They say home is where the heart is, and mostly I’d have to agree – with a catch. Last weekend I made a trip home to Denver, Colorado, where I spent 18 years of my life. Like it does for many people, going home conjures up fond memories of childhood and the comforts of being cared for. It’s a place to feel protected and perhaps even transported back in time where everyone was younger and life was simpler. Now, I realize this is not the case for some who experienced a less than positive upbringing. I, however, was fortunate to grow up in a stable home with two parents that loved and provided for me in every possible way.
Yet, on this most recent trip back, I was aware of some conflicting feelings I was experiencing about “home.” While I was sitting under the dry Denver sun on the patio at my dad’s condo reading a book on the principles of Buddhism, a particular concept resonated with me and I felt that it completely explained those dichotomous sensations I just mentioned: impermanence. The idea is that everything is always changing and the less attachment we form to any one person, place, or thing the more we are open to the fluidity of positive transformations. Impermanence is just the reality of the nature of all living things and we can either face the constant challenge of resisting it, or we can go with the flow – so to speak.
I realized that impermanence is the reason for my recent attitude towards home. On one hand, home is comforting for me because it’s so familiar. Driving through streets I have not seen for years, I noticed the same old apartment complexes, the same schools, and the same nail salon where my mom used to go semi-weekly. I was even driving the same car I drove in high school, which my dad has lovingly cared for over the years. I visited family and friends who reminded me of times past, and who even looked the same to the relatively undiscerning eye. But maybe it’s just the expectation of sameness that makes home feel like it hasn’t really changed; my desire for one thing that’s stable and unchanging in a world that can feel so uncertain and that moves so fast.
Not coincidentally, my dad and I went to the movies during my visit to see The Butler. I won’t spoil the whole film, but there is an interesting connection to this idea I’m exploring. The main character was a butler at the White House for over 30 years and despite working through many different presidencies and their politics, he was entirely consumed by maintaining the status quo – or not rocking the boat when it came to race relations. The irony of the story is how he holds so tightly to his position at the White House, which was quite significant for a black man of his era, that he alienates his son for participating in the Civil Rights movement and trying to create positive change and advancement. It was another reminder that nothing can ever stay the same and if we are open to that concept, it creates the space for a beautiful evolution (which in this case culminated in a black man being elected President after so many years of persecution and struggle).
When I look closely, the reality is that a lot has changed about home. I visit my dad in his downtown condo, where he has lived since my parents divorced just a few years ago. Most of my close friends have left town and moved forward with their lives in different cities across the country. My grandmother is no longer alive and my grandfather seems to have just a little bit harder time getting around every time I see him. Nothing is truly the same and confronting that reality is not easy for me. Even though I enjoy living my independent adult life, growing physically, professionally, and spiritually, part of me just wants to hop in a time machine and be transported to my childhood at home.
Another take on what makes the seemingly static quality of home so special is a feeling that I can pause the ever-changing nature of my life temporarily – escape to a place I mentally put on a pedestal for the fond memories it evokes (while simultaneously blocking out the negative memories). It’s like it gives me permission to finally stop and contemplate all that I have accomplished since leaving the nest. The contrast between the seeming sameness of home and the unexpected fluctuations in my day-to-day adult life to some degree give me a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The book I was reading over the weekend, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar by Lodro Rinzler, said quote: “When we acknowledge our impermanence, as well as the impermanence of everything around us, we find true appreciation for the way things are.” The more that we ride the wave of impermanence and accept the changes as opportunities, the more that our everyday lives will bring us that comforting sense of “home”. No matter what the reason we might cling to home as a point of stability and sameness, we can all keep it in perspective knowing that without change we would be lifeless and most likely bored out of our minds. Impermanence is in fact a gift I’m choosing to embrace – and ironically, I believe it’s the stability of my home life and upbringing that gave me the strength and courage to do so.
(Blog post dedicated to mom and dad)