I haven’t been able to write much these past few weeks. My heart has been aching. Christmas has always been about family and at the centre of the family has always been Mom. Without her, I feel like I’ve lost my anchor.
This became especially clear to me just before Christmas when I managed to get away for a 2 day personal soul-care retreat. The first evening was much like every other personal retreat I’ve gone on. I always feel a little restless at the beginning, wandering around, trying to settle in, not very focused on anything. I read a little, I try to write, I get up and walk down the hall to the art room, I head outside to walk to the river… nothing really grabs my attention for long and nothing feels very monumental from a “spiritual retreat, time for some profound a-ha moments to show up” perspective.
After years of doing this, I know that it takes time to shift from chronos time to kairos time. In Greek there are two ways of referring to time. Chronos (the root word of chronology) is the kind of time that we measure with clocks and calendars. It’s a linear form of time that keeps moving at a steady dependable pace, much like the metronome. Our day-to-day lives are all based in chronos time.
Kairos, on the other hand, is the kind of time that’s harder to define. It’s time that exists outside the realm of clocks or calendars – the kind of time I seek when I go on retreat. It’s spiritual time, fluent and random. It cannot be boxed or measured. A kairos moment is an opportune moment – one that slips away if we’re not paying attention.
Kairos time is the space where God meets us. It defies logic and clocks and calendars. Kairos goes against the grain of a production-oriented world.
On the second day, when I had given my chronos-oriented mind sufficient time to slow down, a kairos moment showed up in the art room at the retreat centre.
I’d grabbed a large sheet of poster paper and was flipping through magazines. I thought I’d make a collage. I hesitate to call it a “vision board”, because the place of grief I’m in is more about surrender than it is about trying to find a vision. It was more like the lack-of-vision board I made in the summer when I was learning to cope with the idea that cancer would probably take Mom away from me.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was a calendar picture of a lovely home. Something about it stirred me deep at the core.
“My heart longs for home,” were the words that came to me as I sat staring at the picture. And then I began to weep. And I kept on weeping. My body shook with the bottomless sobs that erupted.
My heart longs for home. Yes. There are a hundred kinds of truths in that simple statement.
I feel homeless without my mom – anchorless, at drift in the world. After my dad died and then my last grandparent, Mom was all that was left of my history. Now I have nothing that holds me to my lineage. I don’t feel ready to be my own anchor yet.
The loss is emotional, but it’s also physical. In the weeks before Christmas, my siblings and I helped Mom’s husband pack up her things so that he can move to a smaller apartment. There is now no longer a physical place that holds the essence of my Mom. There is no place that gives me roots.
This physical loss of space has been a gradual one. First, when I was pregnant with my first child, Mom and Dad moved off the farm that held all my childhood memories. Then, when Dad died, Mom moved away from their second farm and the small town that had always been home. Now, with Mom gone and her belongings either given away or distributed among her children, there is nothing left but the memories. I am realizing more and more how much a sense of place is important in giving me a sense of belonging. I’d always thought that being a wanderer meant that I didn’t need to be rooted to place. I was wrong.
Sadly, my own home doesn’t feel much like home these days either. I hadn’t made the connection before that moment, but for about the same amount of time as my Mom’s had cancer, I have let my home fall into chaos and disrepair. I’ve blamed the lack of money for the chaos. The linoleum floor is peeling, the carpet needs replacing, the chairs are all breaking, and because of all of that brokenness I haven’t bothered investing the time or energy to keep it clean. But it’s much more than the lack of money. I see that now. It’s my own state of mind. As much as I’ve been losing a home with Mom dying, I’ve been giving up my own home by letting it fall into disrepair.
There’s a sense of homelessness in my marriage too, and I know that I need to take responsibility for the lack of investment there as well. I try to point the finger of blame in the other direction, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but I need to take ownership for what I have allowed to fall apart.
In a sense, I’ve been running away from home – in more ways than one. While I was losing Mom, I ran to the woods to find a home with Mother Nature. When I stopped caring about and nurturing my own home and witnessed my marriage coming apart at the seams, I ran to coffee shops, other cities, parks, books – anywhere to avoid looking at what I was letting go of. Instead of finding a sense of home inside myself, I was looking for something external that would give me roots and nurturing.
All of these piled on top of me as I sat staring at that picture of home. “My heart longs for home.” My heart longs to find a place where it belongs. My heart longs for comfort, for safety, for peace, for love, for a place to nestle and be nurtured.
I cut out the picture and glued it to the centre of the page. Other pictures soon joined that one. Almost every one of them had something to do with home, family, safety and nurturing. Every other vision board I’ve ever made has been full of pictures of adventure, travel, and living large. A very different theme emerged on this one.
By the end of my collage-making, I knew what my word for 2013 will be.
My heart longs for home. I have to find a new way to define home that is still tied to the spirit of my mom and dad and all of my lineage, but that no longer includes their physical presence. I have to find a new way of loving my own physical space even if I can’t afford to replace the floors and chairs and build that new kitchen I’ve been longing for. I have to invest in my marriage and my nuclear family so that we call all find a sense of home in each other. I have to find a sense of home within myself rather than looking for something external to fill the void. I have to treat my own body like the home where Spirit can reside.
There are so many things going on here – respect for my physical home, investment in my marriage, trust in myself, and, ultimately, a deeper faith in God. When I have a greater sense of home, when I stop looking for it outside myself, I am in a place of deeper trust in the God who resides within me.
I have already found small ways to begin. The day after my retreat, I cleaned my family room and washed walls. The next day, I rented a rug doctor and gave some TLC to our much-neglected carpet. Already it’s beginning to feel more like a space that I want to spend time in. I’ve also begun to invest more intentionally in my marriage and my spiritual path as well. I am, once again, learning new lessons in surrender and trust.
Home doesn’t feel like a very exciting word to focus on. I’d much rather pick one that’s full of adventure and excitement. But I know that it’s the word that I most need right now. Once I have a greater sense of home and a greater sense of spiritual rootedness, I’ll be ready for more adventure and excitement.