On Freedom and Finding My Way Home

They say home is where the heart is… But my heart is wild and free

So am I homeless…or just heartless? Did I start this…did it start me? 

-Passenger

One of the primary definitions of “Freedom” is “The state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily.” If that’s true, then I have certainly learned to embody freedom at its core.

Movement has defined me in more ways than one. When I feel overwhelmed in my daily life, I run. I swim. I walk. I move. When my highly sensitive system is overstimulated, moving helps my body catch up with the speed of my thoughts. Once that happens, it’s like reconnecting those two elements helps me to slow the whole system (mind and body) back down again.

The same is true on a more macro level. Any time my circumstances in life become too much, I move. I move cities. I move houses. After exhausting my resources in a relationship, I leave. When a job has become over-taxing, I change jobs.

I was raised by a fearless woman who had unshakeable faith in the fact that nothing lasts forever, and so long as we keep moving with the flow of life, reaching for the stars and remaining kind to others along the way… God or the Universe or whatever deity you prefer….will always provide.

There is one real liability that comes from living in this way, however. It can become compulsive. Detachment from an outcome of any given relationship can start to inch toward fear of attachment. Being untethered can slide into a sense of feeling ungrounded. And an ability to move easily can develop into patterning where I automatically pre-pack in my own mind…looking for the right  moment to hit the ground running.

It’s feedback I’ve gotten in every major relationship I’ve ever been in. While I am compassionate, loving, and generous (attributes my partners have appreciated) – I also have a tendency to be a bit unreachable. I don’t ever seem to settle in. There is the sense that I’m ready…eager even…to bolt.

To put it simply – if I’m always looking for my next move, it makes it hard to feel at home. I keep moving in the name of freedom, but in so doing, I remove the possibility of staying put – thus restricting my options and curbing the very freedom I claim to imbibe.

And finding my way “home” has become a major preoccupation of late.

I’m at a point in my life where I am tired of bolting. Yes – I want to keep my ability to recognize when I need to let go and move on. There is something courageous about being willing to walk away. I’m just starting to wonder if I’ve relied too much on that skill – so much so that I resist settling into a place because to do so would restrict me too much. If I plant both feet in the entryway, I fear I might not be able to get out once the door closes behind me. Like a cat – I am not sure whether I want to stay in or go out…my preference would be to keep the door open at all times. Just in case.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who are all too ready to identify with a set of circumstances and keep the status quo at all costs. Often such people operate in life with the assumption that home is a specific place. I always felt myself to be above that idea. I arrogantly laughed at the notion of a home being in a specific location or housed within the walls of a built structure. I mean…soooo….when a hurricane hits and the walls come tumbling down, have you lost your home along with your house? How limiting!

But…without realizing it…I now know that I, too, was operating under that assumption. Except in reverse. I kept leaving places and insisting “this isn’t home.” As though I were listening to some inner guide that was pointing me north to where my real home would lie. In other words, I believed home to be a place. A set of circumstances. Just like those I was mocking. It’s just that unlike them…who had a place they called “home”…I was desperately trying to find it.

And of course both extremes are wrong. Or at least….when I feel into them, I don’t resonate with either one. I could continue to move from place to place for the rest of my life….trying to “find” my home. Likely I never would have done so. Or I could attach unhealthily to a specific place or person. Unwilling to let go of it even if holding on meant inflicting myself with unnecessary suffering.

But real home? I don’t know what that means for everyone else. But I am realizing that for ME…it can only ever be experienced when I feel “at home” in my own skin. When I feel comfortable with myself, it doesn’t matter where I am. I sleep comfortably. I feel at ease. And when I lose that (maybe because I’m tired, hungry, sad, angry, or fearful) then it doesn’t matter where I am. No place feels like home.

In a commentary piece about Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (the Minimalists) said that upon reading the last section of the book, they arrived at the insight that… “Perhaps real freedom is about finding the ability within yourself to give yourself to the people who are special to you, to contribute to the people who mean something to you. Perhaps that’s real freedom.”

The reason this interests me is that when I think about “home” – I think about it in much the same way as these men described freedom. I feel at home when I am entirely honest with myself and can trust myself wholly. When in that space, I can give generously to myself. I can be compassionate with myself. That feeling expands when I am also in the company of another person with whom I can be completely  honest and in whom I can completely trust. That feeling opens me up, encouraging me to be vulnerable and imploring that I give myself to those around me and contribute. Doing so makes me feel free. It also makes me feel like I’ve arrived home.

So perhaps freedom and home aren’t opposing forces (as I once believed them to be). Rather – they are the yin and yang of a singular experience within the self. An experience that is felt in those beautiful moments that somehow allow you to take flight and ground inward all at once.

Freedom is having the capacity to be at home in every moment and with those around me. Home is the experience of being free to be my whole self.

 

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