I just fetched a friend from a residential community in the North of Scotland. In the main hall, there was a group of much older people engaged in a heated conversation. I walked past them and overheard them talking passionately about the idea of home. I listened to their theories and views while slowly making myself a cup of tea.
It reminded me of when I heard a group of elderly ladies talking about weight and diets at a coffee shop in Cape Town once.
Both times elicited the same response, “Am I really still going to be talking about this when I’m older?”
I have always loved listening to ideas about what home means in the same way I have about what love means, but it was difficult to accept that the question of what home means was going to have power over so much of my life. I wanted some kind of answer so I could be free for a new question.
There have been so many beautiful versions of ‘an answer’ collected over the years. To name a few:
Home isn’t a place, it’s people.
Home is where you feel safe.
Home is where your heart is.
Home is family.
Home is anywhere you are happy.
Home is where you put your mask down.
Home is inside us.
We are our own homes.
Home is where we belong.
Home is where love is.
The list goes on — with safety, love, belonging, peace and comfort being the main themes.
Everyone I ask, says something slightly different. There are those of us who feel terrified to be in our own houses, but are at home with strangers. Those of us with our own beautiful place to live, but who don’t feel at home anywhere. Those of us who are home wherever we are, but always lost. Those who have grown up in the same family house — and so that is home. Those who have moved around the world and so everywhere and nowhere is home. Those who are at home with ourselves, home with others, home when traveling, home when at home, home when there is change, home when there is stability.
With so much change, globally, technologically, politically — this question of finding home keeps breathing in me.
In my next yoga class, I became really dizzy after many sleepless nights.. I could barely follow the simple breathing instructions, let alone any of the actual poses. After 10 minutes of a gentle warm up, I fell over while simply standing up. I left to get my balance and find sugar. I made it to the bathroom, but couldn’t stand up. I started sobbing in the bathroom from pure exhaustion and disorientation. For a moment, amidst it all, I heard this voice in my head quietly saying, “I want to go home, I want to go home”.
Then everything was quiet for a while.
My flat is a 10 minute walk away and while I completely love, I knew that it wasn’t it. All of my childhood homes were moved out of over a decade ago so it wasn’t those either. I’d just seen my mom and dad, both of who are in new places, so it wasn’t them or where they live. My brother is far away with his wife and son, and so I knew it wasn’t him. So I watched myself, sobbing from my gut, wanting something that doesn’t exist.
What is that place? And where? And who? And what or who am I calling for? I may as well be calling out for Bradley, and for people to ask “Who’s Bradley” and for me to say, “I don’t know”.
Was I looking for something outside of myself or inside of myself? Was it someone or something I knew, or someone or something I was hoping for?
I headed ‘home’, to the place I live.
I turned to Google to know what others were thinking and saying. It was an endless search, there are uncountable articles, theories, quotes, questions, films. There was so much, and yet it didn’t bring me any closer to the voice going away. The closest I got to home that day was watching Friends on repeat until I fell asleep, some kind of comfort food for my mind.
The next day, I looked up the simplest definition and got this, “noun: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”
So there it was, home as just a word, a place, a thing. So uncomplicated and so overwhelmingly unsatisfying.
It’s like the word love. The definition of love is “a strong feeling of affection”, as if love can be so limited. At least love is defined as a feeling, not a thing — and at least feelings are known to be unlimited. Love is not a thing, but nor is home. Love is a feeling. Perhaps home is too. This idea is on that extended list of ideas. If I could feel love in any moment, could I feel home in the same way? Are they related? Are they the same?
Love, I thought, is also a verb. I can love love. I can love home.
I kept scrolling down reading definition after definition until I saw something at the very bottom… and time stopped for a moment. I stared at the screen. It said, “verb: move or be aimed towards with great accuracy.” Yes. Of course. Home is also a verb. I’d forgotten. Something was calling me and I was calling it and I want to home towards it, even though I don’t know what it is. I have to use the only tracking device I know, feelings.
Nouns and verbs are cool like that. We get to love love and we get to love home.
And more than this, we get to home love and we get to home home.
So for a moment, I get to feel peace. As if the search for home, can rest — because like love, home is feeling — and like love, home is a verb.