Friday, July 19, 2013

Belonging, continued.

On a different vein from my post earlier tonight, I'm going back to where I grew up next weekend. I don't say, "going back home," because home is my apartment, and the other "home" is where my mother is. (More on this back in March of 2012.) But I'm going back, and I have surprised myself and others when I say that I don't really have many plans for my brief visit. (I keep using "brief visit" as an excuse... We'll leave unturned the rock that asks whether I'd feel differently with a longer trip.)

I have long been connected to certain places, as they in turn connect me to certain moments or phases or feelings. And it's not that New Jersey doesn't have those places, but, I think, that those places are closed off to me now, and shy of significantly violating basic trespassing law or using a TARDIS, I can't revisit them. This is part of life, of time, of change: that while I would love to walk down the stone steps, tracing my hand over the sphinx statues and peeling-bark trees that guarded my childhood play area*, I cannot. That while I miss the feeling of possibility and joyful unknown I knew as a teenager waiting under trees in the back acreage of my childhood church, I cannot recreate it by revisiting them--I have tried. In every case, either the place or I have changed too much to summon what was.

This is a mood I find myself in occasionally: melancholic, which is not to say sad or depressed or regretful. You can miss things without really wanting them back, especially because with all these pieces of selective memory, there are shadows, too: watching friends fade, feeling hope revert to resignation. I don't actually want to be 7 again, or 17. In fact--and I do hesitate to say this, but--as I approach 30 at the end of this year, I find myself, if not entirely content, more content than I have been... maybe ever. There's nothing specific about this contentedness, which is maybe why it's remarkable: it's not based on circumstance. (To quote C. S. Lewis, "don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose."*)

I still love returning to certain places that bring the past back to life--to my mother's kitchen (wherever it may be), to the farthest-out sand flat at Kingsbury Beach on Cape Cod, to the orchard of my grandparents (now my cousin's) house--but for whatever reason, the idea of belonging, of home has shifted away from where I'll be next weekend.

This, here, where I am, is home. And while there are pieces of the past that still resound with fluctuating emotions, this is where I belong.

* Never have I typed a phrase that so thoroughly screamed, "this girl went to private school." Dang.

** Clive Staples, paraphrasing St. Augustine, in his The Four Loves: "This is what comes... of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away." [Note: that same love funnels to people, too. No hate.]

Post script: I feel like I frequently end with a song, so why break a pattern? This.

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