There’s No Place Like Home: The HERE Year Month #1

Posted On: 04.30.14

doroth I’m sitting at a coffee shop around the corner from my childhood home. There are no small tables free, so I’m at a big communal island with a hodgepodge of other people. The man across from me, older, very black hair, serious, fiddles with his phone. The petite Asian woman on the opposite corner, scrolls through her phone too. Her hair is pulled back with a tortoiseshell butterfly clip and she wraps her arm across her chest like she’s cold. She wears all black. The man at the end wears a yarmulke and reads, I think, the Torah. The gray hoodie and leather jacket he wears over his striped dress shirt are wet from rain. He uses a white paper dinner napkin as a bookmark. There are two women right next to me, probably my age, chatting in another language. The one closest to me fumbles with a crumbling blueberry muffin.

And then there’s me. A thirty-five year old mother and writer, thinker and wanderer. I’m dressed more nicely than usual because I have a lunch across the street at the museum in a couple hours. I sip from my umpteenth coffee of the day. I was up before 5am and I need it. My daughter’s hot pink earphones are in and I’m listening to the scratchy brilliance of Mose Allison, Dad’s favorite, the soundtrack of my childhood in many ways. There are so many details I could share, but the most important one: I am here. Not just in this coffee shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Not just in the rainy beginnings of Wednesday morning. Not just in these silly printed harem pants that might or might not be flattering. I am here. Present in this moment, these moments. Not perfectly present, but more present than I’ve been in a long time. Awake. Aware. In it.

This, of course, is the goal of my admittedly ambitious yearlong examination of Presence, my fondly dubbed, and perhaps foolishly conceived, HERE Year: to find a way to be here, in my life, to focus less on the past and on the future, to sit more squarely, and more comfortably, in the present moment. Those words – present moment – still make me chafe a bit. They strike me as a bit woo-woo, new-agey, flaky. I have not lost my skepticism, but it has lightened. Because my efforts are paying off, at least a bit, and I’ve felt more here, more anchored to the present moment suddenly feels like a wildly personal and very real thing. It’s been one month. At the outset, in utterly ADR-esque fashion, I vowed to explore a topic a month. In retrospect, I smile at this. My telltale hankering for structure, for order, and for control. This project, like life, will defy my efforts to contain it neatly. It will be messy and hard and magical. There will be, and there have been, moments where I say to myself: What am I doing? Why am I doing this? These questions are okay. Good even.

Anyway, I’m in danger of rambling and though rambling is something I cherish and want to never stop doing, I have only a certain amount of time to write this post and there are several things I want to share with you about this first month, my Home April, as I think of it now. The things I will share, you will see, do not fit a single category. Some are ideas. Some are questions. Some are confessions. Some are just stories that I don’t want to forget. There is no conspicuous logic to any of this, and part of me, the part of me that’s growing bigger, celebrates this. All of these bits are bits of me, of who I am Now, not Then, not When. All of these bits are part of being Here, in this shop, this rain-soaked city, this moment of my day and my life.

Bits on Home & Here

  1. Home is not just a place. It is place, but it is also people and ideas and memories. It is also music and smells and belongings. It is also a feeling, a feeling of warmth and coziness and being understood. It is being under covers on a Sunday morning and cuddling with pajama-clad kids on a couch. It is a story we tell ourselves, a story that is at once true and imagined.
  2. Home takes effort. I’ve always loved our home, the home we moved into when I was just pregnant with my youngest daughter, but over the past 3+ years, it’s grown crowded and cluttered with things – mail piles, orphan gloves, broken toys, holey leggings, chipped mugs, crap, and I never realized how much all of this stuff was affecting me until I started to deal with it and go through it and get rid of it. I’ve been working with a wonderful woman named Rachel Yehaskel from Resourceful Consultants to tackle the excess and clutter and in just a few meetings (and many hours of work on my end), our house is finally feeling peaceful. Just yesterday, we donated 15+ construction bags full of old baby clothes and toys and gear (to Baby Buggy), along with 7 bags of my own clothes and shoes that I no longer wear (to Housing Works). We still have work to do, but what a big change. I’ll be honest and tell you that I felt a bit of panic and melancholy after parting with all of these things and the memories they conjured, but now I’m feeling good, lighter, less distracted, more free.
  3. Over Easter, we visited my childhood country home in the Berkshires. It was a short trip, but an incredibly meaningful one. The girls ran and ran through the fields of my youth, hunted for Easter eggs, chased Mom’s dogs. My middle daughter found a four-leaf clover which I took to be a very good omen. I spent some time looking through the house and all its treasures. I found an old copy of Virginia Woolf’s book A Haunted House and tucked inside was a letter from the home’s former owner to my own dad, saying how much he wanted my father to buy the place because it was clear how much he loved it. The fact that I found this note during my month dedicated to Home gives me goosebumps. Tomorrow, Husband and I are traveling back to the house (which I admit to avoiding for a long time) with our beloved architect to see what it would take for Mom and us to restore the place and use it going forward. I have no idea whether this is something can do or will do, but just the possibility makes me happy.
  4. Last weekend, the girls wanted to watch a movie. I put on The Wizard of Oz. They had never seen it and I hadn’t seen it in forever. My mind raced with all the things I needed to do (I spend many many moments being less than present), but I had this thought. I want to be here. With them. And I put the computer and to-do list away and we cuddled up. The little girls were scared at points and grabbed me and hid under blankets, but Big Girl and I assured them it was okay. And it was. The movie ended, as you know, with lines that are now repeating on a loop through my head: There’s no place like home.
  5. I wrote a post about it earlier this week, but a reader emailed me not long ago about a loss in her life. That she took time during her sadness to write words to me meant a tremendous amount to me and I told her so. We’ve been chatting a bit and she has said that the comments that have come in have helped some; that it is good to remember that she’s not alone. It has occurred to me that telling our stories, our true and hard stories, is akin to inviting people into our homes. It involves trust and vulnerability, but the rewards are immense.
  6. Speaking of inviting people into my home, I hosted a wonderful Happier Hour literary salon with the hilarious and brilliant Patty Chang Anker. We gathered in my yellow living room and talked about life and love and loss and fear. We all have fears, don’t we? I know I have many and they are always evolving. Anyway, I put it together, thanks to Patty, that this whole HERE Year project emerged from a place of fear. For reasons I’m still exploring, I’ve been fearful of being here. I’m still trying to figure out why. I have decided to face my fear of being here by writing about it.
  7. Something that has helped immeasurably in my efforts to be more present: not drinking alcohol. A while back, I did another project (I am indeed a project girl!) called A Year Without Wine. That year was wonderful and eye-opening and I learned a ton about myself. I came away from the year with a nagging sense that drinking is not good for me. I went in and out of denying this truth, ignoring it, going back and forth between drinking a little, more than a little, nothing at all. What I’m learning this time around (since April 7) is importantly different, namely that: not drinking is GOOD for me. I’ve figured out that drinking is my keystone habit and when I stop drinking, my life brightens and good things happen. To use a word Arianna Huffington loves and writes about in her so-named book, when I forgo the wine, I thrive. Can’t wait to explore this idea more and see what my friend Gretchen Rubin has to say about this. Gretchen’s next book Before and After is about making and breaking habits.
  8. I am an author! I’ve obviously known this, but yesterday I had occasion to go into my daughter’s First Grade classroom and talk about my life as an author. I was oddly nervous, but the good fluttery kind of nervous. The kids were so cute and wonderful. They asked me questions about what it’s like to write and I had fun telling them that no two days are the same, that everything in life can be material for a story. When they asked what I wanted to be when I was their age (6-7), I recalled my once-answer: I want to be an artist. It occurred to me that I am an artist, that I’m doing what I always wanted to do. At the end, I gave each kiddo a tiny notebook and a New York City pen and told them how lucky they are to live in this city full of stories, that they should open their eyes and take notes. My visit to Dalton, where I spent my K-12 days, was in many ways another iteration of going home.
  9. A few weeks ago, my uncle died. And I felt very strange about writing about it all here or elsewhere, but then I did mention it, somewhat elliptically I think, because this is part of my life and I write about my life here. Anyway, it was sad and I went to my family’s home in South Carolina for what was an incredibly meaningful and memorable memorial service. The theme of Home very much ran through my time there.
  10. Writing is a kind of home for me. I’ve known this for a while now, that I am most myself, most happy, when writing is part of the fabric of my life. Days without writing are not as good as days with writing. I’ve realized this keenly in the past several days as I’ve started waking up again at the brutal but brilliant hour of 4:30am to work on my novel. These morning hours are everything to me. I sit there in the thick quiet, a dark world outside my window, sipping coffee and writing words. I lose myself, guys. Time blurs by and when I come up for air – that’s literally what it feels like – I am a happier, fuller version of myself. Interestingly, while I’m plenty exhausted on these days, I’m also more calm, more here, because I’ve written. Nota bene: the internationally bestselling author Jane Green (June’s Happier Hour author!) just sent me the most fantastic travel mug in the mail. It says (in a cute heart shape): Write like a motherf***er. And that’s just what I’m doing. My goal is to get my whole manuscript to my agent Brettne Bloom by June. It remains to be seen whether this can be done. Feel free to cheerlead 🙂

Guys, there’s SO much more. So many more things. But this is it for now. Tomorrow is a new month. And I will be back here to announce May’s topic. It’s a good one. Okay, I’m off to soak up (literally) this final day of April. I hope there’s something in this rambling ode to Home that strikes something in you and if there is, I’d love to hear about it. This project is both deeply personal and inherently universal; as I ask and learn, I want you all to ask and learn alongside me.

Deal?

xoxo, ADR

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17 Comments for: "There’s No Place Like Home: The HERE Year Month #1"
  1. So much goodness here. I’ve been thinking a lot about home – b/c I’m in the process of selling my house, and dealing with all of the tasks & emotions that the process brings up.

  2. Amen to all of this, every word. I love this project, and as you know it is a topic I care deeply about (you yourself named my eons-old – wow we’ve known each other a long time now! – series, Present Tense). I can’t wait to keep learning from you, and hope we can discuss in person very soon. xoxo

  3. I am cheering for you!!! It is so hard to write a manuscript and also be HERE – to be present for the world of the book and the world of your girls and friends, reality, life and death. Thank you for trying, for sharing your efforts with us, for going to the place of fear and being honest about what you find. You’ve got some nerve, baby!

  4. Cheerleading!
    Great thoughts indeed. There is much I do that doesn’t allow me to thrive. That prevents me from doing so. Love your thoughts on all this.

  5. Crazy! My blog post title is entitled Home today!
    I think I channeled you after reading your blog post yesterday!

  6. So happy to read a big piece again from you! I resonate so much with the idea of Here and needing constant reminders to stay true to that in each moment. I’ve been contemplating a new tattoo – “today” – as another pointer towards this. It really makes a world of difference in life to step back and stay present…the added happiness that can come from that is truly boundless.
    So nicely presented.

    Lovelovelove,
    Erica
    cominguprosestheblog.com

  7. I am loving this series (and it’s title!). So much to think about here. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Gale

    Only have a moment to respond, but mostly just wanted you to know that I’m here. These thoughts on home are very interesting to me and reading your words makes me wonder what it would be like for my childhood and adults lives to exist in such close proximity to each other. I’ve never lived as an adult in the city where I grew up and can’t imagine my daily comings and goings today overlapping with the haunts of my childhood. So many thoughts to explore. Can’t wait to see you soon. Xoxo.

  9. I’ve been thinking about home as well, and I have a post that is written only in my head about it for four years now. I live in my childhood hometown – not Manhattan, but on the edge of a large city, after 14 years away – first New Haven, then New York, then on the other side of my large city and finally here, home, in the place where I grew up, a quarter of a mile from my childhood home. It’s strange to see it simultaneously through my old and new eyes, like having double vision.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your thoughts on the topic.

  10. Kathy

    Home. The word alone conjures up feelings of warmth and belonging, love and coziness. I raised my kids 8 miles from my childhood home. My parents still live in my childhood home of 51 years. This past year my husband I made the difficult decision to sell our home that we raised the kids in for 18!years. Our home…such an internal struggle to let go. I wanted my kids, now 21 and 23 to have their home forever. The recession had made that decision not a reality for us. I had to let go of so many possessions we had acquired over those years. 4000 square feet going into 1700. I held on to the family treasures that date back to my great grandparents, clockmakers in Ireland, where my mother was raised, paintings she painted. True treasures of the heart. My mother came to America when she was 16 and she will soon be celebrating her 76th birthday! After 4 cancers this is huge! She has always told us when she dies she wants to be buried back HOME! In Ireland with her dad who died when she was 9 overlooking the Shannon river in the family plot. Her room with a view she has always called it! She and I went to see the movie Philomenia together about an Irish woman whose son was given up for adoption to an American couple at the age of 2…against her will. The movie is her journey to find him so she can tell him she didn’t abandon him. Spoiler alert…he has died and she finds that although he was a grown man when he died and only lived in Ireland til age 2, he requested to be buried HOME in Ireland! Tears streamed down my mothers cheeks and mine, we gasped and held hands. Home is where the heart is and I am working on putting mine into this new one so it can feel like my home again!
    You go Aidan! Keep writing…you got this!

  11. Aidan this is so beautiful. Sending you cheers on your novel and for the house. And cheers to all of us who want to feel more at home.

  12. I just got done typing up a poem that my son wrote when he was five years old. I’m gifting it to some of by fellow Write Doe Bay attendees. After reading your post about home, I thought you might like it, too.

    home
    by grady salas hecht

    home is like my blanket

    home is sweetness
    and no harm

    home is nice
    and dry and warm

    home is beautiful
    and colorful

    home is for snuggling up
    and happiness

    i feel like a home that walks

    Love your writing and introspection. Keep up the good work. xoxo

  13. Kristy

    Your moving posts on home make me think of my favorite song. As an East Coast transplant in San Francisco with a new baby far away from family, I used to listen to this song over and over. It is sad, but made me feel the warmth of home and family. So the song is Home by Jenny Bruce http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Home/3ZjoO1?src=5

  14. I love this, Aidan. I think your projects are endearing and inspiring. To Home. And Peace. xoxo

  15. Aidan,

    I admire and love the versatility of your pieces. You reinvent.

    I look forward to hearing about your other topics in the future. Great project, Aidan. As always, you keep me thinking. xoxo

  16. Sam

    I have loved reading your posts about Home over the past month. They have encouraged and inspired me to dig into my own home and start de-cluttering.

    Also, I absolutely ADORE Jane Green, and now need to have that mug for my very own 🙂

  17. There is so much in here for me. Thank you for sharing your amazing insights and experiences. I know that I struggle with being present so much. But when I take the time to be HERE in the small and big moments of my life, I do benefit. I have been trying to carve more time out of my day to do just that. To stop and breathe in the moments. I’ve also been carving out more writing time in the early hours of the morning. I do find that I agree with what you said about writing. My days are better when I ground my mornings in some writing task. Write now I’m working on building up my blog but this summer, I am hoping to start putting serious work into completing my first novel. I’m going to wish us both luck. And know that I am so looking forward to your next book just like I absolutely look forward to reading your blog and instagram posts. Every morning for the past week, I finish my morning post of writing and then I snap a picture and yours is there reminding me of why waking up early matters. I remember why I want to be here. Again, thanks for the continued inspiration.

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