I was talking to a very lovely but very sad woman in my pandemic dream last night. We were in a foreign country surrounded by beautiful scenery.
“What’s wrong?” I asked
“I’m just so homesick,” she said.
I sat down beside her. “I know, and it feels kind of wrong, doesn’t it, to feel homesick in such a beautiful place? But at least here, even with the restrictions, we can go for a walk and find something new each day. A flower we haven’t seen before or an oddly colored stone.”
“But you can also do that at home,” she said.
“That’s true,” I said with a sigh. “I try, but I need to be better at that.”
I think the dream stemmed from this guilt I’ve carried around for the past 18 months . . . this nagging feeling I’ve had no right to feel down when I’m truthfully in a good place.
Maybe the dream came on because the melancholy from which I thought I was emerging has returned a bit. With the rise in the Delta variant, I feel like I had finally arrived at the airport after a really bad trip, bags packed, ticket for home in my hand, only to discover the flight had been cancelled. So, I’ll remain on the far side of normal feeling homesick.
Maybe it doesn’t help that this week we gave away the twin beds my daughters slept in for years in order to remake that room into a better work-from-home office for my husband, now that remote work is here to stay. It was the right thing to do, and the beds went to a good family, but I felt homesick for the days when I’d go into their room to kiss them goodnight, each in their own beds, and listen to them chatter and giggle as I closed the door. Now they are grown and living in far-flung places and that’s good. It’s as it should be. But change, even when it’s good, is sometimes hard.
Mostly, I’m homesick for my old artist self, the one who was filled with passion and purpose. The one who could make a decision, any decision. The one who could enjoy sitting on a restaurant patio listening to live music without worrying about whether her table was too close to the one next to it. (Social distancing concerns die hard.)
But here’s the thing about homesickness, when you miss something, it’s because you loved it. It’s because you love it still. And love is our greatest teacher and our greatest healer. I can look on the books I produced with as much if not more love than when I wrote them. I can look on the company I’ve built, the one that currently feels like a rebellious teenager, and realize I love it despite everything. I can remember all the previous versions of my artist self – the one who wanted desperately to be a writer but didn’t know if she could; the one who threw herself into paying her dues; the one who stood in confidence as she walked away from the traditional route; the one who worked nights and days and weekends managing a dozen different projects; and the one who slowed way, way down and lost her way during a global crisis. And I love them all.
Life has taught me if you hang in there, homesickness subsides. It may not always go away because it helps to ground you, but it moves to the side to allow you to see things with new eyes, to explore new tastes and smells, to acquire new languages and create new friendships. And when you’ve learned what you need to learn, it calls you home.
By Teresa R. Funke
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