Where Is Home?

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/21/10)

Here I sit on a Southwest plane, mid-flight, on my way from California to Chicago.

That time of year is upon us again:  the holiday season.  My absolute favorite time of the year.

But before I get into that, dear Blog-Friends, I must take a moment to apologize for my prolonged absence.   Many friends who have become unemployed recently had warned me as I began this adventure that within a month I would find that, suddenly, I was completely overwhelmed with things to do.  This is one of the big ironies of unemployment.  I have no idea how I got things like laundry and cleaning the bathroom done when I had a job, because I hardly have time to do them now.  I suppose for me, as a way to transition into this new way of being, I have over-structured and over-planned my days, weeks and months.  I definitely operate from a schedule, and strive to have concrete activities to complete every day, however mundane they may seem (organizing and labeling all my crafting supplies into a tower of tiny drawers, anyone?).  I’ve gotten a little wrapped up in all these varied tasks and have neglected this particular project.

And not only have I become obsessed with the minutiae of everyday life, I’ve also had the privilege and luxury to do some international travel and mull over the idea that I am part of a much larger world.  And I’ve begun to get my life as an actor in order.

But all that is for a different blog entry.  Tonight I am consumed with thoughts of home, and family, and snow, the ending of an interesting year, and the beginning of a new one.  I suppose it’s normal to take time for reflection this time of year, and I’m certainly no different.

Adam and I had a friend over for dinner the other night at our apartment in Los Angeles (I made really delicious pizza from scratch, but again that’s another blog entry), and he asked me what I was up to since we hadn’t seen each other in a few months.  Since I was in the throes of planning Christmas presents and travel itineraries and packing and all that, I remarked that I was getting myself ready to go home.

“You are home” he replied.

Which, really, brings up a question that I’ve never been able to successfully answer:  where is home?  For the last 17 years I’ve lived away from my family, sometimes thousands of miles.  And I notice that every time I visit the place where I grew up, where my whole family still lives, I tell people I am going “home”, and that when I tell people I am returning to wherever it is that I live, that I call it by the city name.  I rarely refer to my apartment as my home, unless I’m talking to local friends (as in “I’m sorry, I can’t have another margarita because we’re in the Valley and in order to get home, I have to drive on the 405 in the dark”).   Yet, by definition, I feel “home” is fundamentally where one lives, and I know that I can no longer imagine myself happily living in Indiana.  So why after half a lifetime away do I still call it “home”?

I just finished reading a quiet, lovely little book by Dominique Browning called “Slow Love:  How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness”.  In it, she also reflects on this idea of home, and has rested on the idea that home is the place where you want to go to die, or to be buried.  Since my parents had the foresight to get cemetery plots for themselves, my brother and myself when I was five years old, I know that unless something drastic happens, my final resting place is in Calumet Park Cemetery in Schererville, Indiana, with the rest of the Armstrong clan, my mom’s side of the family.  So by that definition, I guess Indiana is home.

But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something – or more appropriately, missing out on something.  I spend 95% of my time right now in Los Angeles, living with my boyfriend of 4 years, surrounded by wonderful friends who feel like family.  I want it to feel like home, but somehow all the satisfying parts don’t add up to a whole home.  Is it possible that I can’t feel a sense of home unless I have blood relatives living in close proximity?  I don’t feel any less connected to them, all of them, living so far away.  I don’t have the luxury of popping in on a moment’s notice to chat, or to have dinner together on a week night, or to attend every birthday celebration, anniversary, or, sadly, even funeral.  But I still feel like I’m a part of their lives and they are a part of mine.

But none of them has ever set foot in my apartment, or met my boyfriend’s kids who live with us part-time, or marveled with me at standing outside in shirt sleeves in February in that miraculous southern California weather.  I don’t get to share these things with them, things that have become part of my everyday life.

As 40 is no longer a far away concept, something that will come upon me naturally when I’m “older”, I’d like to feel like the place I’m living, the life I’m building, the relationships I’m nurturing, gives me a sense of being “home”.  But that feeling still eludes me.  And I don’t stop getting older.

I’m curious if any of you wonderful readers have felt this sort of thing?  I know many of you have chosen a similar path to mine, which is to say the path of a creative person, a life a little off the beaten track.  Is there something endemic to this lifestyle that promotes this sort of restless yearning for a place to call “home”?  Or is it something bigger than that?  Something generational, perhaps?

I don’t anticipate solving this question over the coming week, but I’m certainly going to enjoy playing cards (Michigan Rummy), chatting with my dad over a cup of coffee while my mom is at work, skiing with my brother (apparently you can ski in the Midwest, who knew?), and in general reveling in the grand, messy splendor of my uniquely weird and lovable family.