Funny, isn't it, how many songs, sayings, cliche's and quotes deal with "Home"?
There's no place like home.
Home is where you hang your hat.
Home is where the heart is.
I'm going home.
I'll be home for Christmas.
As you know, I was on travel last week for work. And I got sick. And I was not happy. I was lucky, actually. My work trip conveniently landed me at my Mom and Sis-in-law's for the week. Nice to be able to combine business and pleasure like that.
The upside was that when I came down with this horrible, nasty bug in the middle of my trip, I wasn't stuck in a hotel room with no one to pamper me and bring me soup and ginger-ale. The downside was that I really don't like anyone pampering me when I'm sick. I prefer to be left alone to sweat it out on the couch in front of the TV.
Now, I've spent a LOT of time on travel in my career. A LOT. And I've only been sick on travel twice in my entire, adult life. That's some pretty good odds. And I got to thinking how miserable it is to be away from home when you aren't feeling well. Mental, physical - it doesn't matter. Being away from your 'native' environment when you are under the weather just plain sucks.
And yet, my first book deals with a character who refuses to set down roots, who refuses to establish a home and runs every time she starts feeling a little 'unwell.' It's curious to me that I would write a book about a character who is so unattached to a single place - who flits from place to place, never quite able to settle in and build a nest. What is it about her that made me so intrigued that I had to write about her? And why did I pursue someone so different from myself?
Or did I?
See, when I really sit and think about that character, I have to acknowledge that she IS me, and therefore is like me. Only, she's the me that hasn't learned the lessons I have. She hasn't learned yet that it's not the address or the furniture or the duration of your stay that makes a place a home - it's the experiences and the restfulness and the ability to let go. It's not the view or the comforts or the neighbors or friends. It's the laughter and the tears and the love and the memories. It's the intangible elements of a place and a time, not the physical objects or calendar events.
Like my character, I moved a lot as a child. I moved a lot as an adult, too. Life in the military can do that. I've been in my current home for six years. That's the second longest I've lived anywhere since I was twelve. Yet all my houses, condos and apartments have felt like home. Because I allowed myself to be 'me' - to relax and engage and unwind and fight and dance and laugh and cry and sleep as my own true self. And that's what my character doesn't learn until it's almost too late.
Sure, she thinks she's being herself. She thinks she's not pretending - but she is. Because she's afraid. Afraid of what will happen if she's honest and open. Afraid of what she'll find - or not find, if she looks deep inside herself. So she doesn't let herself build a nest or a home. She doesn't let herself relax and unwind. She doesn't let herself realize what she's running from, until she doesn't have a choice.
She doesn't realize, until the very end - that home is where you find yourself.