My whole adult life I have been running around operating on the grass is always greener perspective, chasing an elusive concept of the “one big thing” that will make me happy. A lot of my resulting unhappiness has come from the fact that even on that apparent greener pasture I am still the same person, with an uncanny ability to find unhappiness everywhere I look.
With one exception.
As a high school student and self-proclaimed bare-footed liberal, I could not wait to get out of the protective bubble of suburbia and experience the world as it really was. My first escape came in the form of college and then Hawaii and then back to college and then study abroad and then back to college. I bounced around the west coast and landed in LA, a place I had decided was prophesized for my eventual happiness. I lasted 2 months before I moved to the more peaceful Malibu, where I now reside as I finish up some more college. Throughout these pinball-like motions I have always had one constant in my life. My home. The more I ventured out the more I was able to appreciate my home for what it was, what my angst-ridden teenage self couldn’t recognize: a safe-haven where happiness abided.
Now I will be the first to tell you that my home isn’t perfect. Well I would try to be the first but every member of my family would start talking at the same time so I would attempt to be the loudest to tell you. My bathroom shower refuses to drain properly, no matter how much Drano we invest in. Our nervous rescue dog had a bad habit of shedding whenever she moved (a side effect of her previous abuse) and although she has been gone for a few months now I still find dog hairs in my suitcase when I return to school from a trip home. Family-wise, we are all stubborn and have uniquely selective memories for who said what which leads to animated retellings of family events to timid houseguests. But more overwhelming than the dog hair and the nightly symphonic snore-fest is this intangible aura of security and warmth that oozes out of every doorway and around every corner. Just pulling up to the drive has a therapeutic effect on my internal brokenness.
In a recent mindfulness activity in school, my professor had us picture a safe place in our heads to describe as we explored it mentally. Lots of the students imagined open fields or sandy beaches, exotic and vibrant landscapes depicting isolation and freedom… analyze that. I was instantaneously transported to my queen-sized bed, post-Sunday afternoon nap, nestled in lush down comforters as the room begun to be flooded with the aroma of freshly made bacon. My dad cooks on Sundays and often he favors the breakfast-for-dinner approach. Because of this my neural pathways always associate Sundays with bacon after church and family togetherness. I followed my mental image as I made my way out of my room, down the hallway to the family room where my mom would be perched in the corner of the sectional, underneath the reading lamp thoroughly concentrated on some mystery novel. Bacon sizzles in the background as I locate the lazy-boy and get comfortable. My cat, Mariah Kitty, joins me. Her purrs become synched with the rise and fall of my chest. All is well.
For some reason, when I am at home the world seems brighter. I am enveloped in this loving acceptance from those who know me, all of me, and still choose to love me. Sure they are my family but as a family therapist I can tell you that unconditional familial love is not as commonplace as you think. It has often been at my most damaged times that I have retreated to the safety of home to repair and rebuild, surrounded by the support and willingness of my parents to accompany me on my journey back into trial and error. Here I am afforded the opportunity to become a different person or, more importantly, be stripped down to the original functioning model, one that is not plagued by past experience. Here I am healed. Here the grass is always greenest because of the tender nurturing hand of those who tend to it.