Home is Where the Heart Is

When discussing our fears, rarely are we able to accurately name the fears we hold emotionally. Athazagoraphobia is a term I learned as a young teenager and a fear I’ve held for about the same time. It is the fear of being forgotten.

All throughout elementary, I was an A+ student. I was the overachiever, turning in extra assignments for the fun of it. I read everything I could get my hands on and was reading at a 6th grade level in grade four. I strived to perform in school in a way that was too exceptional to go unnoticed. It still seemed to do so. My English teacher was one of the few people who I distinctly remember encouraging my writing, making it a big deal and showing it off to others. At home, I was one of five and because I was so quiet, I often felt like I went unnoticed. Being what can only be described now as emotionally distraught, when I was noticed, it wasn’t to be calmed and nurtured. It was to be told to stop crying, “for no reason”. It felt as though I was only seen when I was crying.

Carrying the weight of all of this well into adulthood has manifested itself into another fear – Autophobia. That is the fear of being alone, unloved, or abandoned.

With everything that was going on at my foster home plus not being allowed to live with either of my parents, I sought comfort in my homegirls and boyfriends. They were home to me and I was good wherever they were. Whenever you saw me, you can bet you saw at least two of my closest homegirls. If I wasn’t with them, I was somewhere around the city with whichever boy I was courting at the time. There wasn’t much need to deviate from my crew, in terms of style or personality. It was like we were all one. There were times when I felt different but didn’t want to be looked at as such, so I went along with their oftentimes devious plans and they went along with mine.

I only know that I have tried to fuck years of pain out of my system and it never worked. I’ve counted racks between the palms of my hands and still haven’t touched freedom¹

In my teenage years, I fell victim to a perpetrator who posed as my boyfriend but turned out to be sexually exploitive. For his efforts, I gave everything of myself in exchange for the promise of love, which was (very intentionally) given inconsistently. I never got what I was promised. As an adult, I moved out of my home province twice and got flown out of the country once to pursue the potential of a long lasting relationship. Every potential companion was given nearly everything I had, financially, sexually, spiritually, mentally, in hopes that this would be the one to allow my search for a place to call home to come to an end. Not one of them worked out.

I was hopeful that this time we could get it right

These promises of love weren’t just romantic, they have been familial as well. At the end of my second trimester, my family encouraged me to temporarily move back to Nova Scotia to give birth to my children. They assured me that they would be around to help me prepare for my birth and in the weeks afterwards, before I headed to Calgary to live with my little family. I was hesitant at first, knowing where their persuasions had led me in the past but with my pregnancy, I was hopeful that this time we could get it right. I was wrong. I left feeling just as lonely and unloved as I’d often felt with them, as if something must be wrong with me.

 I walk through life with no regrets of any of those decisions but still I wonder when someone will choose me and mean it

To this day, I still wonder what’s wrong with me. Although I am proud of my accomplishments and grateful to have made it as far as I have, a feeling of lack still eats away at me sometimes. For so long, I have felt that I just needed that one person who could step into my life and make everything feel better, tell me everything was going to be okay, and actively take steps with me to make that happen. So many people have either walked out on me or haven’t been able to live up to my expectations of them. In turn, I’ve had to cut a lot of people out of my life. I walk through life with no regrets of any of those decisions but still I wonder when someone will choose me and mean it. When will someone choose me for the long haul? I’ve wondered myself into tears and depression. On my better days, I realize that the person I am waiting on is myself and has been me this whole time. I know that I have to choose myself despite not being chosen by others. Even when I am loved by someone else, I know now that that doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility I have to love and take care of myself.

You and the 6 raised me right, that shit saved my life²

Living away from my hometown for nearly ten years has had its triumphs and trials. With my recent move back to Ontario, living in a city where the dozen or so people who look like me never acknowledge me in the streets, I’m reminded of the east coast hospitality and sense of community that I was raised on.  If I had to choose right now, I would still consider Nova Scotia to be home. It’s the place that helped to shape me into the woman I am. Of course, Toronto is my birthplace and second home. Toronto is the city that forced me to hustle for myself and figure out not only who I was but who I wanted to be. I’m forever grateful for my experiences there. Until recently, I have been staying away from (Down) home because of feelings of disconnect. As I transitioned from a teenager to an adult, I felt trapped there. I didn’t see a way to make something of myself unless I moved away, so I did. Now, I am considering moving home to advance my career, a thought I would’ve never had seven years ago when I first left.

Be gentle. You are meeting parts of yourself you have been at war with³

My children are approaching their second year of being earth side. Within that time, I have felt as though I was home and had it stripped from me. Although we are safe now, I feel like we are wandering, or that I am wandering and they are here for the ride. What saddens me is that they are not oblivious to these bouts of instability. I remember the days of us living in a shelter and they would screech at bedtime, not wanting to be left alone in the dark. I’d end up putting them to sleep with me in a single bed. All of us snuggled into each other. We had a rocky summer. The three of us navigated those two weeks in a shelter for women fleeing abuse, moving across country (for the second time), plus living in a one bedroom hotel suite for a month. Yet, here we are today, still standing. Although my mom guilt has kept me awake on many nights, I am still their source of comfort when anything is slightly amiss. From falls to fighting over toys to fevers and everything in between, I am home to them.

Still, one of my worst fears as a mother is raising children who have to recover from their childhood, as I am actively having to recover from mine. How do I give them the life they deserve when I am so steadily trying to find footing within my own? I don’t know where I belong yet so how do I create a home for them? I have to remind myself that they are home wherever I am. That uncertainty is a valid part of motherhood. No matter how lost I feel, my children keep me grounded everyday. They serve as a constant reminder that even when I don’t feel capable, I will always make decisions based on their best interests. In addition to that, they’re a reminder that even when I don’t want to, I have to. They chose me as their mother and they did so for a reason. I can’t let them down. I may disappoint them from time to time but I will always, always dust myself off and try again, for myself and for them.

If you’re silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it⁴

Remember those fears I spoke about earlier? Well, those are the fears that resurface at the thought of staying still or discontinuing my search to find my home in the world. What if people forget about me? What if nobody loves me? When I even slightly consider these questions, immediately, I think myself into a form of grief. I’m drawn to shut down and isolate myself, be quiet for a while, just to see who notices. I have taken breaks from my friends, for hours and days at a time. One time, I went off the grid for an entire week. To them and for myself, I was setting a boundary but in reality, it was almost like a cry for help in which three people heard me. Three of the umpteen people who know me, went against my wishes to check in with me. Although it had annoyed me at the time, I’m grateful now to know that people care about me that much.

Holidays are always a nuisance. Not because of the holiday itself (my family doesn’t celebrate) but because people don’t respect our choice to disengage from the whole scheme of it. Each Christmas, I’m flooded with “Merry Christmas” messages from friends and family who know damn well that I don’t celebrate. I don’t understand it. The time and energy it takes to send the message, it would take less to just not send it. And still, they do. So last year, I opted out completely, deleting my social media during the week of festivities. When I did check back in, I got a message from someone who noticed my absence, asking me was I good. At that time, I was a little stressed but the fact that someone outside of my circle noticed, made me feel seen. A friendship sprang from that token of gratitude and it was great for a while, until my own premature expectations got in the way and I began to feel like they didn’t see or understand me as I thought. At no fault of theirs, my long time fear that I was being forgotten resurfaced yet again. I figured if they didn’t verbally express that they love me and why, they must not love me. But, that isn’t always the case. My need to be reassured doesn’t negate the feeling the other person has. There is no blame to place. It only means that the way they give love and the way I receive love is not always going to be the same. And, that’s okay. Love can still be present. It’s whether you accept their version of love or not that matters.  

Forgive your mother for all of the miracles she couldn’t perform⁵

Why then do I feel as though I am unlovable when I am not loved in the way that is aligned with my version of love? Each time I analyze this, my mind goes back to my childhood, mother and her mother, and the disconnect between all of those experiences. I have not felt what I think most people feel in terms of home being a permanent place. It has always been staggeringly fleeting to me, ever since I was taken from my mom and put into foster care. I don’t have a home because inevitably, external factors took me from my home in more ways than one. Physically by the enforcers of the foster care system, spiritually by a young man who convinced me that I didn’t need anyone but him, and by my own doing in not allowing myself to forgive and heal. Before then, I knew where home was. Even when my parents split up, I changed schools and moved to a new neighbourhood, I was home. I was surrounded by my siblings and my parents each got their respective time with us. I lived with my mom but I was home when I was at my dad’s house too. As chaotic as it had been at times, watching them fist fight and listening to them argue, it was home.

I think I have been searching for that sense of familiarity this whole time; of knowing that no matter how bad things got or how unseen I felt at times, my parents were and always would be my home base. The place to go when I needed to take my life off and rest. Now, more than ever, I am coming to terms with the fact that my parents don’t have the capacity to carry my weary bones. As badly as I wish they did, they do not. As I mentioned before, there is no blame to place. Up until now, I had pointed my fingers at them, specifically my mother, accusing her of not changing because she doesn’t want to. I know now that the pain, desire, and ability to do so is much, much deeper than what I’ve given it credit for. Although, I have forgiven my mother once before, forgiveness is sometimes a place you have to reach over and over again and I can rest with that.

My duty now is to heal myself so that she too may be healed; so that my grandmother may be healed and for my daughter to be raised in an environment committed to actively healing, without ever having to endure the violence that her maternal lineage was afflicted with. Whether it be violence at the hands of another or violence towards herself. I want to live a life so full and intentionally restored that she never has to forgive me for the miracles I couldn’t perform.

You reap what you sow⁶

My fight in this lifetime is the fight for the expansion of consciousness; to bring light to the plight of women experiencing violence and help to heal from those experiences. I highlight the importance of sisterhood and community building, particularly for mothers, through awareness education and writing. In doing so, I sacrifice my emotional safety. I exchange vulnerability not for fame or recognition but to be the vessel through which even one woman heals herself. What I won’t fight for is a seat at anyone’s table where love is being served.

Each person has a unique range of ability to give and receive love. It is up to us to not only determine when and if we can be loved and give love in return but also utilize the tools available to figure out how to do that. A great reference tool I like to use is The 5 Love Languages. That is, if we are looking to experience such a thing as love which is every human’s need on a core level. Some people are happy to be where they are, even if that is by themselves or if you think they should be elsewhere/with you. We cannot succumb to the constraints of what society has told us a loving home looks like. Relieve yourself of the pressure to control the narrative of when things happen. Instead, focus on sowing the seeds of your life so that when love does call, you are in a place to reap its rewards, so that you can go home.

6 Tips to Feel at Home for Those Who Never Have

  1. Decide what you want and need – In the presence or absence of someone loving you, love up on yourself in the ways you wish a partner, family member or friend would (i.e. physical exercise, eating healthy, get sexy for yourself, change your wardrobe/aesthetic, etc). If this is something you do ever so often, try to get in the habit of incorporating your version of self care into your everyday routine.
  2. “Home is where the heart is” – Make a home out of where you are, no matter where you are. From the inside (i.e. house decor) to the outside (i.e. chosen family, community resources, etc) Also, take care of the space that you live. It may not be what you want in the long run but for now, be grateful that you are not where you used to be. Something as simple as a plant or accent table can be the joy that spruces up your environment
  3. Be a person of integrity You cannot find your home when you are not honoring the people and places that make home possible. Give credit to those who choose you and try their best to offer you love. This is not to suggest that you should settle for love that doesn’t speak to your soul, you shouldn’t. But, for the love that does, you must honor, cherish, and protect it. 
  4. Heal your wounds – There’s a quote that says something like, “Those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it”. This is the exact sentiment that allows intergenerational trauma to continue. We must not ignore what we are confronted by within ourselves. No matter what it is, acknowledge and address it so you can heal from it. Whether you have to take counseling, isolate yourself, be creative, read, etc. The longer you keep things suppressed, the longer it takes to heal and restore your life.
  5. Put the sword down –  Home is not something you have to fight for, it is something that finds you in due time, when you are ready to receive it at all levels of your development (emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc). In the meantime, you must continue to do the work to heal yourself and above all else, enjoy life.
  6. Love yours – You aint never gon’ be happy til you love yours

 

¹ Untitled Poem to a friend – Jade H. Brooks

² You and the 6 – Drake

³ source unknown, if you know the artist, please leave a comment so I can give credit

⁴ Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston 

⁵ Questions for Ada – Ijeoma Umebinyuo 

⁶ Galatians 6:7 – The New Testament 

Love Yourz – J Cole