Chasing Home

Published in 1961, the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary defines home as “One’s own dwelling place…the house in which one lives with his family” and “a place of refuge and rest.” It seems like I have been chasing home all my life.

Losing home at any age is soul-splitting. It wounds the heart. It slaughters hope. It can utterly exterminate one’s sense of worth. When a child loses home it can be emotionally lethal. Loss leaves gaping holes. When a child loses home and family any sense of safety in the world is pulverized and any sense of belonging in life may perish.

For a child, the loss of home and family leads you to feel and believe you are nothing, and if, by chance, you are left with any residue of self at all, it’s not much. This is exactly what happened to me. I now believe what I have been chasing no longer exists for me because family no longer exists – at least none that I grew up with – and home, I am learning, is best found in the rooms of one’s mind. I certainly think the notion that home is where you hang your hat is absolute rubbish. Quaint phrase, I grant you, but absolute rubbish nonetheless.

My relationship with home and family ended in 1969, 16 weeks after my father died unexpectedly at age 55. I was 15. Sixteen weeks later my mother placed me in reform school on a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision) petition. When I was released 13 months later, I was not allowed back in the family and so, at age 17, I was homeless. My life with a family had come to an end.

I don’t know if I can stop chasing home, chasing that place of refuge and rest that is or feels like it is immune from assault from without and within. Even though I intellectually understand it does not exist, my heart remembers days when I was a boy and everyone was still alive. Days with my father and Poppop, my grandfather on my mother’s side, when I knew I was the safest most loved little boy in all the world. That were a bomb to drop from the sky their presence would assure my safety. And while some might say all this makes me a hopeless romantic, it is who I am. And I spend my life with who I am.

To be continued…

Leaps of Faith

I heard the following joke recently. A man falls down a deep hole that extends miles into the earth. He manages to stop his fall by grabbing onto a root with one hand. As he begins to tire he looks up at the small circle of light above him and yells, “Is there anybody up there?!” Suddenly a bright light from shines down and a deep voice says, “I am the Lord thy God. Let go of the root. I will save you.” The man pauses for a moment and then yells, “Is there anybody else up there?!”

Real leaps of faith, by any measure, are not easy. They often mean you’ll be holding hands with some gut ripping fear for a bit. Which is exactly what I felt this past Sunday when my landlords, a truly good and decent couple, informed me I would need to move out of the home I’ve been renting from them for nine years, in 30 days. It seems their marriage is coming to an end and the husband need to take up residence in the house.

I don’t need to tell you how frightening it is to lose your home. Home is far more than a physical thing. It is a spiritual, physical and emotional sanctuary.  Not so when you realize it is lost. Frightening for anyone, with an added degree of difficulty when the very part of your brain that allows you to manage emotion is damaged, which is where my damage is. The frontal lobe. And so for the first day I was pretty much incapacitated, difficulty speaking, trembling, hunched over, knowing what it was that was happening to me but unable to shake it and knowing too that that’s okay. Those disabling moments still grab me during the day – and night. We are all allowed our human experience, even when upsetting and unpleasant, and we make a mistake, albeit an understandable one, when we try to avoid the more unpleasant experiences of life.

I long ago learned that the only way to get through a terrifying or heartbreaking time is to give myself permission to go through it. In other words, allow the experience.

And so here I am with my three dogs hoping that I will be able to find a new home in time. I have already gotten a storage space and will begin to place things in storage and look for friends to watch my dogs for me if the worst happens and no new home shows up in time. I have been homeless in my life and the homeless monster is, even though I know intellectually it will not get me (I don’t think), bearing down on me with glistening hatred eyes.

There is one thing this experience will not take from me. My sobriety. One of the wonderful things about being sober is when all hell breaks loose in life, I can look the circumstances in the eye, snarl to myself, and say, You can’t take my sobriety.

Anyway, one day at a time. Keep the faith, even if doing so is a leap. It is for me right now.

And remember, it’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you.



The Freedom of You

I remember songs.

Songs that moved my stride forward, lifted my head up. In the dark days of hunger and homelessness songs kept me warm, fed, loved, gave me air to breathe. Through all my life music carried me through Certain songs in certain times got me to the sunrise and let me rest my head in peace after sunsets drifted to deep blue, then black.

I don’t know what lifts your spirits, but I can tell you they deserve to be lifted. I don’t know what feeds your soul and fills your heart, but your soul deserves feeding and your heart has a right to be full.

Today I saw an old clip of Emerson, Lake and Palmer singing “Lucky Man,” one of those magic songs that wet my eyes and moved my heart. There were many, many others. For years Bob Dylan kept me going and for many years since it has been Bruce Springsteen.

Always Beethoven has mirrored my soul, jazz my mind, Steinbeck, Dickens, Tolstoy and others the thoughts that fill my mind.

Yet, when all is said and done, freedom seems to me to be the clarion call. Freedom for us all. Freedom to be who we are safely in the world we live in, unhindered by the bigotry and hatreds of others. Free of our histories, of the poisonous trappings of stereotypes.

Freedom to be you is what my heart and soul wishes for you.

And so, I can think of no better song then the one I place below. Paste it into your browser and enjoy. Take it with you through your days. Let it lift you, bring a smile to your face, maybe tears of joy and hope to your eyes, and fullness to your heart.

You are here to be you, it is your right to be you in freedom and peace, after all, you can’t have one without the other.

Go ahead now. Give it a listen.