Action on Purpose

Perspectives Along the Path

I long, as does every human being,
to be at home wherever I find myself.

Maya Angelou


Honing in on Home

It was Christmas Eve, but I had nearly forgotten as we hurried up the Greenwich Village street to attend a rather chic dinner party.  The gathering was full of 20-something professionals like myself, good food, witty conversation and laughter.  As the evening wore on, I became aware that no one at the party seemed to notice that it was Christmas Eve, except perhaps in passing.  I thought how cosmopolitan I’d become to wind up in this crowd this night.  As I was enjoying the after-dinner repartee, I suddenly heard the strains of a Christmas carol being played by a rag-tag Salvation Army band on the streets below.  The hostess moved quickly to close the window, blocking out the sound of the forlorn trumpet.  Yet inside of me, there arose a sudden yearning for that trumpet and familiar Christmas traditions, and I was quite taken by surprise.

In the 30 minutes that followed, the yearning increased rather than receding as I’d expected.  An image suddenly arose in my mind of a church placard, announcing the times of Christmas Eve services that evening.  I didn’t realize I had taken in that information as we passed the church on the corner between the subway and the apartment building where the party was held.  I slipped away from the party, tracing my steps back to the little corner church.  I sat in the sanctuary with a smattering of others to sing carols and listen to the familiar story of the first Christmas.  In that hour, I learned a lot about myself.  I discovered that I needed to honor both my adventures into new experiences and the roots that fed me from my past.  Sitting in that church, I was able to connect to the memories, people, sounds and feelings that allowed me to be at home in myself that special night.  I returned to the party at peace and a little wiser about the roots that sustain me. I had found a way home to myself that Christmas Eve.

Decades have passed since that Christmas Eve in Manhattan, but the experience is as fresh as if it were yesterday.  Every year since, during the holiday season, I have taken time to reflect on how to honor my roots as well as my current growing edges.  Then I have taken initiative to create a fresh way to be at home with each.

What is Home?

Home is both where we are rooted and where we are headed in life.  In the developmental urge to move away from our childhood roots – whether across the street, across the country, or across the globe – is a healthy need to find our own place in a larger, adult world.  Traditional psychologies have emphasized this urge to “separate and individuate,” reifying the “rugged individual” image so popular in Western cultures.  More recent psychological understanding, however, has brought into focus a relational context of ongoing, deepening connection.  Here we see both the possibility, and the necessity, of maintaining connections to our roots in ways that nourish the growth of ourselves, the people and communities from which we sprouted, and the ever-changing relationship connecting us together.

For some, returning to places and people connected with a childhood home can be very painful.  Even if a physical return is not made, the flood of memories the holidays evoke can make the season a difficult, sometimes dreaded, time of year.  If this is your experience, then it becomes even more salient to identify and honor the sense of home you have developed within.  This process allows you to be at home, at peace, wherever you are.

A place to begin in understanding some of the elements of “home” for each of us is to complete the following sentences:

  • I am at home at this place:
  • I am at home with this person / these people:
  • I am at home when I am doing this activity:
  • I am at home when I am being or expressing this quality:

Remember that home is not the place, the other person, or the activity.  Rather, it is these things, or even the memory of these things as we honor them, that bring us a sense of being at home in ourselves.

Finding Our Way Home

The holiday season can be a particularly poignant time for those who are away from family and familiar traditions for the first time, either by choice or by circumstance.  There is a rich opportunity to discover internally what is really essential for us to honor from our traditions, while also letting go of what is no longer important.

Though our relationship to home is an ever-present one, it is particularly called into focus during the holidays.  Perhaps my story echoes a similar experience for many, when we discover an essential root, or connection, to home.  It is by recognizing and nourishing our essential roots, while letting go and moving on from those that no longer feed us, that we learn how to be at home in ourselves – wherever we are.  This is done through mindful trial and error – our life experience.  It is by being at home in ourselves – by living our truth – that we pass on the richest soil for the roots of the next generation.

The journey is my home.
Muriel Rukeyser


~  Action On Purpose Challenge  ~

Take some time to reflect on what is most important for you this holiday season.  Wherever you are, and whatever you do, how can you be more at home with yourself?

Wishing you a growthful and joyous holiday!