“Home is where the heart is.”
I have always struggled with this phrase. It sounds simple enough but actually, I’m not sure it means anything more than “Home is where you like to sleep”, or “Home is where the person you like, likes to sleep”; but that sounds a bit like the mantra of a stalker, so maybe it’s not quite as simple as that.
From my perspective, ultimately it means home is wherever you want it to be, and its role is to be the thing that keeps the blood pumping around your body, the thing that keeps you alive.
I feel most at home when I am on the move. Heading somewhere and leaving something, is my happy place. It’s only when I reach my destination that I feel fatigued, or have to deal with some task or stress. But in the in-between times, when I’m moving from one place to another, I feel pretty good. If I’m awake, it’s where I write the best.
Earlier this year on a five day trip to New York and Chicago, I spent a few hours in the airport, and I’ve never been more productive with my writing. I was waiting to travel, in a place of transportation where your only purpose is to eventually move to another place. I had purchased some notebooks from Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue the day before, and was at my gate at JFK airport a few hours early, waiting to board my plane to Chicago. My backpack and carry-on bag spread across two empy seats, I got comfortable, pulled out a pen and one of my new notebooks, and started writing. I was continuing a story I had started in London, my memory my only thread linking the beginning of one story to the middle of another. And now it’s almost another novel.
I’ve managed to continue the story, and have almost completed my second notebook. Writing this new story has not been a stagnant process. I have had to be on a bus or train to add more words to my story; to return to the place of movement in order to move my story along. And the story has moved me too.
Perhaps I feel most at home during the in-between times, because that’s where most of my time growing up was spent. I’ve moved house more times than I count on both hands, so none of those places have been given true “home” status, but the moving, the packing up, and the being somewhere else have become familiar to me.
For a long time I entertained an attachment to London, with no one house or flat being akin to home; instead the entire city belonged to me and all of it was home. But I no longer feel that way; instead it means something different to me now, something beautiful sure, but also sinister. I can’t feel its soul anymore, and maybe it’s because I’ve internalised home, like a good psychologist friend of mine suggested to me recently. I have stopped searching for external places to rest my hat, stopped clutching at soft happiness that comes from sitting on a particular sofa, reaching for simultaneous internal and external comfort.
Instead I am my own home, and the places I travel to and reside in can be loved by me, without me putting all my hope into them as the key to all my happiness. Now I can see stories everywhere, to use when I want to, that influence and inspire me, that move me along so that I never remain stagnant.
Not unlike a shark, I have to keep moving, otherwise I’ll die. Or at least my home will.
Image credit: Shark by Lluisa Iborra from the Noun Project