Home is so Sad

Sunday, 31 March 2013

I had a reading with a psychic (or is it clairvoyant?) last weekend at a hens party. It was supposed to be a bit of fun, and I’m wholeheartedly a sceptic. I mean, when you have psychic readings in between a male stripper walking around in his underwear, it’s not exactly supposed to be a touching moment. But strangely enough, it was. The first thing she said to me when I sat down was: “Are you a writer?” Creepy. Then she told me with extreme confidence that I write about things that concern women. Creepier still. I barely said a word in my psychic reading, but she went on filling the time with facts that were spot on: I’m quiet, shy, introverted, I don’t like to be around people; I’m addicted to education (she actually said that, so true); I’ll be writing a new book soon (yes, true, I hadn’t told anyone about that until after the reading).

Then she started talking about how I’m separated from my family, not just physically, but in terms of my values and beliefs in life. This made me feel strange. I’m very close to my family, but in many ways, I have separated some of my beliefs from their own. It’s a fragile balancing act for me between maintaining the cultural traditions that I’ve come from and which have helped shape who I am, and finding a place for my own individual values cultivated through thought, education and experiences. Sometimes things clash, other times they don’t. I feel like I’m perpetually caught between feeling so completely at home around my family in ways I can’t explain to my Australian friends, and feeling so completely distanced from them in ways I can explain to my friends.

This made me think of home. I’ve lived in Australia longer than I lived in Israel when I was growing up. And yet Australia will never really be home to me. But I will probably never go back and live in Israel. I feel comfortable in Australia, but it’s not home. I don’t feel comfortable in Israel, but it feels undeniably like home, despite my ambivalence, despite my resistance. I really wish our emotions and sense of belonging fit more logically sometimes with where we live. But they often don’t. The more I prepare myself for my trip to Israel next month, the more I’m filled with mixed feelings of excitement, pure aching homesickness, and trepidation. I don’t know why I’m so afraid, and why this fear doesn’t cancel out the sheer longing. I also know that the home I miss is not the home I’ll be coming to. The home I miss doesn’t really exist. That still doesn’t make me miss it less, or want it less.

I read a line from this poem in Jane’s article in Kindred. It seems so right at the moment, because home really is so sad, and yet so longed for:

Home is so Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

–Philip Larkin


Kelly said...

Hila, I live only 90 minutes from the town where I grew up (and where all my mother's family grew up), and I feel your same mixed emotions about home.

Creepy-cool about the psychic!

suzie said...

This is really fascinating…I'm very sceptical too, but woah! How could she have nailed all those truths? Like you say, creepy.
I completely understand your thoughts on home. I've been in France for 9 years, and I'm still on the fringes. In many ways I belong because I chose to live in this country and it fits me well, but mostly in my interior life. England is where my family are but like you I have terrible mixed feelings about visiting and I don't imagine I will ever live there again. Over 9 years I've worked hard to make roots for my children here, but as they are growing up who knows whether the rootless life I've has will impact on their life choices?

Kelli / Fog and Forest said...

I can relate to this a lot. I grew up in a small suburb of Baltimore and left as soon as I turned 18. I'm the only member of my family who no longer lives there & the first person in my family to finish college. I've always felt like the black sheep because my values & beliefs & desires for my life differ so greatly. Now I live in France and more than ever I crave the familiarity and comfort of home. Of course, the last time I visited home I had a really hard time reconciling what my life is now with what it used to be. Home really is so sad.

Amelia said...

OK that psychic was legit!

Your thoughts on home are in my opinion shared with many young people these days, especially expats. I guess the feelings around home reflect in fact the messiness and lack of logic of life. Sometimes we cannot reconcile our feelings and rationality. I guess all we have to do is accept that as a reality and move on.

To me home is sad when I have to leave it, but each time I come back I seem to rediscover it. Each time it smells a bit different, it feels a bit different. I really don't know how to explain it - maybe it's because I never left for long enough.

Mademoiselle Michael said...

I commend you for sharing all of this. And, you painted quite the picture for us (male strippers + talented writer + psychic...seems like the opening to a contemporary play or something)! But really, thanks for sharing. It's never easy talking about this stuff.

I've moved 14 times in the past 10 years. I'm basically homesick for a place that doesn't exist. And, in a way, everywhere and nowhere are both home. Tres bizarre.

I know sometimes people say home is people and not a place (whether family or the friends you collect) but I'm beginning to wonder if home is moments. Maybe that will take some of the pressure off some of us. Or maybe I'll just buy myself a big ass condo one day and be like, "Nope changed my mind, THIS is home." Who knows. :)

Courtney said...

As a student living away from where I grew up for most of the year but still periodically returning, I often think about the idea of home, especially in relation to the transience of my current living spaces. The fact that I'm about to graduate and have to decide on where I'm living next is both terrifying and exciting. I'm working on a senior project about nostalgia, and may just borrow the Larkin poem–it's beautiful, as were your thoughts in this post overall.

Bethany said...

We live a whole world away from each other Hila, but your post sounds so much like how I feel, traveling home to Michigan from Chicago. For me, home was sad before mom ever passed away, but now that she's gone, going home inevitably means feeling her void all the more acutely, and being reminded that I'm not a little girl anymore. I miss my Michigan home often, but could never live there. Chicago is home, but even after living here for almost a decade, there is still a foreignness that makes me feel a little removed from it.

rooth said...

Isn't it so strange when a homecoming feels so foreign yet so familiar? I hope you find the peace that you're looking for

Hila said...

Kelly: That's reassuring! I suppose I would probably feel the same if home was only 90 minutes away for me too.

Suzie: Especially creepy because she was so right on so many other things I didn't mention here because they're too personal. I was totally freaked out by her. I personally think that if children grow up in a warm home, that's all that matters. While I feel lost sometimes, I also know that my parents made the best decision for my future, and my brother's future, by bringing us to Australia. There's no perfection in life, sometimes you just have to do what seems like the best option and hope for the best.

Kelli: Yep, it's that alienating space between the home you remember, the home you encounter in the present, and the place you may live in. It's not all negative, this feeling, but it does make you feel lonely sometimes.

Amelia: I hope she was legit because she said some interesting things about my future! I've stopped trying to reconcile my rational thoughts about home with my emotions. It is what it is.

Mademoiselle Michael: I've read home described in a book as a sense of self, rather than a place or even a feeling of belonging. I don't know, I wonder if I'll ever find it ...

Courtney: I just saw the poem on your blog, I'm glad it resonated with you. Your project on nostalgia sounds interesting, I'd love to hear more.

Bethany: I imagine for you it's incredibly painful to go home. That void would be hard to deal with. I know exactly what you mean here.

Rooth: yes, that's precisely it: familiar yet foreign. It's such a strange feeling.

hungryandfrozen said...

Oh, home. Rooth's words "so foreign and yet so familiar" are just right.

I've never been to a psychic before, this makes me want to but not want to at the same time - I'm so easy to read, really, and I'd be terribly nervous about what I'd get told. But on the other hand, like reading star sign descriptions, sometimes it's fascinating to hear things about yourself.

Hila said...

Laura: I'm a sceptic who wants to believe. It was quite a creepy experience actually, and I hope what she said about my future is true.