Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Does Home Just Become a House?

As I begin boxing up the past 14 years of our life in this house, I can't help but ask myself what will be the tipping point for me? When will I reach the point where the emotional attachment to this building snaps and it just becomes a place I once lived and am now leaving?

Last night I felt a twinge as we started going through books. Part of moving requires a weeding of acquired things. And with books, especially well-loved books, inevitably there are those titles you have to simply part with. Either you didn't enjoy them after all, or they're simply too damaged to retain, or you never did form an attachment to that particular title. But so many of them harbour memories and feelings that you touch briefly and then fit into yet another box.

At the end I began looking around at all the art and photographs on the walls and asked what would happen if I took them down. Would the increasingly fragile thread binding me to this place snap or simply weaken further. It was almost frightening. We become so attached to the stuff that characterizes who we are and what's important to us. And moving overseas means I simply cannot take it all with me. Some things will have to simply go away. I will keep some objects too difficult to replace or too precious to lose, but much of it will  just have to leave. And then who does that make me? Am I equal to the task of re-establishing my identity without the crutch of so much STUFF?

I know ultimately I'll be grateful we were able to do this at this stage of our lives. We all have a lifetime to accumulate, and if that lifetime occurs in one place without interruptions, the mountain can be daunting to deal with when the end is reached. We've had enough interruptions over the years that it's not smothering us yet, but it's sobering to realize just how much piled up in 14 years. And yes, it was all useful at some point. But much of it has outlived that usefulness in our lives now.

What really constitutes a home? It's more than just the physical shelter. There's a feeling almost ingrained in the actual structure that reaches out to you when you find it. When you look for a home, you view it waiting for that feeling. And when you find it, you usually find a way to make it happen. But when it's time to leave a place that has been your home, what act is it that severs that tie? I'm trying to figure out when I will cross that boundary in this packing and disposing.

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

That's what I'm currently living in hope of. I'm trusting that the things that make a home for me are going with me this time. And they always have in the past. But it's hard knowing what in this collection of things will be needed in that process and what can safely be left behind. Probably a lot more than I realize.

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