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Thoughts on Home

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Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

On Friday, I asked you (and me) to think about the physical manifestation of “a home”. I threw a bunch of stuff on the page. My mum’s home, the house I grew up in, was my home for a long time but not anymore. My current home is still kind of new (although we moved in almost a year and a half ago) and feels a bit too big (it’s a good problem to have, no doubt). My office is where my books live and where I can gather my thoughts on most days.


Last week, we had a routine boiler safety check, and of course, the boiler was found to be leaking gas and had to be turned off immediately. So we lived in a rather cold home for a couple of days. I’m grateful for many things: that the fantastic engineers sorted it out within three days, that we only had one day without hot water in the taps, and that we can afford this sudden and considerable expense. It got me thinking about all the people who live without heat or a suitable physical home in the UK in 2022. There are a lot of them, and more on that next week.


Home in literature symbolises ourselves. Odysseus, trying to get back home, is trying to find his civilian self after long years of war and cruelty. Dorothy, in a similar attempt, is looking for qualities that define her, characteristics she wants to embody as she grows up. In Marilynne Robinson’s fantastic Housekeeping, Ruth is defining the boundaries between herself and her family, the outside seeping in. And the transient people in that story are ghosts: not having a home means losing yourself. In Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Isabelle burns down the house as she leaves her family behind and redefines her path.


Home is where you feel safe. For me, it’s difficult to feel safe. I almost never feel safe for various reasons involving generational trauma and my genetic composition. I always know where the exit is, where ever I am. And when there are strangers in my home, it is impossible for me to relax, even if they are respectful and pleasant (which they are). I always contrast my relatively quiet home to my mum’s home, where there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out. When I’m there, I’m on high alert 24/7.


And yes, the logical conclusion is that I don’t feel safe with myself. I don’t trust myself. It manifests as low self-esteem, but it’s more than that. It’s never knowing who I am because I don’t trust any of the answers I come up with. It’s constantly questioning every thought and emotion: is this the real me? Well, I say constantly, but it’s not constant. When I write a story I don’t know the end of; when I get sucked into a story I read; when I’m with my partner (most times), and with the kids (always), I am temporarily not questioning myself. I can function: it’s surprisingly easy to function without ever being inside your body. In fact, it’s easier to function that way. But I’m slowly working on returning to my body, to myself, to my home. It’s a process.

 

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