We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Home For The Holidays, Part Two

This is Part Two of our series, Home and Home for the holidays. Part One can be found here.

As we noted 'Home for the Holidays,' part one, it is a sad truth that there are too many people who are happier to walk out the door each day to go to work, than they are to come home.

It is a sorry state of affairs when people are more 'at home' at work. For some, returning home is when the real battle for meaning begins.

In a perfect world, of course, home is where we find relief and refuge. Home should be a kind of 'sacred space' of our own creation.

Children don't want to leave the nest. Those first steps beyond the front porch or yard is like stepping out into the abyss. A child's only reality is his or her home. While it is easy to ask why the child doesn't pick up and walk away from an abusive or harmful environment and seek safety and shelter elsewhere, we would do well to remember that it isn't always children that are so reticent and fearful of leaving the only world they really know (More than one adult has endured abusive relationships for that same reason- fear of the unknown). What we call 'home,' to a child, is a entire universe. A child cannot just step into that abyss. That aunt or cousin is as much an unknown to a child as a stranger. Leaving is simply not an option.

Is it any surprise that as an adult, that abused child is reluctant to return home?

When a person grows up in an environment that is lacking in nurture, love and safety, they are in fact, incapable and lacking in the coping mechanisms they need to compensate for what was stolen from them. When a child does not experience the comfort of some cradling him or her, or someone who says, 'I'm glad you're here,' or 'I want you next to me,' that child will never cultivate the self esteem needed to go out and make a go of it. In fact, often, an unhealthy narcissism replaces that self esteem (see Dr Sanity , Neo-neocon and Shrinkwrapped for further discussion), something in no short supply nowadays.

Real 'home' nowadays is lacking in real meaning. All too often that meaning is replaced with the materialism we discussed in Part One of this series. The drive for a larger homes, vacation homes, more luxurious homes and so on, all contribute to and create that false sense of security- and delusion.

To seek security in materialism is the fool's bet- and a bet the house, those who specialize in selling that false sense of security, always wins.

As with investment portfolios, familial security requires diversification. If the acquisition and over valuation of material goods is the only way one can find what is only temporary inner peace, that is all that person will end up with- temporary peace and satisfaction.

Why we envy the mythical Bob Cratchit is because the values of a real home and the comforts that real home brings, are eternal. There is no later or newer model, no 'next generation.' In fact, what is real home and comfort becomes even more valuable with the passage of time- our lives, our experiences all add texture and meaning to 'home.' Those that have been fortunate enough to have had that can attest to it. Those that have not been so blessed, see it clearly- like the cancer patient who sees the healthy person. That person understands more than most, the value of the gift of health.

For over a year, The Anchoress has faced all kinds of medical trials and tribulations. She written extensively and movingly about her past, and her fears, hopes and dreams. She has written on the wider effects of her illness, both seen and unseen, have had on her home and her family.

Facing real illness- of the physical or emotional kind- is indeed sobering. Sometimes, there are no magic pills or medicine and sometimes, there isn't even a clear diagnosis. In a culture and society that take the miracles of modern medicine for granted and imperfections are cosmetically hidden, the realization that miracles cannot be pulled out of a hat, is indeed sobering. It should come as no surprise that The Anchoress has cause to be reflective and thoughtful. For her and her family, home is defined by real values and not by contrived and manufactured ideologies or theologies. Her home and family are not a reflection of the shallow cultural imperatives of the day. Her home- and values, as reflected in her ideas and writing, are an extension of the humble Bob Cratchit's table. The scene is timeless and The Anchoress reminds that we too, have within us the cannot-be-bought ingredients to create our own Bob Cratchit's table.

The person deprived of home, sees the value of home most clearly. Ask someone who not only dreads going home- ask someone who is made to feel unwelcome when they do go back. The tragedy is profound.

Once, life was more difficult, physically. The pilgrims efforts in preparing a meal of gratitude was enormous. Firewood, game and produce had to hunted and prepared. The meal was prepared without any of the conveniences we take for granted. No refrigeration, no cans, no microwaves, no quick run back to the market for that last forgotten whatever. Life was lest complicated and more holistic. There was a connection between people and that meal, the fruits of their labor.

On Thanksgiving, there was a connection between the people who worked together, to make the bounties of that day and every day, possible. There was far less competition and far more cooperation. It is from that cooperation that our society flourished. It is from lack of cooperation today that we see our decline and impoverishment increase.

A healthy home is really an extension of a common life, common values and common goals- positive contributions to our world and the world around us. That is not to imply that we all need be the same- it is to imply that whatever our differences, family and home need be our point of origin, the place from where who we are, differences and all, originate. When that is so, we relish going home. When it is not so, we are reluctant to return.

Going home isn't about a party or a meal. Going home is refuel and recharge on those things that make us family. Norman Rockwell's painting, Freedom from Want, underscores that truth. It isn't the table or the turkey that holds out attention, in that famous painting, but rather, what it represented. So it is in all Rockwell's work. It isn't about the subject matter so much as it is about the emotion the subject matter elicits. We want to go home, to be there, in those paintings. We want to be there, with those we love and care for- or those we want to be with or love. Why? Because we have all been there, at least once. We have all experienced that spiritual dimension of home and family, at least once in our lives- and it is intoxicating and addictive. We want more, no matter how far away that might be for some.

In fact, Thanksgiving is a spiritual expression, whether we'd like to admit that or not. The pilgrims thanked God, for providing. That was one thing everybody at the Pilgrims table could agree with- whether they liked the seating arrangements at the table or not. They thanked God for providing, for the freedoms they accorded themselves and they thanked God for the homes and families they shared.

When we go home for the holidays, whether we do so with eagerness or trepidation, it would wise to keep those things in mind.

Those who fear the place they came from can go home and participate in the toxicity, or they can choose not to engage, and ignore it. While some may choose to watch television, there might be someone willing to engage in meaningful conversation. Taking some time with a bored or sullen child can have a meaning and impact you- and that child- in ways you cannot begin to imagine. A few hours, without the defensive facade and deliberately pushing aside the tension will not change the dysfunction and pain of the past. Still, those few hours, meaningfully spent, can serve to highlight how far you have come from that dysfunctional environment and how much that means to you. Those few hours might serve as a lamplight to further potential and possibilities.

That may not change the family you came from- but it will change the family you create- even if it is only a family one.

Part Three on Home for the Holidays, tomorrow.