—where our heart resides. Once we begin to live life with a full, open heart, we can come home—again and again.
These four reminders help me to be at home within myself:
1. We can ask ourselves (regularly), “What makes my heart skip a beat?” By doing so, we hone in on what moves us, shakes us, and touches us to the core. We can connect to the energy we radiate out from our hearts from these inspirations. (I like to think of puppies, dogs, and babies when I wake in the morning, as it brings me right into my heart center.)
2. We can notice when we are overdoing an activity: overindulging, overworking, overeating. This we can recognize as a form of seeking oneness. Rather than becoming caught in a loop of insatiability, we can experience our disappointments and allow our feelings to be felt. As my spiritual teachers says, “We must feel it to heal it.”
3. A good cry is the body’s way of dealing with an overwhelm of emotions. Tears help sad feelings move through us. When my son was little, he would cry in his crib several times a night—long and hard. I would run into his room all night, holding and rocking him. I told this to his pediatrician, and after she knew he wasn’t hungry or soiled, she said, “Let him cry it out.”
I remember thinking this was cruel advice. But, one night, out of sheer exhaustion, I didn’t get up immediately. By the time I arrived to console him, he was sound asleep. His little body breathed in and out deeply, comforting his restlessness. We can allow our bodies to process our hurt and discomfort.
4. We can make room in our hearts for ourselves. Many of us know how to hold space and console others, but we don’t do the same for ourselves. We can quiet our inner critic and treat ourselves like someone we love. We can place our hands on our hearts, speak kindly to ourselves, and dwell in our own love.