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The Heart Is Where The Home Is

As the modern world shakes, rattles and rolls around us, how does this redefine our sense of place? There’s climate change to worry about, terrorists to look out for, hunger, poverty, loneliness … all clamouring at our doors and threatening to destroy the lives we’ve become accustomed to. It seems that those struggling to defend their homes in the 21st century are less likely to be fighting for a chunk of real estate and more likely to be striving to protect their right to peace, safety and comfort.

Today we are less inclined to speak of ‘home’ as some wonderful place we’ve come from … be it the ‘old country’, or the place where we grew up and went to high school; and many of this generation aren’t waiting for the perfect house or condo to call their own. Instead, we’re putting ‘home’ in our backpacks, or hanging a little piece of it on the wall, or discovering it in our friends and families. We’re staking out our plots not just on chunks of land but in our hearts and our souls: I am where I live, I live where I am.

Recently I watched a TED talk given by Pico Iyer; he spoke of home being less about soil and more about soul. This echoes the underlying premise of my book, Nestbuilding: home is a state of being, not a state of having. Home is that place within us where we find peace and quietude; it is a well of strength and inspiration we dip into in order to step out into the outside world with our ideas, creativity, confidence and compassion intact.

Our physical shelters—lovely as they may be—are merely extensions of our inner house … extra rooms where the business of daily life plays out in safety and comfort. But it is the inner sense of being that is most important and it is only when our inner house is empty or in turmoil that we mistakenly believe that our furnishings, stainless steel appliances, square footage and window treatments are what constitute ‘home’.

To be reliant on such contrived and ephemeral objects is frightening and unsettling. And, from this fear come the mayhem we call ‘Black Friday’, guns tucked away in bedside tables, the avoidance of eye-contact with strangers, hoarding, isolation and numerous other physical excesses and dependencies … all in the name of ‘self-preservation’.

But, if we keep our inner houses in order, we are impervious to the fear that floats around us … the inner home, even in the midst of dreadful hardship and tragedy, is our fortress and, while most of us hope we never, ever have to put this theory to the test, we know we have witnessed it many times in the courage of others whose worlds and circumstances seem so horrific and yet they have, somehow, emerged whole. It’s not because they had a 3000 sq. ft. rancher to return to; it’s because they had themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying, and being very grateful for, the well-appointed nests we’ve created with their TVs, soft couches, well-stocked refrigerators and familiarity but, the nest you really want to be able to retreat to, rely on and find strength in, lies within. Over the holiday season, this may be more important than ever.

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