How Home Changes

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    Feb 22, 2010 4:12 AM GMT
    I just found out today one of my dogs back home had to be put to sleep. This follows on the heels of my cat, whom I adored, having also been put down. There's a certain dimension of loneliness to how I feel right now, living thousands of miles away while all this happens, and knowing that I can never really go 'home' again. When I return it will likely be to a house where all my pets are gone; there won't be the simple excitement of watching them yowl and crowd the door when I come in, and it will be another step in my alienation from the place I grew up.

    At the same time I know that where I currently live is not my home either. It's a great place, but I am, as has been pointed out, an arriviste. So I sit up in my apartment, look out the window at downtown, listen to the muffled noise of a distant city, and wonder what it will take for me to feel comfortable in any place I find myself in.

    How have you made a place your home? How have you grown comfortable and built a life that makes you feel to be an integrated part of a new location? Does it ever feel like it did where and when you were growing up?
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    Feb 22, 2010 5:33 AM GMT
    I hear you when you mention having pets who are still back 'home' with family members, and you're so far away......especially when you get news that the beloved pet is going to have to be put down. It has happened to me more than a few times. I felt awful not being there to at least do this last service for my pets. It made me feel 1) selfish (for moving away) and 2) alone (even in a new place with plenty of friends. I finally realized this is the price we pay when we change careers or decide to try out new and far away places.

    Here's what I've done over the years of moving to new houses - and making them feel like home. I would move all my things in - and forty-some boxes of books. With all the furniture, books, belongings, I'd make my nest. I'd stay up till midnight all week putting everything in place. Then, I'd work on the outside, and plant some new things in the ground, and place large colorful pots of blooming flowering plants around the patios. Then - everyday I'd walk or run (even cycle) around a new place until it began to feel like home. I always was a bit homesick for my real home, however, but I made up my mind to be happy in the new places - making friends - joining clubs, etc. The new places can eventually feel as good to me as the place where I grew up.

    I hope you'll get to feeling at home in your new city over time. It takes some work, but you're doing the right things - getting out and seeing the area - as you mentioned in another thread. Hopefully you'll soon feel good and comfortable - happier than you thought possible.
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    Feb 22, 2010 5:50 AM GMT
    Yeah, that is very sad. I was in school away from home when both my dogs died. That was in the late 60's, and I still think of them. While my folks were alive, their place was home. Had a rough year or two after my Mom died and I had to dispose of the house and contents quickly becasue by then I was working across the country. Interesting question you pose, because I really don't remember exactly when DC became "home" as opposed to LA or Wyoming. I've been in the same house now almost 40 years, so this definitely feels like home now. I guess it's a cliche to say so, but honestly, you will get past this.
    You're in the process of establishing your own "home" now, and it's not an overnight thing, but soon enough you will begin to feel like where you are making your career and where your friends are is home.
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    Feb 22, 2010 5:50 AM GMT
    You hit the nail on the head. I feel tremendously selfish and ashamed of not being there. I can't imagine how alone and scared my cat must have been in his final moments, and I can't stand it. And while he was dying, here I was in Austin taking a jog, oblivious. I realize it's irrational to berate myself when I couldn't have known, but that doesn't much change the materiality of the situation.
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    Feb 22, 2010 6:06 AM GMT
    I grew on a little on the west coast, and more on the east coast, and it took me decades to call Georgia home after I moved there. But when I moved from the town where my parents and I lived to the city my career and adult life really started (Atlanta) .. I always felt melancholy going back to visit my parents house.

    It took a few years before I called Atlanta home but that was where I bought my first house and lived for 12 years. But I am at the point where going to visit my parents in the house they have lived for over 30 years .. it always feels like going home.

    Moving from Atlanta to San Diego was painful in a way .. I kind of wish I did not sell my house .. I really liked it there and would probably still like to live there in some ways.. Right now I feel like I am not rooted and don't have a real home.

    Time does that to you .. it plays tricks on your mind to associate the familiar with what and WHO you are. Ultimately though, the most grounding things that make you feel at home are the people you love and care for (including pets). So when you lose a living being that you love from the world, you feel like you have lost a warm comfortable place called home. Did you ever hear the expression "Lost without you?"

    I will say, that my little dog who is 11 yo has traveled with me from coast to coast and used to go with me to visit my parents too. I know it will be a sorrowful day when I lose him.
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    Feb 22, 2010 6:10 AM GMT
    I have come to believe that our pets who are far away have a special understanding and love for us. I believe and have faith that they know we're sorry we're not there........very, very sorry. I want to believe they understand and love us just the same.........and that we'll be reunited again some day - forever this time. (This may sound a bit odd, but it helps me keep from falling apart about this).

    I have one of my dogs right now - that I cannot see - and won't see again - he is so far away - with an ex. I used to be the one who played ball with him; ran and cycled with him; bathed him; trained and loved (really loved) him. I hope and have to believe that he understands why I cannot be there. I hope he knows somehow that I love him and am very sorry.
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    Feb 22, 2010 6:26 AM GMT
    nice thread.
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    Feb 22, 2010 6:38 AM GMT
    abelian0 saidYou hit the nail on the head. I feel tremendously selfish and ashamed of not being there. I can't imagine how alone and scared my cat must have been in his final moments, and I can't stand it. And while he was dying, here I was in Austin taking a jog, oblivious. I realize it's irrational to berate myself when I couldn't have known, but that doesn't much change the materiality of the situation.



    Sorry about your recent losses man. This does not make you a bad person, or give you anything to be ashamed of. I think animals have a grasp on spirituality that'd make the pope jealous. They get it in a way that humans don't...humans rationalize, justify, and deny. Animals experience, react, and move on. Too much philosophy for 1:30 in the morning. Right? Anyhow, some good advice I was given after I hit a poor, defenseless, and very suicidal bunny rabbit with my car late one night was that if I felt like there was some kharmic debt owed, then I could do something to help other animals. So I ran with it and my ideas are to donate money to the humane society, SPCA, or local shelter. Maybe even "sponsor" a family that you come across who's struggling to afford to keep their pet because of a hard economic times until they got back on their feet. It doesn't have to be a huge undertaking...a bag of food monthly??? Not just to make yourself feel better, but also to reach out to others in your new community.

    In terms of your original post...I think building a home for yourself is a process...not an event. First you have to lay the foundation, then put up all the pieces. Will it ever be the same as your original home? Probably not, but it can still be great in it's own right. It's about attitude and action...if you're just sitting back and watching life, not really living it. Well that's not a whole lot of fun is it? You do sound a bit homesick...my best advice, feel the pain, and try not to turn it around on yourself. I will say that my points of greatest growth were when I was in the deepest pain and did something positive to help myself...and sometimes someone else.
  • EricLA

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    Feb 22, 2010 7:10 AM GMT
    I moved 350 miles to attend UCLA. I'd come home for the breaks and summer for the first few years, but after I graduated I stayed in L.A. But it took a few years before I felt settled there. It was nice going home, but I felt like I no longer fit there. Part of it was coming out my final year of college -- L.A. gave me more options -- but part of it was growing and finding my own identity. I'm sure the passing of loved ones, whether pet or relative, complicates matters more.

    Uncertainty isn't a bad thing. The only constant in the universe is change, but humans like consistency for some reason. Accept it. At some point you'll feel comfortable somewhere again.
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    Feb 22, 2010 1:13 PM GMT
    abelian0 said How have you made a place your home? How have you grown comfortable and built a life that makes you feel to be an integrated part of a new location? Does it ever feel like it did where and when you were growing up?

    Like you I moved to Texas after finishing school. My home was Boston and no greater culture shock is possible than the one I felt on moving to Houston.
    For years I dealt with feelings similar to the ones you describe. The solution is to make emotional connections. The will be a day when there are more people you love and care about in your new city than your old one. When that day comes, you will be home.
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    Feb 22, 2010 1:21 PM GMT
    It's an old cliché that sounds like it's coming from Paula Dean's mouth, but it's the truth: Home is where the heart is. It sounds to me like your feelings are completely natural... your heart was where your furballs were (I mean that affectionately), and now they are gone. When you have somebody or something to give your heart to, that's when you can say you're home.

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    Feb 22, 2010 1:43 PM GMT
    Interestingly enough, when I go back to the city that I grew up, I can't WAIT to leave! Yet at the same time I have strong ties there; my family is there, my long-term friends and insanely attached to the National Sports teams there. However the city where I was actually born feels more like 'home' to me and now I find myself looking to find that place that I can call 'home'.
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    Feb 22, 2010 1:49 PM GMT
    I was never really comfortable anywhere, in the sense you’re discussing, until moving to NYC, which matches the expectations I have regarding how society should organize its infrastructure more closely than anywhere else in the US I’ve been, and which has proportionally more urban, secular people. I’m not the best emotions counselor, but home is just where you feel like you fit in. Perhaps the key issue is that your surroundings (including people) match you in aspects you find critical, emotionally. On the other hand, you might be saying you want something more connective. I haven’t well-integrated myself into NYC’s various scenes, although it might be because my childhood as the offspring of ever-moving Air Force docs stunted me emotionally.

    I’m sorry to hear about your pets. My mom had a dog she had to euthanize recently, and she’ll have to do the same to the other one soon. People like pets because of the love they give, but I think they’re also special because they make you appreciate how vulnerable life is to suffering. Even when they’re young, it takes so much work to make their lives comfortable. You mentioned your concern for your pets’ last moments. If they needed euthanasia because of pain, then you should know their last moments were probably very peaceful. It appears that when you die, as brain cells lose oxygen, you have an out-of-body experience, and at some point (perhaps slightly before) the brain just stops processing your real sensory input.
  • Timbales

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    Feb 22, 2010 1:51 PM GMT
    I referred to my mom's house as home until I was about 24 and a year or so into my relationship.
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    Feb 22, 2010 3:22 PM GMT
    I am really sorry to hear about the loss of your pets. That feeling of helplessness is truly wrenching and difficult to bear. As you mention, it is surely a further step from home. That doesn't make it any easier.

    While my parents were alive I went back and forth between Texas and California several times. It was actually right up until the death of my mother that I kept coming home. On each of those occasions (there were three in total) I tried in earnest to find some bona-fide reason to stay.

    It wasn't really until my mother's funeral, actually during a family lunch afterwards, that it just hit me that there was really nothing there for me. I went back to California and thereafter would come back to Texas only to visit my father.

    The funny thing about San Antonio is that it changes very slowly. The familiarity of the place is as it ever was. It didn't really change while I really did.

    I have to say that there isn't a single day that goes by when I don't long for home in some way. In fact, most of the time I spend on the Internet is about keeping up some kind of contact with home.

    People have asked me what I like so much about Provence and I will tell them that it is a perfect amalgam of Central Texas and California, with better food. I have to agree with Saty, though, when people ask me what place I call home my normal response is New York. When people in Europe or Asia ask me were I am from my first reply is usually New York.

    The circular point I want to get to is that some people are travelers. We become citizens of the odyssey itself. While there may be people, pets, places, and things that feel like home to us they don't really supplant our original home. My best guess is that they just add up and create more complicated and subtle feelings of home. Those can really hit me in an instant from a smell, a turn of phrase, a taste, or even a certain color.

    There is one passage in a book by Armistead Maupin that really struck me. I don't remember which book it was nor the exact quote, so I will have to paraphrase. It was, however, one of the "Tales of the City" books. --Anna Madrigal is speaking to her tenant Brian about getting older. She tells him that when we are young we think that with age and wisdom things are going to get easier and less painful. She goes on to say that they don't get any easier, they just get more familiar. After a while, she says, you recognize pain when it comes and you are able to look it in the eye and tell it, I know you, you old bastard.--

    That is about what my experience has been so far. I take my home where I can get it. I try to be as comfortable on the voyage as I can (it has mostly been first class, it isn't at the moment). Finally, I try to look pain in the eye whenever it comes around.

  • HndsmKansan

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    Feb 22, 2010 4:15 PM GMT
    Excellent topic and one I can relate to on a personal level.

    I have lived in 3 houses in my whole life (aside from law school and the dorm and apartment I had, but that was clearly brief and was home on many weekends). The majority of the time I lived in a house (about 4.5 miles from where I live presently). I lived there from age 6 until the end of 2004 when we sold the place. I was a child there, grew up with my horses, my dogs and had my present beagle "Buddy" there at the end of the tenure.
    I knew the house inside and out... totally relandscaped and redid the property, mowed twice a week, painted, taught horsemanship and absolutely loved the house and our neighborhood (which has ponds through the middle part of the neighborhood). I can safely say, there is nothing I miss more than running full tilt down the parkway at a full run on my quarter horse, hearing the "thud" of his hooves... or enjoying a quiet evening walking around the lakes with Buddy.

    But things changed. I had to put KoKo (my quarter horse) to sleep at the end of 2001, the old farmstead (which was behind our development) was developed into a bunch of modest homes and many of the neighbors (that I'd known for years) had moved. I wanted to build my own house and my Dad offered to sell me our home. I declined. I realized it was time for me to get on with my life and develop my own "home" per se. I could have bought this large house (3,500 sq ft) with memories of my mother (who died when I was 24), but sometimes its important to realize you need to live the "life ahead of you and not dwell on the past".

    After 5 years, I love my current home. We have a beautiful lake (which I don't like as much as where I grew up, but hey, its still there). I've developed some history, achievement and appreciation for this new place.
    Its the love of my dogs, my bf and my own perceptions that make this my home.

    I say, don't live in the past... its very hard not to at times. Love what you've had, you sound very lucky... but be open to the future and actively work to build it... one you will love dearly. You have a great future ahead.....
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    Feb 22, 2010 4:36 PM GMT
    I moved around constantly growing up, so I never really had a chance to imprint on anyone one home. By the time my mom finally bought a house I was already into my teens. If I had to consider a place my childhood home It would be that one though.

    The only other place I've felt 'at home' was my first apartment. There was this moment the day I started moving in, right after I got my keys I walked across the street to a Runza (they make German style kraut buns, and have the most amazing fries) and got some lunch. Sitting in my empty living room this feeling of elation hit. "Wow... this is mine..." really hit me.

    I spent the rest of that week slowly moving my things out of my moms. I would look forward to coming home after a long day at work, crashing on my couch, and vegging out to some video games or bad movies. Any clutter or mess was fine, since I made it and knew it would get picked up when I had time.

    I made the decision to move out of that place last August. I had some medical bills come back to bite me on the ass, and just couldn't afford to live alone.

    Now I'm with roommates, in a house that feels cramped, is never kept clean, and is right by train tracks that make our house physically shake (you should see my monitor dance when a train goes by...). This places doesn't feel like home at all. I try to avoid being here when at all possible, and when I am at home I stay locked in my bedroom.

    Our lease is up at the end of June, and I cannot wait to get my own place again. If that means eating Ramen for the next year, that's fine by me so long as I can come home after work and not feel like the walls are falling in on me.