Lessons Learned

What Coming Home has Meant to Me

It is interesting what comes to the surface when you move back home. I am not talking about a visit – not even a six-month stint while you get your shit together. I am talking about re-entrenching yourself in what you had come to think of as a past life, with all the sights, sounds, and people that come with it.

No, not like Shirley MacLaine’s past lives. Not the life you lived in Salem when you were burned at the stake for witchcraft in the 1700’s; nor the one where you enjoyed top-wife status in Pharoah’s harem. I’m talking about the one you’ve been trying to forget ever since moving out at eighteen years of age. That past … the relatively recent one. You remember – your childhood?!

Just as time does not have the power to heal any wounds (much less all of them), so time has no power to change us. Life can – if we are intentional, and let it. But no matter how much life changes you, some things will always stay the same, and that’s okay too.

1. My family has my back.

No matter what I put them through (frustration, distance, heartache), their love for me has only increased. The forgiveness, compassion, and support I have experienced since the day my brother and his wife rode ten hours on a train for the sole purpose of driving a moving van filled with my stuff back home, has blown me away! I know that not everyone experiences anywhere near this level of family support. My best friend never received any encouragement, help, or love from her family of origin; her mother refused to teach her the basics of caring for a home, then threw her out sixteen. Yet my friend managed to grow into one of the most giving and loving people of my experience (and I know scads of folks). Not only will I never understand how her mother could do these things (never mind why), I will never be able to relate to this kind of familial rejection. From my birth, I was taught that Fambly is everything – that your family stands by you no matter what. Certainly mine struggled through the years of my marriage, trying to find a way to accept my choice; but upon my return to them, I found no recrimination, only open arms of love and joy.

My gratitude is boundless.

2. Ghosts are bound to rise.

You know how a smell can trigger a memory, taking you back to an event you thought you had forgotten? Places, even things can sometimes do that to me. A street or landmark in my home town – or even a room inside my house – can trigger memories that carry with them the same feelings I had when the event happened some thirty to forty years earlier. Particularly fascinating have been the memories of key friends and boyfriends that have surfaced. I have found great peace in dealing with my ghosts – working through the feelings I associated with certain people – and finally unloading the emotional baggage I carried unresolved for so long.

Liberation is exhilarating.

3. Old habits die hard or not at all.

‘Just like riding a bike’ can apply to a lot of the things that we do – good and bad. Some of the habits I have I could do without, but coming home has helped me  identify the good things my family gave to me (either learned or inherited) that I buried for half my life. Many times my spouse told me that my family values were wrong or bad, and even that the personality God gave me or the characteristics that made me ‘me‘ needed to change. Certainly I have some less than perfect traits – me being human and all – but the devaluing came from a person who 1. was not taught to value family ties the way I was 2. had no desire to understand or accept my temperament or gifts; 3. believed his way was right without regard for anyone else. I am learning to let the good traits in me shine again leave behind the things that no longer serve me, remembering to value what my family gave me – whether genetic or learned.

There are some things about yourself you should never let fall by the wayside – not for anyone.

4. Know thyself.

While living in Australia (1990-’91), I learned probably the most valuable lesson of my life: wherever you go, there you are. The only way to benefit from that saying is to walk in brutal honesty – with yourself and others. I have come to value knowing myself above most any other knowledge. Without an understanding and acceptance of who we are inside, we are doomed to relationships that lack the depth and permanence human beings really need. When we are unhappy with who we are inside, we will constantly search for things outside of ourselves to make us happy. Unfortunately, that does not work (see the first sentence of this paragraph). While I have always been pretty honest with myself about myself, coming back home forced me to look at the reasons I left home in the first place, and, more importantly, what it was inside of me that drew me into a loveless marriage, bound to fail. Before I left my spouse, he said, “I hope you find a way to be happy.” He did not know me well enough to see that I was already happy – on the inside. I may not have liked the outward circumstances of our relationship, but I had learned to be happy in a bad situation many years ago. I knew better than to leave him to go looking for happiness.

Happiness cannot be found outside of ourselves unless we first find it within.

5. I’d rather live out the rest of my life alone than make the same mistake again.

Did I have to walk away from a twenty-eight+-year marriage and move back into my home of origin to learn all of these lessons? No. Could I have failed to learn them, even though I did walk away? Yes. But I invested twenty-eight years of blood, sweat, and tears into a relationship that brought me heartache; now I must understand why – or end up in the exact same mess all over again. One of my favorite teachers once said, “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.” If we fail to understand the mistakes of our past, we are doomed to repeat them.

Repeating my mistakes is not how I want to live my life.

6. I did hard as hell, now I want easy.

Being open to learning and growing on the inside is the greatest gift I can ever give myself and others (especially my children), but it means I have to be willing to admit when I’m wrong, and consider what those I trust say that they see in me. Blaming others is a copout when it comes to changing myself. Being open to changing ME means I understand that no one has the power to make me angry or hurt – only my own inner turmoil can create negative emotions inside. The way to true change is in learning to be and living at peace with where I am in my journey – focusing on the problem only gives it more power and control over me.

The road to true change requires giving myself the freedom to fail.

Coming home – stepping back into the past that made me who I am today – has given me the clarity, hindsight, and energy to understand myself and others in a fresh way. I have been given a second chance, ‘knowing what I know now’, and I do not want to waste this incredible gift. The message for me everyday is Pay Attention! Be present, be aware, and be open to what God has for me. I want to allow the past to change me (for the better), so that I can move forward without fear, because it will always be hope that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Hope for a better day, hope for a better me and you, hope for a better world.

 

 

Day 20 of NaBloPoMo 2015

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