Home has been an ever-evolving construct, a shape-shifter in my life.
The foundation is me—I am a home to myself. The structure of this home, however, has been built up and torn down and reconstructed more than a dozen times in my life.
Home began as hot sidewalks, dry grass, lizards scurrying inside, the refuge of our backyard pool, my mother’s arms, my father’s chest.
Over the years, it’s become forests of Douglas firs, cedars, pines, hemlocks, and alders. It’s the song of robins, the call of towhees, the buzz of hummingbird wings. Home is populated with snow-crested mountain ranges; lakes inhabited by heron, geese, mallards, beaver, turtles, eagles, and osprey.
And a decade ago, home expanded to include someone else.
Our home had the makings of a good love story, or so I believed, even though we were missing some key materials for our building. We will build something different, something unique, something transcendent, I told myself. Our home will not look like any other.
From Day One, our home was toppling. I spent eight years trying to press my hands against the walls, hold up the ceiling, plug the holes, repair the cracks, stretch my body across the floor. I was always searching for more tools, more nails and screws, more scraps of wood or brick or stone. There was never enough.
I was never enough.
When someone else came into my life, the story began to shift. I pulled myself up off the floor, took my hands away from the walls, let the ceiling drop in. I couldn’t hold this home up anymore.
“I will always love you,” I told him with my hands on his face. “But this home has caved in, and I can no longer try to fix it. It’s time we rebuild on our own.”
And so, I walked away.
And I walked back toward myself, my truest home, and said, “Let’s try this again.”
More than a month has passed since my old home toppled, and I have been sitting under an open sky without ceiling or walls, staring up at the stars and moon. I am awake before dawn, shaking off sleep and surrendering to joy. My breathing has slowed, my back has stopped aching, my face has softened, my eyes radiate a newfound glow.
My new home, too, has begun to expand to accommodate this other person. Every day, we show up to build together, gathering from the plenty of our storehouses. There is more than enough to go around here, more than enough imagination and energy and strength to construct the home we’ve always wanted—together.
Home is me. And home is him. And home is each other.
And it’s tempting and easy for people to look at this home construction from the outside, whispering, “It’s all happening far too fast. Surely, she can’t be ready for this again. She only just left her last home.”
I know these whispers.
But what these ones don’t know, because they could not possibly see inside all those years in my old home, is that I lived there alone.
I cooked alone, danced alone, cried alone, comforted myself alone, slept alone. Most of the time.
I made room for someone who never fully moved in. He left a few clothes in the drawer and his things in the bathroom. But in his heart, it was hard for him to come all the way inside. I don’t blame him for this; maybe, deep down, he never really felt he belonged there. I may never know.
He deserves a home he can fully inhabit, too. It’s up to him now to build this.
We don’t always get to pick the timing of our topplings or when we rebuild. I never would have chosen it this way—during a pandemic, a new love forming as I’m walking away from the old. I would have been too pragmatic for that, too afraid I’d stain my reputation. It’s just how it happened. My choice was not in the timing, but in the responding to the timing.
I checked in with my heart, and my heart told me in a surprisingly clear voice, “I’m actually ready for this. I’ve been ready for a long time.”
To the outside eye, it looks like I left home only a few weeks ago and jumped straight to another. It looks abrupt and reckless, perhaps.
But I left years ago.
My body stayed put, determined to continue supporting our structure with every resource I possessed, but my heart didn’t live there. My heart didn’t have a room of her own, so she lived outside in the woods and down by the creek and deep in the fields.
“This will be my forever home,” my heart said, “if I cannot share home with another.”
Little did my heart know, she would stumble across the path of someone with the blueprints for a home she’s always wanted. A home in the woods, with the birds, under the wide expanse of sky. A home with sturdy walls and a ceiling without holes. A home where two people bring all of themselves inside and settle in without reserve.
And most of all, a home whose cupboards and closets and bed are overflowing with love.
So let us all remember, when we’re staring out our windows at each other’s homes, we cannot see inside those walls. The outside only tells a partial story, and it may not be the story we think we’re reading all this time. Can we check our judgments at the door?
Let us cease our whispers and just invite each other inside.