Home When House Keeps Changing

We have been traveling for nearly a month now, and have been in our respective hometowns, both in Southern Ohio, for 3 weeks I think (keeping close track isn’t of high importance to me). The concept of home has been an ongoing and often heavy subject for me. I feel the weight of so many places that I call and have called home. I feel stretched so thin. I can’t possibly maintain these friendships, and love these people and places like I need to and want to. There just isn’t enough of me. I fear leaving Waco because I can’t bear the thought of losing the friends we’ve made. And yet the pessimist in me says, well, that’s just how it goes—you know that Mary. Being away from Waco causes me to wrestle with this subject, wondering, imagining, what it will be like when that day comes (spoiler alert: ugly crying is involved).

And yet I also feel the freedom and perspective that experiencing community and culture in a lot of different places gives. Living a graduate student life, as the wife of one, and living in the Midwest, the Southeast, Europe, and the Southwest has introduced us to so many different lifestyles and quirks and ways of living that are completely wonderful on the one hand and totally awful on the other. We have been able to imagine living forever in some of these places. Sometimes I feel like we’re lifestyle hoarders. Just a little of this, and a little of that. Our home has remnants of all these places—it lives and moves and expands and contracts with us.

All these thoughts get pushed under daily routines and rhythms of laundry and meals and diaper changes, but when I find myself in my familiar childhood home, when my routines are nonexistent, I feel it all rising to the surface. I ran through a nearby neighborhood this week, my thoughts a mix of prayers and daydreaming about the future house we would one day have. My newest dream for a potential home in a cold climate? Have a 2-car garage, but keep one side totally empty so my future friends could actually park in the garage when they came to visit on a snowy day. I think of the strangest things, and maybe you laugh, but remember, it’s all theory to me. I wonder, how many women get married in their early 20s and still don’t own a house by the time they’re thirty? Probably more than I realize, but it’s not the life I thought I would have. I’m not complaining. I’ve made peace with this fact of my life years ago, and more than that, I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for the time and space I’ve had to know what I really want. If I had gotten that house in my early 20’s it would likely have been big, and full of crap I hated. I would have been miserable and alone and trapped.

But do I really know what I want even now?

I’m “home” and yet the feeling of home ebbs and flows. I belong, but I don’t.  I always thought familiarity meant home, but sometimes it’s the strangeness of a place that grabs you and shows you the home you didn’t know existed, but also know beyond a shadow of a doubt is yours. You stumble upon a new vista, a new city or state or country, and you can in a giant rush of emotion imagine dropping everything and staying in that place forever. Do you have a place like that?

I am realizing that maybe I do. It’s everywhere, yet I’m not always there. I have to choose it, or it lies just out of my reach. I find myself feeling lost at “home” in Ohio, and I wonder why. I’ve been looking for a common thread to share with you about our family visits so far, and after writing and re-writing and scrapping trite words about this and that, I realized that the moments that have brought the deepest refreshment to my soul have been the outside ones. I am developing the discipline of going out on the porch, just because I can. What’s stopping me from bouncing Cosmas to sleep outside, rather than inside? If I am inside, I choose to drink my cup of coffee by the giant window in the piano room. That’s where I’m writing at the moment.

When I think of returning to Waco, I dread the feeling of being suffocated in our apartment. I love our space, but it’s too full. It’s always too full and I don’t know what to do about it. I crave open spaces. I made a list yesterday of areas of our apartment that need attention. I kid you not, literally every room and nook of our apartment was on my list by the time I was done. Well isn’t that just dandy. Maybe we could just bring a bulldozer in and start from scratch? One can dream, right?

I read this morning about how Crystal Ellefsen joined a gym and found an exercise habit. She quoted Gretchen Rubin, a modern day genius in my mind. Gretchen says, “Identify the problem.” That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to identify why our apartment is still too full. Why I feel suffocated there. Why I feel overwhelmed by the maintenance of it all. Why I can’t be at peace in that space consistently.

And then I am going to make an action plan.

I’ll keep you posted. Until then, my home is my people, and my home is outside. I know at least these to be true. My home is with my baby on my hip under the sunny or cloudy or rain smudged sky, with the stagnant air or fresh breeze or whipping winds. My home is my boys giggling about poop, my face drenched with sweat after a run. My home is side by side with Cody, never mind the ocean currently between us. My home is words of prayer and words of love and choosing light instead of darkness. 

So since ripping skylights and extra windows into our apartment isn’t a viable option, what will I do to bring the spacious outside in? Because no matter where we live, I can always bring the outside,the light, in; I just know I can.

P.S. I have also decided that this summer I finally need to buckle down and learn to A. Bullet Journal, and B. Read The Happiness Project. Bullet Journalers, give me alllll the tips, please! If you're also a Gretchen Rubin fan, you'll love reading what Bethany has to say about The Happiness Project.

Mary Strecker1 Comment