There is nothing more disorienting than waking up and not being where you ought to be or thought you were. This seems to happen especially to people who travel frequently – or drink too much. Admittedly, I have ample experience in both these areas. That mild increasing anxiety as you open your eyes, perhaps only one eye, and the sliver of reality materializing is not the accustomed view from your own bed. Not the right ceiling. Not the right window. Even the light is all wrong.
If you’re lucky it’s just the hotel room you arrived in last night. Or it’s the living room couch you never left after valiantly attempting the late show. Or less proudly, the floor which was as far as you apparently made it when you got home from last call last night when that, plus the successful operating of your front door and the removal of one shoe was the full extent of your conscious abilities.
Worst case scenario it’s a bed belonging to someone else, with whom you must soon perform awkward farewells while gathering your possessions, followed by a grim exhausted commute to your own home fueled only by bemused shame and a desire not to collapse in public with your underwear on inside out. Or, as the smell of damp grass makes undeniably apparent, it’s the lawn you for some reason thought was a way better option than indoors sleeping arrangements, a memory I wish were far more distant and rare than it is.
And then there are the times you wake up in your own bed, in your own home, and all is where it ought to be, the light is right, the smells are right, that’s your cat snoring, your neighbor rustling upstairs, your window view. You uncurl your rested body and easy mind, you sigh lightheartedly in cheerful greeting of a new day, and then you remember: oh shit, that. That thing you momentarily forgot and hoped was a dream. That thing you only days ago woke up without knowing, without feeling, without rearranging your whole life around. That.
It could be that someone you loved and couldn’t imagine living without is gone. It could be that you lost the job whose routines and relationships were what gave your life both context and content. It could be any number of inner or outer landscape altering news, happenings or realizations that were not part of your reality mere days ago, and are now. That. And it was that pre-that landscape you were hoping to wake up into, because that was home. And this is not home. Home is what you are a long way from. And now you have to slowly crawl your way back to it, if you can.
I seem to be having a lot of these “that” wakeups lately. Hazy cozy one eye open morning thoughts that are suddenly rudely eclipsed by the new reality I temporarily blissfully forgot happened. Oh, that’s right, my mother died last night and today I have to get on a train and go to her funeral. Or, oh that’s right, I don’t live there anymore, work there anymore, get to talk to or touch that person anymore. I had (fill in the blank) yesterday, and today I don’t. That text wasn’t a dream, or that phone call, or email, or if you go way back in my history of landscape alterations, that letter, that sighting, that “there’s something you need to know” conversation. Sometimes, the agent of these abrupt losses was simply silence. But it changed everything. And it wasn’t a dream. And for days, weeks, even months afterwards, in that confused hopeful moment between dissipating unconsciousness and materializing consciousness, I have understood that I am waking up not at home. I may as well be in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city, or a stranger’s bed, or the front lawn. Oh shit. That. Now what?
The slow crawl back home. In the full resumed occupation of which, I am happy to say, this post was written. Because as it turns out, and I have to keep learning over and over again, home is not a place, or an occupation, or another person. Wherever I go, whatever I do, whoever chooses to keep me company, I am always at home. Because I am home.