Most people will be familiar with that old saying, “You can never go home again.” You know, go back to your old neighbourhood, or in my case, since my father got transferred many times in my growing up years, you can’t really go back to any or all of your old neighbourhoods and find the “home”, for better or worse that you had there or the sense or lack of sense of “home” that you had in any given “home” you lived in as you were growing up.
In an interesting yet ill-advised situation I moved into a rental in a house 2 1/2 blocks from a house where I lived between the ages of 12 and 4 days short of my 16th birthday. I do, however, believe, that there was incredible synchronicity and purpose of things I’ve learned more about myself in the last months. Remember, I’m always saying, no matter what it is in our lives, if we ask what “it” is trying to teach us, open to the lessons, we continue to grow and evolve.
I was out walking and socializing my German Shepherd puppy Dakota, who is 3 months and 3 weeks old. She got to be more socialized playing with some neighbourhood kids at the local neighbourhood public school in the school yard.
This house, of course, as I took a picture of it, today, while I was out on a walk with my puppy, Dakota, upon which I decided to take a nostalgic walk by this house I lived in with my family for close to four years – 1970-1974 – (because I am soon moving out of this neighbourhood for reasons that have nothing to do with this being a neighbourhood from my past) is a different colour, has a blocked off yard in a weird place for a corner lot house, a new roof, is missing bushes and trees we planted that were there in the mid-90’s when I drove by this house but were not there today. I saw the people and teenagers who live there now. The vehicles we have today, some look like they won’t even fit in these 1970’s style and sized garages now.
Perhaps in a good way while I was going back, literally, walking down a street and having been living in this same neighbourhood, there is a lot of truth to the reality that I have processed and healed the years in that house yet it still holds a place inside and is associated more with milestones in my life now then what happened when I lived there than what actually went on in that house in my family.
I approached this old “family” home the way I often went up to Meadowlane Public School in reverse if you will. (a school I never attended as I was beginning high school when we moved to Kitchener in 1970 but my brother, 3 years my junior, and who failed grade 4 twice, ended up 5 years behind me in school did attend this school)
I walked along McGarry Drive to Forestwood Drive and then turned onto Meadowlane Drive across from Meadowlane Public School and walked down Meadowlane Drive to Meadowbrook Drive – the street I lived on in the early 1970’s as a young teenager. I came the to street corner, one that I had walked, run, and biked by millions of times in the time I lived there growing up. Ironic, that it is not only the intersection of these two important streets from this period of my life but that also has a big red traffic “Stop” sign. As I stood at that corner today and took the picture of the street signs and stop sign to the right, I was pondering whether or not I was attempting to “go back home” in the sense any emotional sense or what the significance of walking my puppy by that house today and taking pictures including video of my approaching the street corner and in turn the house I once had lived in, in what should have been some healthy modicum of “family life” that was not what went on, for me, in that house at all. The “Stop” sign seemed to capture my attention for a minute or two after my focus had shifted from taking the picture. I didn’t feel anything negative. It just seemed all too easy, not overly important. A bit confusing at that point. I guess because I had upon choosing to walk this way wondered if it would feel any different than, say, walking down another street in the neighbourhood.
Dakota needs more leash training so walking further was to work on meeting that milestone of training with and for Dakota. As I anticipated I might re-live something, everything was brand new to her. I noticed and was mindful of the contrast. Yet the only stark or palpable contrast was that I knew this street, had lived in a house on this street and Dakota had never been on the street. That was really the sum total of my emotional experience with this walk. The paradox seemed to hold some special meaning in that the house I was re-approaching after so many years since I lived there as a young teen, was in a way as known and unknown as it was newly-old, unfamiliar yet very familiar, the same but oh so different. And yet, in the end, really, it ended up becoming a freeing barometer of just how far I’ve come and how I truly have resolved and left past childhood trauma behind a long time ago. For Dakota the side walk on the street where we walked was new, unknown, filled with smells she hadn’t smelled before, and laying before her on this journey a million things she could try to put in her mouth and experience as puppies tend to do.
Was I sure I wanted to continue on? I was not only going to walk past and take a picture of a past “childhood” home of mine but also remember the neighbours and kids that lived around us. All the houses in this area and on this street where as a 14 year old (Parks and Recreation employee – a Playground Leader in the summer at Meadowlane Public School) where I also babysit younger kids on a regular basis (many of whom I got to know and their parents as a Playground Leader) in so many of the houses around us. I particularly recalled where certain neighbours and other families lived when I lived there. The ones I liked, the ones I didn’t like, and the one neighbour on Forestwood Drive, just up from the corner of Meadowbrook Drive and Forestwood Drive, Emily, who with her husband, was friends with my parents and whose children, Diana and Rob were among those I was a sitter for. Emily, was a lady, who I felt some connection to in a time in my life when there was little to no feelings or understanding of connection for me in life. I remember her fondly. I paused on the way past the house they lived in back then but likely do not live any longer. When I was in grade 10 I wrote an award-winning poem (in a 50 minute English Class) on “Loneliness”. It was a subject I knew very well from the inside out in my childhood. One day, when Emily, was visiting my mother, I was outside playing, running in and out, and I was asked to come in to the “family room” where they were and Emily asked me first if she could read my poem, guess my mother mentioned it? After reading it, she asked if she could have a copy. I remember feeling connected to her in a way that felt sad at that moment as I handed her a copy because I knew where inside I’d written that poem from and here she was identifying with it. Without any words, there was a bonding of knowing there, a sharing of pain.
As I write this, and reflect upon what my main message is from this experience of mine today – one that was not planned. I feel myself letting go of something so deep I don’t know what to call it. Something small, left over, not that felt for years now, pretty much healed yet somehow still important enough to feel its leaving so to speak. And, in the feeling of this what I really feel is great, more peaceful, happy, yet more freedom. Nothing else. I expected something to hurt if even only a little bit, but you know, it doesn’t. That’s a wonderful thing. A result of all the deep healing work I did almost 20 years ago now. And yet, recently, there were a few challenges in my life, nothing huge, nothing old or like when I had BPD, but challenges of further evolving, which we need to be open to in order to continue to grow and learn. Challenges that teach us more about ourselves. I have learned over the years, generally, and helping others as a Life, BPD/Mental Health & Self-Development Coach, that we are always evolving as long as we continue to journey the “road less traveled” (M. Scott Peck).
Was I trying in some way to “go home again”? Not really. Not beyond just walking the old neighbourhood and remembering a time in my life though a very painful one I was remembering more the things I valued – all of which were outside of that house, really, about the time I had lived here before when I was trying to grow up. This has shown me just how much I did heal in the past and just how much I truly have accepted, processed, grieved, and a long time ago, radically accepted, forgiven, remembered, and let go of all that actually happened and all that I needed that didn’t happen inside the walls of that house when my “family” and I lived there.
Can you really ever go “home” again? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that you can re-visit a past “home” like I did today. No, in the sense that it will never be, cannot ever be your “home” again. No, in the sense that in going back just to look and remember so much will have changed.
What matters most about this question, “Can you really ever go home again?” is whether or not emotionally, inside, you have ever really grown enough to have really left that “home” behind you or not. It also matters very much if you have resolved past unresolved issues from your childhood or not as well. Have you radically accepted what your “family” was like if toxic, dysfunctional, unhealthy, and abusive as mine was? Have you gotten your old “home” cleansed from your psyche? Have you done the work? Have you taken that journey on the “road less traveled” to finding that most precious place of all, “home” inside of your own authentic and fully known healthy self?
Too many people can never go “home” again not only because very little, if anything, stays the same about where you lived, but also because emotionally for all-too-many people too much from the past is still over-shadowing their here-and-now and they have not yet done enough of the work and healing/recovery to be truly free enough to walk past a place they grew up in, to go “home” again to the neighbourhood, and feel freer and grateful for all that they went through, as traumatic as it may well have been for them as it was for me.
I feel very grateful that I took my puppy on that walk. It somehow strengthened an already strong, yet still relatively new bond. The here-and-now me with my puppy, Dakota, going “home” again, living only blocks from there for a while now (some 42 years later) anyway, understanding something about that was important and yet not “getting it” until today. What I got today, was how truly free of all that went on inside of that house and that “family” I truly am. I am so grateful for the challenges of having lived back in this neighbourhood. I am so grateful for taking a walk with my puppy that did and didn’t mean “going home again”. I am so grateful for the journey I have had thus far in my life. It has made me who I am today. Not perfect, but, someone I am proud to have become in my imperfection, wisdom, emotional maturity, and my ever-evolving and growing that adds to that wisdom and emotional/intellectual maturity and my freedom, hard fought for and won and ever-evolving too.
No, I didn’t fully “go home again”. I stood outside that house and I stood there fully adult today, with the feelings of a 56 years young woman, and not the feelings of a traumatized child. I left those feelings behind, truly healed them almost 2o years ago.
It has also changed quite a bit over the 42 years since I lived there. That too means I couldn’t really be “going home” to the house that I knew when I lived in it.
Not only what is about how my father’s pride-and-joy Blue Spruce tree that we planted as a baby tree that grew to incredible majestic maturity, height, and was strong and healthy for years (that he never lived to see) and is now gone like the hedges that we all had to take part in planting that back in 1989, were, like the Blue Spruce tree, tall, vibrant, and much more fully mature than when we lived there after planting them back in the early 1970’s – today also gone. The awkwardly placed privacy wall in the middle of a side yard on a corner lot that even the secrets that house held of by our “family” didn’t see my father try to erect such an eye-sore to hide behind. The house has been painted many colours over the years. (I have driven by with friends going other places over past years a few times) The trees or lack of trees and new trees and shrubs planted has vastly changed too. Today, for the first time, in a few times of having driven by the house since living in the neighbourhood again, I noticed that the family room window isn’t the original one. It is no longer the bay window that we had. I remember my mother sitting on the couch in the family room often in the afternoon, nosy and bored, with such self-loathing and low-esteem she took pleasure in peering out and judging all she could take in by peeking at the neighbours. Whatever she saw she always commented on whether you wanted to hear it or not. She particularly enjoyed the bay window as it gave her a better view of the small minded way she viewed and judged the small area outside that window that was within her eye-shot.
Yes, I went “home again” in the sense that I re-visited that street corner, and the street corner in this neighbourhood where I stood right outside the house I lived in (was verbally, emotionally, sexually, physically abused in) with my “family” and what I am left with most strikingly isn’t what was but rather is, what is now. Being fully who I am in the here-and-now. I am no longer at all that wounded young person I once was. It was the marvelous absence of any attachment to past pain that I experienced in that house that was my “going home” again and the truth of my inability to ever go “home again”. I am not that person who lived there. I cannot go back there. I stood there. I was there. But it has nothing to do with it being “home” at all anymore.
There are still memories, just not the “dark” “inside the house ones” anymore. Guess that house will always remind me of time when “being home” meant I was lost, abandoned, detached, disconnected, and not safe and didn’t know what it meant to be found, be me, and to be “home inside of myself”.
There was something so freeing about this walk with Dakota, a new puppy in my here-and-now life and the “going home” that no longer holds any unresolved past for me that I am going to take the same walk with my 2 year old Rotti Cross dog Jake (right) in a couple of days. Only this time, we won’t stop, I won’t take pictures of the street corner or the house. Maybe just one of loyal and loving sweet Jake as we walk right on by.
Jake was so named because my paternal grandmother (one of the few in my entire “family” I felt any connection or nurture from or even visible to as a kid) had this saying when things were okay, going well, or she was happy. My grandmother would say, “Everything is just Jake”. That’s how I felt in this entire sort of “going home again” if you will today, for me, it was all “just Jake”. So now, I want to walk the same “just Jake” route with the namesake of my grandmother’s way of being in the “flow”. I, despite this being an “old neighbourhood” and that a “home” I lived in, was an experience of looking at something that used to be so emotionally loaded and walking around a neighbourhood whose memories, many years ago, had emotional impact. Today I was “just Jake” and in the “power of now” (Tolle) and “going with the flow of what is. What is, is what the empowerment of flow is all about.
It will be truly just walking my dog around a neighbourhood I am moving out of again though nothing is the same at all. I will walk my dogs around these blocks for the bit of time we have until we will be walking in the neighbourhood we are moving too. Walking by houses that are just that as you walk by them. Houses that may be “home” or not to the people who currently inhabit them.
I am found. Long since found. I know myself well. I am my own best friend. I love myself. I accept myself, as I am now. That feels so freeing, so comfortable and so familiar. It is more important, I have realized today, to be home inside of myself than it is to be nostalgic or focused in anyway on re-visiting “going home again”. For I have truly been there, done that, got the t-shirt. There’s nothing left there. Nothing. No ill will. No emotional charge. No nostalgia. It’s just a house standing that was not only never really my “home” in any real or healthy way but it is only a “home” as is any “home” only a “home” when love and respect and care, compassion, and empathy are present.
As corny as it may read, “Home really is where the heart is” I really mean this, “home” is not a physical place per se. “Home” is much more about not only where your heart is but even more so where your relationship to and with “self” is and how “at home your are inside your own skin.” “Home” is knowing, loving, caring, and be self-connected. It is from this “home” inside that we can be open enough, free enough, healthy enough, to truly, and deeply connect with others in authentic and meaningful lasting ways.
© A.J. Mahari, April 6, 2014 – All rights reserved. Pictures by and © A.J. Mahari