Since I was a small child I have periodically felt a longing so deep and so wide it consumes all of me. Until recently, I’ve never been able to identify the source of this longing or what it would take to fulfill it. I’ve never been able to put words to it, other than repeating over again as I weep the non-sensical phrase, “I want to go home.”
I remember clearly when I moved from Pensacola, Florida to Birmingham, Alabama with my mom and dad when I was 11. I was laying on the fold out couch in our temporary apartment while my mom anxiously attempted to quiet me. I was crying so hard and wailing the phrase to her, “I want to go hooooome!” She thought I meant back to Pensacola and she tried to reassure me that Birmingham was my home now and in no time it would begin to feel like it. But, that wasn’t what I meant. I didn’t know what I did mean but I knew that wasn’t it. I knew wanted home but I had no clue how to define it.
Now, after years of therapy and life experience, I have a better understanding. Home represents to me safety, security, and comfort. It means unconditional love, affection, and acceptance. It means a place to put down roots, to throw out my anchor, so I no longer feel like I’m floating around in space haphazardly, like Sandra Bullock in Gravity.
I did not have that as a child. I did not have a place or person I felt I could count on or cling to when I was in need. My parents were there, technically, but they weren’t my home. My father used and abused me. He perverted my natural needs to meet his own unnatural and self serving ones. My mom, well…she tried. But she was beaten down emotionally, depressed, full of regret. She had nothing to give me. My sister was married and out of the house by the time I was four. My brother went away to college when I was seven. Then it was just me, my abusive father, and my emotionally bankrupt mother.
So what does a child do when the monumental task of growing up is put in their own small hands? Maybe some would drop the heavy thing and run away to play, choosing not to accept the responsibility, come what may. I always wanted to be that type of child; I envied them their carefree fun. That wasn’t me though. I accepted the task in my inadequate hands and I tried my best to carry it. I did what I could. I succeeded and even exceeded expectations in the ways it came naturally to me, like at school, and I just did the best I could with everything else. I did ok, maybe even extraordinarily well under the circumstances, but I still missed a lot.
Now I’m well into adulthood and as I’m finally realizing all I missed, I grieve. Some of it can be made up for and repaired, but not all. I’ll never be able to go back and feel the comfort and safety of being in the embrace of an attuned mother or a protective father. I cannot go back and make up for all I’ve lost, so I grieve.
But in my grief I also realize, I CAN go home like I’ve always longed to do. I am creating home for myself. I’m creating it within me, as I learn to know, love, trust and even cling to myself. And I’m creating home in my world outside of myself, relationship by beautiful relationship. It’s empowering to realize that not only did I get myself to adulthood intact (mostly), but I am also taking myself home.
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