The Gratitude Challenge’s twenty-first topic is “Home”.
Sometimes we think we are at home, just to one day open our eyes and don’t know where we have spent all this time. We feel alienated. Foreign – in ourselves and to the people around us. Sometimes we need to leave what we thought is home, to find back. Is finding back to ourselves also finding back home?
What is home? Where is it?
Home is where the heart is.
Or on a more comedic note:
Home is where you pay your bills.
There are so many sayings; apparently, it’s a question that many of us are pondering about.
I think Home is not only a geographic concept, but also a psychological: Do we feel home in ourselves? Do we feel content with what we have, settled, and grounded?
I identify as European and like many things in Europe. I think it is the most beautiful continent. But at the same time my feelings in Europe and especially in Germany are ambivalent. Lows are not super low, highs are also not super high. I feel numb and run on autopilot. I start romantic relationships when I’m abroad and I end them in Germany, as my feelings go numb.
Considered part of society could make me feel more included and at home, but instead I resent the absence of a “foreigner bonus” and the social pressure as a result of it. This pressure makes me rebellious in my mind – and as I realize it, I get angry with myself for having such immature feelings. There is no winning in this dynamic.
Speaking the language fluently, I am aware of all my fellow Germans’ dissatisfaction. I never felt that what Germany is known for resonates with me, there was never a feeling of belonging: A vegetarian who doesn’t drink in a country of meat eaters who order beer by the litre. A country in love with football and cars, when I could not care less. I don’t like German weather, German food, I am not attracted by the style many women there seem to prefer, the German bourgeois mentality that success equals owning a house and to have a life plan for the decade to come. The blunt arrogance to assume that “the German way” is superior to any other. Then again, I was told that my image does not represent Germany, but a certain social circle that I am familiar with.
Did I not try hard enough to find home at home?
I live 10,000 kilometres away from where I was born, but many times I feel more at home than I did before the move. And yet I’m already thinking about where to move next.
My first step into Asian lands was more than a decade ago to Vietnam. I did not know why I wanted to go exactly there, I did not know anything about that country and yet there was something that pulled me towards it. And as I arrived, prepared for all kinds of culture shock, I felt I had arrived. I felt home.
And then I moved on.
In these times of omnipresent oversupply, it is easy to keep looking for the next thing that finally will make us as happy as is humanly possible – just to feel as empty and restless as before. For me, I catch myself how, instead of being present and happy with what I have, I ponder if maybe there could be a better relationship. I tell myself that with this new book I could finally study the language properly, when I already have a whole stack of unread resources. I’m looking for the next new artist instead of enjoying the albums I already own. I believe that with yet another gadget I could create better music, instead of simply practising with what I already have.
I often catch myself thinking “Am I happy? Could it be better?”
Such inner monologue means we are living in an idea, not the present. We are hunting something that is not there, thinking that if we only try hard enough it will be.
So I walk when I have a call, when I go for a run it’s as fast as I can, when I travel it’s as many new destinations as possible. Don’t slow down our you will miss out. And by hunting this imaginary better future, we miss the beautiful details that make our present already so worthwhile to be in.
I feel this inner strife everywhere.
I can’t decide if I prefer life in the city or in the countryside… In the latter I feel calmer, more “connected” to people and nature, I feel well. But I know that one of the main reasons I can enjoy it is that I have an apartment in a big city where I can go back to anytime… Without it I would be afraid to get “stuck”.
I grew up in the countryside and part of my discomfort probably stems from a subconscious rejection of my roots – not wanting to be like the people I grew up with, not wanting to live the same life full of fights and disrespect – and until I’ve found peace with that, I probably won’t care whether I am in the city or in the country, I will forever be searching for something that I could only find by looking inwards.
I can see this divisiveness also in my relationships.
When I have what I call a “countryside relationship”, I feel just like when I’m out of the city: calm, healthy, but also bored and “stuck”.
Then I’ll go for a “city relationship”: exciting but exhausting, full of action and drama, always something new to work on. I feel alive but soon my body tells me to stop, I feel exhausted and tired.
And then the cycle repeats.
Many people find comfort and stability in tradition and customs, but I look at them like an alien. Who decided that around Christmas suddenly everyone goes on a shopping spree and puts a dead tree up in the living room? Why do those same people who fear a global pandemic so much suddenly just forget all caution for a Christian event when they are not even religious? Who decided that on Lunar New Year there should remain some leftovers of the fish and that it should not be flipped on the other side and now everyone is following it? Would I feel “at home” if I participated in such traditions? And do also such traditions count that belong to the country where I live in now, or does it need to be something that involves my family and my “home country”?
Is it routine that makes us feel in control and therefore “at home”? Why are people – me included – many times not questioning why they are doing things a certain way?
A friend of mine told me that whenever he leaves his house in the countryside to spend some days in the city, he quickly misses what he considers his home. He even misses the otherwise annoying neighbour who’s always noisy.
Is this it?
Is home just unreflected, romanticized comfort? An idea that proves wrong the moment we step into our supposed home and realize that the neighbour in fact is noisy and annoying? Is it a mental concept of belonging that we try to keep up despite knowing better? I certainly remember having fallen prey to this mind trap, having imagined the times going back to the place of my childhood as being a wonderful reunion of a happy family, just to be proven wrong time and again.
So, if I do not have a geographic landmark to find home, what keeps me from finding home inside myself?
Is it my desire for “freedom”? Without this, could I eventually feel home wherever I am, simply feeling comfortable in myself? As Amélie Nothomb writes in her autobiographic novel Tokyo Fiancée (freely translated as I read it in German):
[…] the physical experience of freedom is something else entirely. There would always have to be something to escape from in order to cultivate this great sensation. And in fact, there is always something to escape from. If there’s nothing else, there’s still yourself. It’s good to know that you can escape yourself. That it is possible to escape from the little prison that sedentarism erects everywhere. You take your belongings and leave. And the ego is so perplexed by it that it forgets to play the jailer. You can shake off yourself like you shake off prison guards.
Am I too greedy, wanting it all? It’s true – it could be so much worse. There is a beautiful performance by Mehdi Amanian and fellow musicians who play the two songs “Winter is Over” and “Laye Laye”. The performance is described as follows:
“Winter is over” followed by a Kurdish/Sorani lullaby called “Laye Laye” arranged by Mehdi Aminian.
The two songs are connected by a poem of Khosro Golsorkhi (or Shahriar Dadvar?) “Winter is over” is an old Armenian melody finding its way into Persian in the context of Iranian protest movements of the 1970s. “Laye laye” is the story of many people in Kurdish areas, who do not know their actual date of birth.
The date of birth is often located at a time when it was raining, snowing or the field was being mowed. In southern Kurdistan, however, one often speaks of “Katî Raykirdin”, of the time of flight.
Laye Laye is a lullaby sung in the Soran-Kurdish dialect of a mother who is fleeing the atrocities of Saddam Hussein with a group of refugees: “Sleep, my child. Our friends are the paths and the high mountains”.
Let’s hope some children would mention they were born in Iran when the “winter” was over!Winter is Over & Laye Laye – Mehdi Aminian – سر اومد زمستون
I’m grateful for not having lost home due to war or oppression. I’m grateful for having the tools and abilities to go on this journey to eventually find home inside myself. My motto for 2022 was “Breath, feel, empathize, be present”. My motto for 2023 reflects my journey to get to know this person who is “me” and to find home and comfort within:
I know so much about the physical form,My motto for 2023, taken and adapted from Sister Jayanti: How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget
but now I want to explore the inner being.
I realize there are many more treasures within.
There is peace, there is love, there is truth, there is joy and there is purity.
These are my original qualities.
This is who I am.