We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Home And Home For The Holidays, Part One

As Thanksgiving approaches, thoughts turn to home. For some us, the trip is a short one. For others, the trip is much longer.

Home is supposed to be a place of comfort and warmth, safe and far removed from the dangers and distractions of the outside world. Even in a less than perfect world, we crave the warmth and security of home. Whether as children or adults, our home and family should be where we feel most comfortable and at ease. Home is the respite from daily battle, where you return when the day is done. Your home and family are the center of your life, whether you feel it at the moment or not.

It is from home that our most important life decisions are made. It is home that shaped many of our beliefs and attitudes, our awareness and self esteem, that feeling of worth- and in a healthy individual, that motivator to give to others. It is from our homes and families that we learn to share, to cope, to play and to forgive. We learn to be comfortable with ourselves. Most importantly, in a healthy home, we learn to laugh and be happy.

All these ideas rush through our psyche as we come home after being away for a while. If we have been gone for longer than we might have wished, the desire to return home is urgent, as if we have been submerged underwater and need the air of home to breath.

These words are true for many of us. There are also many of us for whom those words are bitter. For them, going home is willingly assuming a pain they would just as soon forget.

It is a truth that for some, that is entirely understandable.

Million of people have endured the exquisite pain and anguish of knowing all to well the hurtful dysfunctional environments that many cannot even begin to relate to. For them, the idea of going home elicits dread, worry and anguish. Their real feelings can be described as feelings of ambivalence and detachment.

It is a reality that many of us choose to ignore. As people rush to and fro, anxious to get home, there are also people that move about with deliberate slowness, in no rush to go home at all. It is ironic that those who grew up in healthy and loving homes, often don't appreciate the value of what they have. As they hustle about, they have no idea what goes through the minds of those who have not shared those experiences. It is the same thing that goes through the mind of the cancer patient as he or she looks at people walking down the street.

It is only when deprived of that healthy home do some people realize the magnitude of the loss. They at least understand of what they are being deprived.

Not everyone is so fortunate. Some people are so detached and resigned- they have no concept of what a healthy home really is. They believe that every home is like their own- broken, dysfunctional and abusive. They believe that the idea of a happy home is veneer thin, with everyone playing a role in what they know to be a farce. Beneath the surface, they believe, is the same living hell they have endured- every time they go home, history repeats itself. The fights, the anger, the humiliation, all replayed in an endless loop.

It is at this point the question must be asked: What kind of parent inflicts that dysfunctionality on a child or children? How can a parent, during a child's formative years, so completely destroy a child? How can a parent take what is supposed to be a warm and protected place, home, and turn it into a battlefield, unfairly pitting adult against child?

What right does a parent have to keep a child in a state of fear and terror?

The answer to all these questions is simple and self evident. A parent does not have the right to destroy and terrorize a child.

That said, it happens every day.

It is as if a fetus is ripped out it's womb prematurely. What is supposed to be an environment of nurture and growth, in relative safety, is taken away before it's time. The fetus fights the hostile environment, in it's instinctive fight to live and thrive. It is a fight the fetus should not have to fight. It is a fight that takes away energy from needed growth and nurture, to one of survival. Something- some might say much, is lost.

That same truth applies outside the womb. For a child, exposed to an environment of hostility, fear and the battle to survive, much is lost, indeed. The energy expended in the fight for survival cannot be recouped and used to learn about home and hearth at an early age.

Many people have to learn about home and family at a later stage. The first step comes with the realization that materialism will not provide the warmth we seek. In fact, that obsession with materialism and consumption is perhaps the biggest obstacle of all. It is the obsession with materialism as a substitute for happiness that obscures reality.

As people what they want, and inevitably, they will answer with ' a dream home,' filled with stuff. To be fair, people will say, 'I want that place to be home,' as if somehow, the material ingredients might contribute to 'home.' We may say, 'Well, it takes more than just love' or 'Love isn't enough.' True enough.

Then again, it may take a lot less than we might think- there is more Bob Cratchit in us than we might imagine.

Real home is the antitheses of materialism. As anybody who has gone camping with kids. The whining about TV and video games gives way to something quite extraordinary- a feeling of closeness and bonding not experienced before. Why? Because there is nothing material in the way that might preclude us from bonding, from being a family. No, that bonding around a campfire will not change us into Mother Teresa's or Albert Schweitzer's. It will however, point out what it is that makes us family.

We may live in a world where there is crime, aggression, violence, cruelty and hostility. Home keeps us and shields us. We create an island, an oasis, where not only are we safe from those things that might harm us, but also, a place where we can be free to be ourselves and a place where our very souls can be shared with those around us.

It takes work. If it were easy, we would all inhabit that island or oasis. In fact, the truth remains that for too many of us, we are only to eager to put on our masks and head out the door each day. Some of us can hardly wait. Some of us derive our identity from our work, rather than from who we are and where we come from.

In Part Two, we will discuss why where we come from can define the home we build- and how to build that home, regardless of where we come from. We will also discuss going home when it isn't easy to do so and how that can the most liberating effort at all.