Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” ~ Sylvia Earle
I walked behind my boyfriend and his buddy, Tom, who had landed at Heathrow earlier that morning. Fueled by dark and tasteless Delta coffee and a near-sickening level of excitement, Tom bounded along the narrow alleys and streets of southwest London like Tigger through the Hundred Acre Wood. It was his first time overseas, and he was giddy with a sense of adventure and discovery.
I stared at the small, bald spot on the back of his head and fantasized about giving him a good flick.
There is nothing like being in the energy and presence of someone who is deeply centered in his or her joy to hold up a mirror to your own misery.
I would later be forever grateful to Tom and his case of impossible-to-bear happiness, but in that moment, I kept the pace behind the two friends, folding in on myself, getting smaller and smaller. Something was welling up in me that had been brewing for months, and I swallowed hard to keep the lava down.
A few days later, Tom left, and I carefully took down the box of my emotional tempest which I had hidden on a back shelf behind work and nights at the pub with mates. I placed it on the counter in front of me, flipped the lid back, and jumped to the side to avoid any lunging monsters. When nothing sprang out or exploded, I took a hesitant step forward and peered inside.
Inside I saw the 5-year old version of myself, sitting with my back against the corner of the box, hugging my knees against my chest. I looked up and said, “I want to go home.”
I didn’t necessarily mean I wanted to literally go home to America. Or back to the NC mountains. What I meant was that I wanted to go home to being me. Fully me.
I wanted to get my arms around what it was I was truly longing for and then have the courage to live it. Be it. Express it.
I had to be willing to leave lukewarm and jump into the churning, boiling bubbles of starting completely over to find the life I couldn’t yet see.
I thought of the Winslow Homer painting of a child lying on the grass, under the shade of a tree, grounded, connected, yet dreaming and peaceful. This image was a perfect representation of how I spent countless hours as a child. Anchored by the safety and structure of home nearby, with complete freedom to discover my own thoughts, forge relationships with creatures great and small, and craft by imagination (and later by action), the life I saw in my mind’s eye.
My boyfriend had given me a framed print of the painting for Christmas before we left for London. Sweetly, he had recognized the connection I had with the image during a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, long before I could understand myself why I was so drawn to it.
I stared into the future and squinted for hints. The young girl in the box scrambled to her feet and jumped up and down with excitement.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!”
In the years since, I have learned that if I can identify and describe clearly my longing, I am more than halfway there. Doing so requires that I adopt the posture of the 5-year old in the box—that is, fully embrace myself, let the realizations and insights land, and then spring into action without filtering the results.
To find a soft place in the grass, secured by a foundation of knowing my heart, dreaming without effort or a timetable. To watch butterflies, crickets, and bees go about their daily chores, without the burden of identity crafting. Instead, finding peace and fulfilling their divine contracts in their resting, as well as their doing.
Let your cravings rise within you. Some may knock you flat. Indulge them, like the sweet child within you, and give them plenty of room to roam. In time, they’ll lead you to a new place, both foreign and familiar.
You can go home again.