It’s finally happening: by the end of this month, I’ll be in a new home. I’ll have packed up my cozy little one-bedroom, thrown out or given away old clothes, books and other possessions and carted everything to a new duplex closer to downtown.
It’s all very exciting, coinciding with big changes in my life: the shedding of an old home coincides with expansions of heart and soul and love, all that juicy good stuff. And at the same time: oy vey, so much overwhelming emotion at the same time! On the day I signed the lease, I remember feeling excited and happy. And then I got home, stood in my bedroom and suddenly my face got hot and pressured and I wanted to bawl like crazy. I hadn’t even moved out yet, and already I missed my old home so much. God, I’m such a Cancer, I thought to myself.
Astro-musings aside, I do feel a strong attachment to spaces, and when it come to major transitions like moving, I am a big-ass baby. The physical process drives me crazy, but it’s nothing compared to the emotional process underlying it. What puzzles people is that my current apartment isn’t amazing by any objective sense of the word — it would never end in Design Sponge or whatever decor porn floats your boat. There’s ugly carpeting, it’s old in a “non-vintage” way, and there are no bougie-charming details. It gets way too hot in the summer and for some.odd reason, only one window in each room opens.
And yet I loved it. I loved the light in the morning; after years of dark NYC apartments, I loved waking up to bright, even morning sunshine, which gave the apartment a nice glow even when it was cloudy out. It was small, but quick to warm or cool so it was actually pretty energy-efficient. It was in a convenient location, about five minutes from various family members. And closets! I had plenty of them!
But the love I bore for the place had very little to do with a list of features: it had to do with the way it made me feel, and the shell of warmth, safety and comfort it gave me to feel like myself fully. That’s the great gift of a home: it’s truly where you feel like you can be yourself, where you can embody yourself with the art on your walls, the books on your shelves, the food in your pantry. It’s where you dream and soothe and burrow and nourish and nurture.
Being a longtime New Yorker and accustomed to using a space as a crashpad, I had never felt this before…and now I’m so loathe to disturb and distress that. I never cared so much about the places I lived when I was in NYC, just as long as they weren’t expensive, were located in a convenient location and not far from a subway. I had my domestic “things” — I always made sure I loved my bed — but overall I knew my presence in a home was always going to be temporary and provisional. Now that I know how much energy and wholeness you draw from a home, sometimes I wonder how different my life would’ve been in NYC if I had had a true refuge and sanctuary to rest and regroup from my adventures — would I have made different decisions? Would I have fought harder to stay? I don’t know.
Of course I know my new place will feel lovely and wonderful once I invest time, love and energy; I know homemaking in the deepest sense of the word is a process that can only take place over time. Time gives the space for emotions, history and memories to invest a home with its emotional warmth and (hopefully) happiness. Until then, I can only feel a little sad and melancholy, feeling nostalgia and affection for a place I haven’t quite left yet.