As those close to me know, since late 2017 I’ve had big challenges and change in my life. After seven years of dealing with my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s, near the end of 2017 she fell and passed away shortly after. Four months later, in the midst of a two-month stay in Point Loma, California, immersed in researching and writing an upcoming book, my godson’s father (a dear friend of mine) called giving me horrible news.
Trauma, Stagnation and Change
My husband had had a near fatal accident. He was on a fly fishing trip with our godson and good friend, and had taken a serious fall down a steep embankment. If my godson had not been with him when it happened, he would have likely not survived.
For the the rest of the year, life revolved around his recovery. Sidebar: during this time an acquaintance asked me, “Don’t you wish you had children to support you in such a challenging time?” No, I don’t. I treasure the undying love and support I have had from both the family I was born into and my chosen family of multigenerational friends and loved ones.
During my husband’s recovery, my dad, who was living alone in San Diego, began to take more falls. He had more trips to urgent care and the hospital. So late last year I helped him move (thankfully, willingly) into a senior community, and took charge of emptying and selling his home, which finally closed this past week.
In these last many months, my professional life sure suffered. I had to pass off good work to colleagues. Two book projects that had been well underway hit a serious pause. It has been a time of grief, trauma, stagnation, and big change.
Caring for my elderly dad put me in touch with how it felt even more important to me to be closer to him. For this and other reasons, my husband and I made a major decision – to leave San Francisco after having lived there almost 20 years and relocate to downtown San Diego. This big move happened a little over a month ago.
In all of the tumultuousness, I have had many moments where I felt I had lost my center. And with the move, I’ve been in touch with a loss of a feeling of ‘home.’ I go way back with San Diego. I attended junior high, high school and some college in this town, but now, returning many years later, does it feel like I am ‘home?’ No. Did I feel like where I was born and spent most of my childhood years – Milwaukee and Chicago areas – was my ‘real’ home? No. From the mid-90s to 2001 I lived in the mountains outside Portland, Oregon (what a creative time!). Did I feel like this place was my true home? No. I lived in the city of Portland from 2001 to 2007 – does this town feel like home? No.
Since the first time I rounded the highway 101 bend to reveal the San Francisco skyline, I have felt this place was my home. But now I no longer lived there…
I have found myself thinking a lot about, “What, really, is home?” As it has happened often in my life, the right book once again appeared at the right time. As I tried to regain my center and move on from dark months past, I ran across the book, Hearth, A Global Conversation on Identity, Community, and Place, “a multicultural anthology, edited by Susan O’Connor and Annick Smith, about the enduring importance and shifting associations of the hearth in our world.”
I particularly resonate with these words of one of the book’s contributors, author and journalist, Andrew Lam:
“My sense of home these days seems to have less to do with geography than with imagination and memories. Likewise, I no longer see my identity as a fixed thing, but something open ended.”
“Home? Home is human connections, ambition, imagination, and memories. And it dwells in particularities: I live in San Francisco, but I am connected to different parts of the world…Over time, I have learned to navigate and live comfortably with these multiple nodes of connection, crossing back and forth over the hyphen that connects dissimilar spheres, different sensibilities, and languages and practices, different senses of self.”
“And more: Home becomes anywhere and everywhere, its logistics translated into beatific vision of freedom. I feel most at home when have a sense of direction, a purpose. If my work, my words, evoke enchantment, then I am home. I carry worlds within me; home is portable, if one is in commune with one’s soul.”
What Lam writes made me think about how it’s not so much whether this place or that place feels like home to me. What lives in me from these places is part of my inner home. I pondered how San Francisco had felt part of my identity, and now feel excited by the notion of life in San Diego being part of an open ended identity, one in which where I reside may not have anything to do with it at all.
What does have to do with it though, is what connects us to our deeper selves, and living from that place. For me, if my work inspires and contributes to social change, particularly when it comes to reproductive justice, ethics and freedom, then “I am home.” And it’s time to get back to this home.
As I start a new chapter, I still have grieving to do over the death of my mother. I thank my lucky stars my husband has healed and is still with us. I feel so grateful to have my dad in my life. And I deeply treasure dear friends and loved ones.
With my home within me, I stand at a beautiful clearing. I watch the sun finally return, and lift off the horizon toward what the future will bring.