Sunday, May 23, 2010

On Notions of Home

Home can mean many things to different people and in different contexts. One person may consider home as the house in which they grew up, especially if they resided in primarily one single residence for the majority of their formative years. Another individual may think in terms of their home town. Still others, either currently raising or who have raised families of their own, might consider home as being that primary residence in which their children currently undergo the maturation process or where they grew up. Many consider home as being anywhere they reside at any given moment. The homeless might deem home anywhere they lie down that night, or perhaps even nowhere at all.

I believe it is fair to say most of us can use any word in conversation without stopping to reflect on what that word really means emotionally and in the context of the events of daily life. I also believe a word like home, when reflected upon, encompasses a deeply emotional milieu permeating one’s entire being. Home connotes safety, security, conviviality, connection and familiarity. More than just a dwelling or domicile, home provides one’s foundation: the place where family meets, mingles and relates, finds shelter from the outside world, competition, intrusion and antagonism, and enjoys a nurturing center for sustenance, community and love. One’s idea of home reveals one’s roots, not just in terms of place or relationships, but also with reference to one’s internal sense of self and one’s place in the world.

As a child and adolescent, my family moved fairly often. The duration for our longest tenure of residence in any one place spanned 3 ½ years. After I stopped living with my parents and took responsibility for supporting myself and providing for my own life, I continued the pattern of moving from place to place fairly often. During the first couple of years, I didn’t stay in any one place longer than 5 or 6 months. The term of residence in which I dwelt for the longest period during my life lasted 5 ½ years. However, I shared that domicile with a friend, so I don’t really consider that as having been my home. Rather, the dwelling provided a place I shared with a friend, but it formed just one more stop along the way in a lifetime of searching for roots and stability. I also lived with three women, but none of those living situations lasted longer than 9 months. As far as personal residences where I lived alone, my longest term of dwelling in the same place lasted 4 ¼ years. So, given my history of wanderlust, I have never thought of any of my previous abodes as “home” in the sense described above.

I can say, on and off over the years, I spent about 39 of my nearly 58 years in Los Angeles with nearly all of my formative years included among those 39 spent in L.A. However, L.A. possesses no homogeneity, and having resided in 26 different dwellings in that city, none of them stand out enough to provide me with an emotional attachment. For whatever reason, maybe because the lifestyle is so on-the-go in conjunction with the ridiculous number of residences I passed though during my years in Los Angeles, I never even considered the city as my home.

Neil Diamond sang in his song, “I Am I Said,” “L.A.’s fine but it ain’t home / New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more.” I grant that LA courses through my blood, webs the sinews of my muscles and ossified into my bones. Its lifestyle, attitudes and values permeate and inform my consciousness and memories. However, I also rejected the city a number of times and left her as a loose woman and estranged lover because that always seemed to describe the way she embraced her inhabitants, myself included. So, I must paraphrase Neil Diamond and simply say, “L.A.’s there but I’m just gone / The road winds long but it’s my only home.”

Life is a process. One cannot extract any individual moment or experience, occurrence or place, feeling or idea, lover or friend and put that on a pedestal called quintessential. If life teaches us anything, it teaches us about the constancy of change and the fluidity and impermanence within every one of our modes of interpreting experience, including one’s sense of self. I am not even comprised of the same molecules which formed my body when I resided in Los Angeles. My thoughts, ideas and personal philosophy do not match those which made me the unique Don I presented myself as being during those L.A. years. I embrace the change, the process, the fluidity and the impermanence. I am not one Don. I am myriad Dons. I see myself as new every instant, dying to be reborn again millisecond after millisecond.

“What does that indicate home means to you?” you might wonder and want to ask me. I find home in each breath I take. I feel home in every smile I share. I discover home not as security, but through the insecurity of ever-changing experience. Home reveals itself through the process of living. Home speaks to me of and through connection and interconnection.

An old adage tells us, “Home is where the heart is.” I believe the meaning of heart in that phrase can be expressed as love. Indeed, when I speak of home, I speak of love. I carry my love with me everywhere I travel in life. Home does not refer to a place; home refers to an emotional state of being. One can experience that state of being through giving, caring, sharing, listening, understanding and nurturing, because those qualities and pursuits embrace all which best describe home and which best exemplify the feeling, experience and memory of home.

By carrying home with me in all life’s travels to all life’s destinations, I never have to feel the way Neil Diamond felt as he sang his forlorn paean to the loss of home, “Leavin’ me lonely, still.” No, by carrying home with me, inside of me, and expressing it in all life’s greatest struggles, I leave loneliness in places and find community everywhere I find myself situated in every moment of existence. In that mindset and lifestyle, I never have anywhere to go in order to go home because home will always be with me.

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