The meaning of home has changed for me. Until age 18, home was my lavender bedroom where I buried myself in journals, daydreaming past clouds of my father's pipesmoke and stacks of my mother's Times crossword puzzles. After a year in a dorm with my good friend near Columbus Circle, home shifted again to the basement of my Italian grandfather's house. I built an altar under the stairs and we shared space, first with an angel named Miriam from Guatemala, and then a few years later Damayanthi and Naleen, replaced her in the house on Cebra Avenue. Damayanthi, with only a few words of English, had just come from Sri Lanka and was pregnant within a few months. That was the first time I had heard a screaming baby in the middle of the night and I remember thinking that I could never be a mother. Not too long afterward, my Poppy died and I lived completely alone for the first time in a small apartment only a few miles from where I grew up. Then suddenly I was in love and moved again. Now I live with my husband and three very young children. There is almost always a baby crying within these walls and yet it just seems natural.
My living situations have shifted dramatically over the last two decades which got me thinking about the word "home." What is home? Is home a lavender bedroom or an altar under the stairs? No. Home is a feeling. It is whatever is left when I am finally alone, when all the sounds of the street are muffled and the children are asleep. It is what I find inside of myself. It is unchanging. My home has been the stillness, the inner peace, I have had access to since I was a child. It has always been the same beautiful space even when I didn't recognize it. It has taken a long time to make this inner space a comfortable home, a place where I feel safe and not alone even if no one else is around. For many years I was scared to be still, to be with myself. But no longer. Now I know that this is home. And the more I come back to that stillness, the more I sit and take long deep breaths, the more I attempt to quiet the mind, the better acquainted I come with my true home, my true self.
I spend a lot of time in my physical home, decorating, cleaning, organizing. But yet, when I care for my inner home with the same attention to detail, I suddenly seem to find happiness no matter what my outer circumstances bring.
Stop now and take a breath. Go home.