I recently asked myself the question, “What is home?”
If you look up the word home in the dictionary you come up with “residence or refuge.”
But what is it, really?
When I recently gave up my residence, on a whim to follow my heart and do service in the world, I found that I lost my definition of home.
I have moments of aching for the life I had; my beautiful serving wear and my mirrored buffet that was filled with dripping white candles in a very “phantom of the opera-esque dramatic way.”
I ache for the way, during a dinner party, the candles would light up the wall, casting a soft shadow on old photographs and artwork from floor to ceiling. I miss the metal utility table that served as craft area, kitchen breakfast nook and office space and I miss that Anthropologie canopy bed that I saved pennies and dimes to be able to afford, complete with 600 (!) thread count sheets.
I had that life.
But what I’ve come to realize is that, even with the aching, I don’t really miss the “things”—what I miss is the landscape they created for the life lived within the walls.
I miss the people who I shared stories with; the joy of preparing a meal for them and a pouring that last, “No really, that’s my last glass…ok, I’m sleeping on your sofa,” over a cacophony of laughter. I miss the quiet sleepiness of morning, slurping down coffee and trying to decide if chocolate is truly an appropriate breakfast, as I kiss a lover’s tussled head and point them towards the coffee maker. I miss the mornings when I was alone, staring blankly at the wall in front of me, wondering what the day could possibly hold that would make it more amazing than the last. I miss the way it felt at the end of a fulfilling day to know I could get up and do it again—or at the end of a bad day to know it would all feel better in the morning light. I miss feeling a lover’s legs wrap around mine in the sheets…and I miss spreading out in x-formation in my bed, alone.
I miss the moments, not the stuff.
It seems then, perhaps, it is the moments that make a home.
I first started thinking of the concept of “home” a few years ago, when I spent a month traveling through India, living out of a backpack with only a few articles of clothing, some photos of people I love and, thankfully, some quick dry underwear (you really can never have enough underwear when you travel).
I was never happier, with so little to anchor me to the material world. During that time, I found home wherever I could, by spreading out photos by my bedside or throwing my favorite scarf over a lamp for a bit of “Carrie” sparkle.
I found home, knee deep in water, in an underground temple, with my heart full, knowing it would make a great blog article later; I found home in the eyes of the women on a train who would later help save my life—I even found home in the heart of my Guru, at his ashram in Varanasi.
I found both “residence and refuge” in all of these moments.
When I left home a few months ago, I came to my Guru’s ashram in California, to ground and receive guidance before following my gypsy soul into the world.
As I look around my room, I stare once again into the reflection of home. What I see in front of me is that I’ve created a room complete with the same “Carrie” sparkle that I knew, while backpacking in India; knowing that I would be here for several months, the first thing I did is redecorate my room.
Borrowing a rug from one room, a large mirror from another—hanging some of my vintage slips off the mirror, so it looked a bit more movie star glam. I found a simple, modern glass jar, for my pens and colored pencils. All of the furniture moved around, so it was appropriately Feng shui—and even made an altar, with my beloved voodoo doll, some old faded letters and photos that remind me of my best self, taped to the wall next to my favorite worn-in cowgirl boots and puja set.
In other words, I made a Carrie nest.
I am as happy in this nest as I was in my old stylish loft—and, I am as happy in this nest as I was in the backpack-traveling version of myself.
So then, maybe, home on some level comes from the Self. Not the little “s,” but the big “S”—the true you, when all the pomp and circumstance is stripped away—when what you think you should have in the world reflects what you really have, at the moment—not what you buy, as you try to fill an ‘empty box ideal,’ of what other people tell you to want.
Perhaps then, it’s the small things you really need to feel comfortable in your place in the world, whether that be a street corner or a mansion. For me, the big “S” needs to have an anchor; a scarf, a symbol, a picture, a momento to remind me of my connection to the people I love—the very same moments and memories that anchor me to myself.
My Guru asked me recently, “What makes you feel alive?” It’s the hardest question I’ve ever had to answer. All I’ve got so far?
Seeking and creating beauty; wherever I am in the world has to reflect that.
That IS my refuge. That IS my residence.
It has nothing to do with material possessions: it’s in a smile from a child in a third world country or in the appreciation of an artistic bowl in a Madison Avenue store. It’s in sitting knee-to-knee (and nose-to-nose) at a restaurant with a friend, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all and it is in a piece of music that moves me to tears.
That is home—and that is where my heart lives. For me, it is the true definition of love. So then, perhaps home is personal—my definition of home can’t possibly be the same as yours.
If it’s true that home is individual, then it explains how a sadhu can wander the streets of India, with nothing but a bowl. Or, how Mother Teresa could live in comfort in the midst of a colony of lepers. Or, perhaps, even how the New-York-Upper-East-Side elite can’t imagine home without a butler and a personal masseuse.
Perhaps all of our definitions of home are okay—perhaps, this is what makes us radiantly alive.
And, perhaps, this is what make our world so beautiful.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Like elephant I’m not “Spiritual.” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.