The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. ~Maya Angelou
How do you know where you are? How is it that we identify with the feeling of being at “home?” How is the multi-dimensional sense of “home” imbedded in our psyche and in our experience of life on a daily basis? How does a sense of “home” within the body assist us in navigating wherever we are?
These are questions I often consider. So many different meanings for our word “home.” It is as limited as the word “love” in our language. The words are merely signposts pointing in the direction of something so unique, magnetizing and deeply personal, yet confirmed as an experience by all humans and understood by most. As I observe the frequently “turned around” Wisdom Keepers and my own periodic experiences of being discombobulated by stress I find these questions to be very helpful. In the very least to bring meaning and understanding to what is easily distilled and misunderstood as simply “lost “ or described as, most insulting in my opinion, the “demented wandering.” It is still a widely accepted description for adults who have moderate to severe memory loss, wanderers.
How interesting it is to take a word which can, on the one hand, be associated with the wonderfully meditative and disconnected bliss of having nowhere to go and no-thing to do in particular and on the other hand, associated with the fear inducing, scary notion of a lost elder. Wander. It fills the mouth like cool and refreshing sweet cream, something to savor like the joy of wandering a bookstore or a new beach, a large museum with echoing halls or a foreign city with foreign money in your pocket to spend and a fully charged camera around your neck. All the while, somehow, we are tethered to a sense of “home” which, in a moments notice, can snap us back into the matrix of our lives and familiar routine. Herein lives the difference, the distinction between us and them. It is an unfortunate and unnecessary distinction outside of a neurologist’s office.
We are the same, we (us) simply take our hardwiring for granted most days and forget about this vulnerability when all is well. It’s a fragile thing, the soft and hard wired sense of “home.” A little digging and we can discover this for ourselves. If you have ever missed someone, longed for them in your bones, missed something and cried over it or longed for someone to really understand you then you know something about living with a dementia. If you have ever misplaced something precious, moved to a new place where you knew not a soul, experienced earth shattering change, if you have ever been lost, if you have ever been afraid of a new situation or intimidated by the thought of a new experience, then you know a little something about the daily and disorienting experiences of those among us living with a dementia. If you love something right now with all of your heart, if you enjoy your friends and hearing their laughter, and faces with wide smiles, or holding a warm hand, receiving a sincere and glowing “hello”, or a long rocking hug, if you like being part of group who knows you and reaches out to you, then you also know a little bit about living with a dementia.
I recently listened to a replay of one of my favorite interviews on NPR’s, Radio Lab. The show (from Jan 2011) featured the theme “Lost and Found” and explored a few of its many meanings; from the mysteries of hero homing pigeons to our fierce capacity for love and perseverance when facing unexpected loss (and found again). I cannot recommend it enough. You will laugh and your eyes will tear and you may find your jaw sag open or tighten with concern. Certainly, you will forward it to someone else (it’s that good), so here is the link to make it easier for you to find later (Click here for Radio Lab). This show sent me on my most recent path of reflection, examining the question of “lost” and “home”: to find and sense “home” and pinpoint its geophysical significance as well as its metaphysical aspects within our own lives, it’s a big deal. An open question to keep in a close accessible place.
I will continue to comb through my questions about home and work at remaining open to new lessons from the Wisdom Keepers. I am far more interested in the personhood of orientation than I am in its neurological underpinnings. Each Keeper with their own path, confused as it may seem outwardly, teaching us about the meaning of “home”, in our own skin, in our communities and in our world. It behooves us to pay attention. They have a lot to teach us about creativity and humor in the midst of struggle, patience and love in the absence of understanding all through the questions and answers alive in their bodies, behavior and minds. I see this most in their openness to the moment and their willingness to be escorted by kindness when expressed with respect and carried in dignity. Don’t we all? We are the elbow, they are the way.
The award winning French short, “Skhizein,” (a greek word, meaning split or divided) illustrates my feelings about dementia, orientation and wellbeing more beautifully and far better than I could ever hope to articulate myself. The parallels to living with a disorder that displaces you, any disorder, are moving in this distinctive and imaginative film. Henry, whom the story is centered around, is projected precisely 91 centimeters from himself after colliding with…oh, just watch it. Whether it is 1cm from center or half way around the world, we can all relate to feeling outside of ourselves at times, or outside of the life that is lived by everyone else around us. For those who find themselves kicked out of “our” reality for neurological reasons, we must create better bridges to their world. We must step out and beyond the comfort of our illusory and all too rigid reality grid. I have found that when I reach beyond thinking and hold connection to and presence with everyone I meet, paying attention with my heart more than my ears and to the wordless aspects of our communication, I feel more at home. Regardless of our location on the planet