Monday, August 18, 2014

Home and Away

 Since moving to China my sense of, and connection to the word and concept of home has shifted. It is a bit blurry, its boundaries and borders are less clear. In June I packed up and headed off solo, back to our home in Connecticut. The kids were not finished with school, but I needed to get back for a retreat with my yoga family. On the plane, I was more than happy for some time to myself, no one to look after but me, myself and I, a glass of champagne, my own personal screen for movie viewing, kind of blissful. When my journey ended I arrived at the midnight hour, finally, at my own long lost doorstep, ready for the comfort of my homecoming.

I fumbled around in my fatigue with the numbers on the lock box that were the final obstacle to crossing that sacred threshold. One last click and I was in! Despite having had a friend come by to turn on lights and open windows, when I walked in the air was heavy and stale, the space quiet and hollow, vacuous, dead. No life in it, but now I was here. I was home, or was I?  I decided this was just the jet lag, this let down, this dullness. I was thankful for the company of a beer left for me and  an episode of "Friends" on Nick at Night. These friends were as good as it was going to get at the moment, so I leaned back into the couch, right where I always sit, and allowed myself to become heavy, sink down.  I went to bed with my loneliness. My husband and kids were a world away, me in bed alone, and them at work and school. I slept an unsettled sleep, feeling simultaneously at home and away.

The next morning I shook off my dust and opened the blinds and drapes, windows and doors to the day. Two of my best girlfriends finally made their way over and a heart beat returned to that place. My breath returned to me. The world of home started to get back its color and flavor. Home can be a town, in a certain country, on a certain road, at a particular house number but it is the life and laughter of the people who gather there, who laugh and cry there, it is the human spark, the fire of family and friends that give it its life breath. I found my liveliness as well, as I reconnected to the outdoor space of our Connecticut home. It sits in a patch of woods with a brook running through it. In the summer it has an orchestra of birds, frogs and bugs singing, a beautiful soundtrack for life.

After a couple days landing there, I was off to visit friends, go on a fabulous yoga retreat and reconnect with my spiritual family and teachers. Amazing. When I made my way back once again to our house in the woods Stephen and the kids were there waiting, and yes, this time, it was home again. A house turned back into a home, full of hustle and bustle, music and cooking, laughter and arguing, all of it. All if it good, rich, and astoundingly beautiful.

The summer unfolded before us as we pursued a jam packed itinerary of going to different places to see family and friends, ultimately making a circle encompassing almost half of the continental United States. Each place we visited was like another homecoming because of all the beloved faces we beheld, precious time shared, catching up with all that had transpired in the last year, marveling at how kids had grown, hugs and kisses. In the end though it always ended in the same bittersweet way, every single time, more hugs and kisses and "I love you. See you soon.", every time a goodbye. Parting truly is such sweet sorrow.

In the blink of the proverbial eye the time had escaped me and I was busy packing suitcases once again to go home. Funny, when I came to Connecticut I was coming home, and now, preparing for the return to China, going home. This expat experience has the unique quality of always being home and always being away, from one or the other. It is like straddling the globe, living in two worlds at once. Amazing and challenging, always a subtle feeling of displacement flavoring the big adventure.

We returned to Shanghai just over a week ago,and again I find I am stumbling around, I can't quite get the land underneath my feet. I feel a bit turned upside down and hollowed out. This too shall pass. I am beginning to reconnect with friends and getting my ducks in a row. My kids are back to school, activities are starting soon, my teaching will get organized, I will hit my stride. Right now there is a lingering longing for the other home. It will take a bit of time to resettle here. Another year of travel, learning and growing lies ahead, and my most important people are right here with me.

So what is home? Where is home? There is a reason why clichés get to be clichés and "home is where the heart is" holds so much truth. In a world where sometimes it seems home is all about square footage, zip codes, bells and whistles and keeping up with the Joneses, I have discovered that home, true home, lives in a different type of geography. Home is the landscape of love and devotion, the tender spaces that make life worth living, the world of relating and being, the infinite container that can hold all my best, my worst and every shade in between. Home is bird songs and lullabies, sleeping in and sleepless nights. Home is those you are with and those who you miss. Most of all home is the heart, my heart, connected to all the hearts that I carry with me every moment of every day whether that  particular moment feels like home or away.

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