Last weekend I took a spin by my childhood home on Long Island, just an hour by car from Manhattan, which is where I live now. It looked to have remained uninhabited since my father and I moved out thirty years ago, two years after my parents’ separation and divorce. Our very 1970s curtains still hang in the window, pulled closed. Our house number, a cursive “Forty,” still hangs above the garage by the automatic light sensor my engineer father rigged up before automatic lights were de rigueur. The same mailbox hangs on the wall, caddy corner to the front door. There are no signs of life. No car in the driveway. No toys in the yard. Although last weekend wasn't my first drive by, I had come by 10 years ago and maybe one other time since, this was my first time getting out of the car and exploring the property up close. The experience was a surreal one that I will write more about on another day.
Last week I mentioned how the change in seasons marks the passage of time. The changes we observe in neighborhoods we are familiar with and the changes in residents do too. But what if no one moves into your childhood home? What if, decades later, markers of those little-you years remain? It really upended my psyche.
While exploring the property, or even while recalling exploring the property, I almost time travel to a liminal space. While I am there it is neither 1990 nor 2019 -- and yet It is almost both. My adult self is sad and confused and understands this is not my house, and yet it is not anyone else’s either. Meanwhile, my young self who is also sad and confused, tresspasses and tries the doors because she feels entitled to enter her house. And when I am in this in between space, I am uncomfortable, insecure, and confused. It is as if am no longer at home as both my present self and child self.
The confusion and fragmentation I felt made me think of my friend Ethan Nichtern’s book, The Road Home. In it he writes,
“The sad fact-- the fact that binds us together in our shared struggle as human beings-- is that even when we actually are at home, it is so damn difficult to feel at home.”
At the end of my therapy session this Tuesday, a session in which I was in touch with the dreamlike state I entered this weekend, I looked at my therapist and said, “It is a good thing it’s time to smash some iron.” I know my road home, even when I feel very far away. I pay $2.75 to take the subway to my barbell club. While I am there, I lift heavy things, slowly and with control, in an environment where I feel seen and heard. When I lift heavy things, I come home, into myself. I feel like a solid being, a real entity not caught in the liminal space of time. When I do that I feel good - embodied, and anchored in the present moment - even when I am reflecting on the past.