I find myself dancing alone on my little borrowed balcony at sunset.
It’s a November sunset. What felt like the middle of the afternoon just a couple months ago is somehow now the tipping point into night.
I look out on all the houses that surround me, a typical Dutch scene, brick houses with little porch gardens, a set of dumbells on one, and a butternut squash on another. Sincerely lacking any need for privacy, the Dutch all leave their windows uncovered and I can see right into the living spaces. Dinners being prepped in early evening lamplight, families gathering, days coming to an end.
The music flows through me and I feel free, anyone can see me and I love that.
I dance, “home is where I want to be, pick me up and turn me ‘round”
The song is older than I am.
The song is older than I once thought I would ever be.
As a kid, I always longed to be home. Even when I was there.
I longed to be somewhere where chairs weren’t flying, where there was no hiding, lying or cheating.
Eventually my home became a backpack, and suitcase that moved with me every friday night between 2 small yellow houses.
My body was the only thing that stuck with me. It was the one thing that stayed the same from place to place but that started to change too. Then it started breaking down. I felt betrayed. I hated everything for falling apart and being so inconsistent. I wanted there to be some stability. I wanted a pillar in my mind that was mine that wasn’t going to crumble. I envied everyone else with their one home and one mom and one dad.
I gradually became obsessed with this illusion that I had in my mind of what order was. Over the years I meticulously kept track of all my things. I packed everything a certain way, made my life as compact and portable as possible. I was a swiss army knife, practical and small, theoretically ready for anything but not really capable of much more than trimming a loose thread.
I limited everything about myself, the space I took up, the thoughts I had, and the dreams I allowed myself. Everything felt finite. If it didn’t fit in my pack I wouldn’t take it.
So I did what I knew how to do best, I packed my things and I moved. And I learned. I learned that home was not a college dorm where I could keep all my things together for more than a week. It was not a boy’s bed or a girl’s. It was not at the bottom of a pipe or a bottle. It was not at the gym or in a swimming pool.
I just kept packing up and moving my things. Then there was 1 move. I had all my things packed but I didn’t know where I was going to go. I slept on my friend’s couch. I didn’t have a home. I had nowhere to go and I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to destroy the conduit for this pain and loneliness. If I burned down the house it wouldn’t need an address.
I laced up my boots in the dark tiny hours of January 13th, 2015 and started walking through the snow. My next memory is shivering on a bed in the hallway of an emergency room. The fluorescent lights hummed cold and blue. A thousand heated blankets could not melt the frozen thing inside me. But I did have a place to go now. My new home was a room on the east wing of the psychiatric unit. A shared room with a lady who stood over me in her sleep-walking state. I wasn’t allowed to shower or use the bathroom alone, I couldn’t use a knife, or go outside.
Home was a place I was trying to find until I gave up.
The only home I had to fall back on was the one that was there all along. I had fought it, lied to it and denied it for years but it was there waiting for me to return. My body taught me unconditional love. Despite it all, my body was ready to carry me away, to take me to new places, to let me hug my mom again and walk my dog.
Seasons came and went and my body shed death like trees in the fall.
My body brought me to all the things in the world I could have missed seeing, people I could have missed meeting, and food I could have missed eating.
My heart overflowed with love. The joy rose up inside and poured out of me like a river bursting down a dam. My hands began creating rather than destroying. I sculpted art and shared it with the world. I made people smile. My feet took me everywhere I needed to go. I moved to new houses, a purple house, a red house and a house with 100 bikes but anywhere I went, I was home.
My body took me to a new continent where I can be part of the home I always longed for. Parents are home in the morning to have breakfast with their kids before school, they’re there in the evenings for dinner, they’re there to hold each other when they cry. They play and they dance, they make a mess, and make mistakes, and it’s all OK.
I’m not perfect, I can’t always keep up and sometimes the love is a little overwhelming. But I’m learning. I’m learning how to show up and be here everyday. I still feel weird sometimes when I get to the “permanent address” section of a form. I don’t have one. Because I’m not a permanent address. I’m not static, I’m a dynamic being in constant motion. My dreams are as boundless as this ever-expanding universe. I am grateful for every move, every change in direction, and unexpected obstacle, because it’s all helped me to learn,
“Home is where I want to be,
But I guess I’m already there.”
Richard Learoyd. Fotomuseum Den Haag. 2019
as the sun
sets in the west
and my heart
beats in my
i’ll love you
8.5.2017 13:54 Brooklyn, NY
“first of all, ali it starts with loving yourself, your family & friends, your pet, and life itself.”