Here we are in Northeastern Ohio again, our go to getaway to visit family a few times a year. It’s an 8-hour drive from our home in Central Virginia, so it’s long enough to wear you out and effectively lose two days – one coming up, one going back.
But it’s family, and family matters. I’ve always placed an incredibly high value on family – our vacations since I was a child have revolved around visiting cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Our annual beach trip (interrupted only by two consecutive summer weddings) is non-negotiable family time.
But this is new family for me; on my husband’s side, newer relationships that are deepening and growing in places that continue to bear the weight and wisdom of trust and love.
The bonus, for me, is that this part of the world feels like home. I’ve written of this before, the strange way that my very bones sink into a sense of familiarity and comfort whose imprint seems far deeper than the three years I actually lived here. There is a connection with my birthplace, I know, only a short drive due east. I have memories here, of being a child swimming in Lake Erie with my cousins, aunt and uncle; of visiting that same family in Painesville and Mentor. But I have yet to understand or explain the deep roots that wrap themselves around me every time I am here.
Yesterday morning, I went for a short walk under a brilliant blue sky, the barely budding tips of trees undulating in the wind. As I am prone to do, I was talking out loud as I walked; to myself, to God, to whatever force in the universe might be willing to listen.
What is it about this place that I feel that I belong? How can I feel so certain that I should be here, live here? How could I ever be planted here again? It’s illogical and completely out of the realm of possibility – so what is this feeling?
Fortunately, sometimes the answers come quickly. I talk back to myself, even.
It is enough that you get to come, isn’t it? That you have a place to stay and that several times a year, you are free to simply be here – to rest, to relax, to indulge this familiarity. That is enough.
And it is, truly; I am grateful, and mindful that I am deeply blessed to be able to make these trips at all.
But still, it nags at me. I am inclined to imagine possibilities, all the time, and so my headspace too often is filled with ideas and outlandish propositions – particularly when they come with the possibility of snow-filled winters (which I love) and the recurrence of the most amazingly beautiful springtimes.
So how could I do it, really? Could I get a job? Could I teach piano again? What about mom and dad and my mother-in-law? What about the kids? Where would I live? What about the music store?
It seems like a waste of energy, really. But I can’t shake this feeling, and it’s so connected to my soul that I’m not sure I should.
Today, I spent two hours with a friend, unpacking stories and layers of life lived over the past ten years, set gently on the table before us, each one a precious gift of honesty and vulnerability, the kind that makes all of life worth living. It was rich and resonant. I felt like I was meeting this friend – truly seeing her – for the very first time, and to do so felt like an honor. Truly, it was just that.
We talked around life and faith and kids and aging and parenting and the past and the future and marriage and all the things that we needed to pull out of the depths of ten years without meaningful conversations. It was life, love and grace – and entire vat of the stuff – overflowing, running through our fingers like the sweetest honey.
(I know, I know – that’s incredibly cheesy and overly poetic, but gosh darn it – it felt like that ! I cried, twice…)
Anyway, at one point I described how weird it was, to feel so at home here, when I have such a wonderful home and work and life in Virginia. I talked about how I felt so connected here, and how complicated it was, sometimes.
She said – and I paraphrase, but as often happens when you spend time with wise people, I heard exactly what I needed to hear from her mouth, and so I can safely relate to you that this is what she said:
It’s a good thing, to have a place like this where you have a powerful connection and good memories and a feeling that you belong; you can visit that place, spend some time here, and then what matters is that you go back to your life and you’re a little more like the person you are supposed to be, because you’ve had some good time in that safe place where your soul is at home.
Just like that, it made sense. I kept thinking either / or; my friend reminded me that it’s always a both / and.
Today was such a good day, y’all.
Such a good day.