Home is so Sad

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