What Feels Like Home - Part 2
Calm, Chaotic, Quiet, Noisy, or...?
A few weeks ago, in “What Feels Like Home”, I mentioned how quiet was the norm in my childhood and how today, in my mid-fifties, this is what I crave more than anything. I wrote,
mostly, there was quiet. Quiet punctuated everything. Looking back, I lived in a sea of stillness. I’m not sure I appreciated it when I was young, but I do now. Quiet is comforting. Quiet feels like home.
Those of you who are only children may have had a similar experience. But I suspect many more folks grew up with noise and maybe even a bit of chaos. And what we experienced as a child is most often what feels comfortable as an adult. Even if it’s not entirely comfortable, it’s familiar and the familiarity feels like home.
This week, I hope you’ll consider this in regard to what feels like home to you. Was your childhood home quiet or noisy? Calm or chaotic? Did you live in a subdued setting (suburban or rural) or in a place more bustling such as a city or crowded neighborhood?
In Margot Robbie’s interview for the Holiday Issue of Vanity Fair,* she mentions how she hates being alone and, she adds, often invites friends to hang out in her trailer between takes.
“I grew up in a very loud, busy house, and so I feel safe and comfortable when there is just chaos around me,” she says.
“I think that’s why I love movie sets.”
My marriage to an Italian-American meant frequent family gatherings filled with loud voices talking over each other, children running around, and constant interruptions. In other words, chaos. At least, that’s what it felt like to me. My mother-in-love told me more than once, “You know what your problem is? It was too quiet when you were a baby! When my children were young, I would vacuum and keep the TV on and you know what? They got used to it!” I use to groan and roll my eyes but honestly, she had a valid point.
The comedian Trevor Noah had a different experience. In a short video clip that I came across on Instagram (and now cannot find) he notes how abuse in his childhood home had a profound effect on him in a way you might not expect. He was comfortable in situations where others were not, he said, and anxious when others would feel calm. In other words, he felt oddly comfortable when the abuse was happening because it was in front of him, he could see it and respond. But when things were quiet, he was deeply uncomfortable. Moments of calm felt ominous.
This morning, Mazie’s groomer (maybe 28 years old) told me she had finally moved to Tulsa from a neighboring community. More than that, she had moved to a nice neighborhood, close to a Catholic college-prep school, a high property value area with large homes and manicured lawns. (She is renting a guest house or an apartment above a garage.) How fantastic! I said. She smiled and agreed but then added,
“You know, I’ve always lived in places where if you left anything outside, it got stolen. This is a nice area, definitely, but it’s also very strange to me. I know it’s good and I’m sure I’ll get used to it but at the moment it’s a bit uncomfortable.”
What we experienced as a child is most often what feels comfortable to us as an adult. Even if the situation wasn’t optimal and even if it was outright bad, it felt somehow normal, and—even if now we know better—it feels familiar to us. This familiarity feels like home.
Someone wrote me recently, “Home is not always the best place to be.” This strikes me as pretty profound as sometimes this is indeed true. It’s home and we are drawn to it, but it’s not necessarily the best place for us. Like Mazie’s groomer: home has always been a place of theft and maybe this also means it wasn’t a safe place. She’s in a new physical space now that she knows is better for her, but it doesn’t yet feel like home. What still feels like home to her is not the best place for her to be.
The same could be said for Trevor Noah. Feeling comfortable in the midst of abuse can lead to some pretty poor decisions. And feeling uncomfortable in safe and calm situations can lead us to sabotage when things are going well.
Or maybe home is a sad place. Or a place where we are loved but are held back. Maybe it is a physically unhealthy place. Or…? Can you think of other reasons why home may not always be the best place to be?
What feels like home to you? Specifically, the characteristics. Think back on your childhood home(s). Think about the places where you’ve been happiest or most comfortable. About the personalities of the people you are drawn to. What feels familiar? And is familiar the same thing as comfortable? And finally, is this the best place for you to be?
* Margot Robbie, as interviewed by Rebecca Ford for Vanity Fair, The Holiday Issue, No. 744, Dec 2022/Jan2023
Interesting angle. I grew up on a remote acreage in Montana, and my childhood was defined by quiet. Now as a father of three children who have a double dose of Type A from their parents (my wife is Italian), I live with constant noise and chaos. I love my children with my life, but I do not love their yelling or fighting or loud negotiations. How fascinating to think that they might someday remember that cacophony differently! My favorite moments with my kids are board games, playing music together (my oldest plays violin and accompanies me on guitar), and reading before bed. All simulations of my childhood.
You’ve recovered, nice!