The “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
I used to be envious of those people with multiple addresses you’d read about in Town and Country. “Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Astorbutt of New York, Palm Beach, and Nantucket announce the engagement of their daughter Abigail to Mr. Gregory Q. Gottrocks, IV, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Q. Gottrocks, III of Washington, D.C., Martha’s Vineyard, and Paris, France.”
Or movie stars you’d read about in People: “Brangelina (or whoever) just purchased a $22.5 million villa on the Cote d’Azur. They also have residences in Beverly Hills, New York, and a 2,500 acre spread in Wyoming...”
Well, Mrs. F. Brooks Arnold of Athens, Georgia, Los Angeles, and Pomona, California thinks they might be crazy.
As is usually the case, the reality is far removed from the illusion. The vagabond life is not as carefree as it seems. You can’t just call Mayflower and have the movers show up each time a change in locale is necessitated. Personal belongings are strewn across the country. In this constant state of flux, just getting dressed in the morning poses a challenge. Throwing on a pair of pants in Athens, I realize that the only belt that works with them is still in Pomona. The shoes with the right heel height are in LA. In LA, I get dressed for church on a cold day, and go to grab my coat before running out the door. No coat in that closet. God only knows where the lipliner that matches that shade of lipstick is hiding. Probably in a purse in the pile on the closet floor in Georgia. And forget keeping up with little things like glasses and phone chargers and checkbooks.
Books are probably the worst, though. I’m usually messing around in 5 or 6 at a time. There are a few that are like security blankets...I lug them around with me wherever I go just in case I need a quick fix of Mr. Lewis or Dame Julian or Brennan Manning. Old friends.
It gets heavy carting all this stuff around.
I constantly feel unsettled, scattered, fragmented.
Even a little homesick.
It’s strange that I can manage to feel that way wherever I happen to be at the time. When I’m in California, I miss Athens. When I’m in Athens, I can’t wait to get back to California. I feel like the curious Rum Tum Tugger in T. S. Eliot’s Cats:
The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he'd rather have a house...
The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
No matter where I am, there’s always someone to miss...and something missing.
Shortly after Katherine’s AVM rupture, our wise friend Howard said to Brooks, “Well, you can be miserable both places. When you’re in Athens, you can worry about Katherine. When you’re in California, you can worry about Grace!” (She was finishing up high school last spring.) I guess you have to know Howard to get this...it was actually a subtle reminder that we all need to trust more, worry less. I think he was also offering empathy for that feeling of being ripped apart that parents occasionally suffer.
The experience of the past 11 months has crystallized a thought for me:
I want to learn to live more lightly.
I want to be less weighed down by baggage of every kind...less “possessed by my possessions.” I want to get rid of STUFF. I want to clean out all my closets...both tangible and intangible. Like the detritus in the pile going to Goodwill, I want to lay down things like worry and expectations and bondage to old habits and thought patterns. I want to live more freely, less attached to this world and its systems and its junk. I want to be less entrenched here.
I’ve been trying to clean out one closet at home for years. I (abashedly) admit that it is larger than my bedroom in LA. I was standing in it the last time I was home, utterly confounded about where to begin. I must have rolled my eyes to the heavens in desperation. An old Victorian sampler perched on the top shelf caught my eye: “Heaven Is My Home.”
...a subtle reminder that this is not my natural habitat.
We are as ‘strangers and aliens’ on this earth.
Because of that, I think we must carry a little homesickness with us wherever we are. We will always have a secret ache for that place where we feel completely safe, loved, protected, and fully known. Those places simply don’t last on earth. People die...houses crumble.
As C.S. Lewis expresses it: “The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world...We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God...Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” (The Problem of Pain)
Heaven is my home?
Surely it is my destination.
But what about now? How do I banish those feelings of homesickness here...before I arrive at my true home, where every tear will be wiped away?
This is where I feel the most at home now:
I lie in bed, with a pillow over my face. I still myself and shut out all the loud voices in my head. I inhale, slowly, the peace of God. I exhale the unrelenting demands of Self. I invite. I wait. And sometimes wait a while longer. Maybe I need to confess something first, get rid of a barrier.
And He comes.
He in me and I in Him.
“Abide* in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.....As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (from John 15)
He is my home.
After beginning these thoughts on “home,” I happened to run across this excerpt from the writings of Brennan Manning. He is one of my favorites, and Katherine and I were privileged to hear him speak at Belair Presbyterian a couple of years (different lifetime) ago. When the crowd gave him a standing ovation, he turned around and lifted his arms in homage to the large cross behind him.
“Jesus says simply, “make your home in me, as I make mine in you.” Home is not a heavenly mansion in the afterlife, but a safe place right in the midst of our anxious world...
Home is that sacred place-external or internal- where we don’t have to be afraid, were we are confident of hospitality and love. In our society we have not only many homeless people sleeping on the streets...but also vagabonds who are in flight, who never come home to themselves. They seek a safe place through alcohol or drugs, or security in success, competence, friends, pleasure, notoriety, knowledge, or even a little religion. They have become strangers to themselves, people who have an address but are never home, who never hear the voice of love or experience the freedom of God’s children. To those of us who are in flight, who are afraid to turn around lest we run into ourselves, Jesus says: “You have a home...I am your home...claim me as your home...you will find it to be the intimate place where I have found my home...it is right where you are...in your innermost being...in your heart."