Tag Archives: home

Press Go

I have always been afraid. The reason may have varied, but by and large I’ve bee afraid because I am constantly scanning my environment for potential threats to my person or my delicate emotional state. I’m so highly sensitive, so effected by changes in my environment, that even the slightest shift in the direction of the wind makes me perk up with anxiety. I am always wondering, waiting in that liminal space between hearing first one shoe to fall to the floor and anticipating the other. The state of suspension is fraught with the possibility of disaster. When will it be? When is the other shoe going to drop and blow up my whole world?

I’ve always been this way. I have always been waiting for the next blow the land. I try to go through the motions of daily life on guard, protecting my vulnerabilities, just in case the strike should come from someplace unforeseen. Predictability is my shield and my routine is a weapon. So long as everything stays the same, precisely the same as it has always been, I will be okay. Nothing can hurt me so long as I stay quiet and still.

This stagnation is the root cause of my stunted growth. Not much progress can be made if you’re withdrawn and protective. Instinct drives me to reach out and touch the world around me. Desire for the new, the innovative, the unexplored drives me. Fear holds me back. It’s all irrational fear, to be certain, but it’s overwhelmingly powerful. My mind repeats insistently, “If we go outside, we’ll get hurt.” If I deviate from my well-trodden path, even a little bit, I’m opening the door to disaster.

Recently, though, I invited disaster in.

I can’t say what made me do it. Perhaps it was just a change in the wind. Maybe I fooled myself into thinking that it wouldn’t be that great a leap. Either way, as soon as I gathered the courage to I step off my beaten track, I ran like the hounds of hell were at my heels.

I burned some bridges along the way. It had to be done, so no unfriendly horde could chase me down and lock me in again. I untethered myself from those people and things that have fed on my fear and incited it. Their fury is great, but my drive is greater. I can see — clearly, blessedly, finally — the path that leads to the next step. I can see my best life waiting for me at the end of that path, and the road is clear. It took one bold leap to remove me from the quagmire of doubt and onto a path of certainty. And all it took to leap was one simple command, spoken by my heart to my nervous soul: press go. And so I went.

So help me God, I’m never going to look back.

 

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On the homefront

The concept of “home”, to me, is about family. And “family”, as far as I’m concerned, is about so much more than who your relatives are. Blood is not the only thing that makes a family. Marriages are direct evidence of this principle: even if you don’t intend to merge your genetic material to create offspring, when you get married, you form a new family. But even without government documents to bind us, families can be created in so many ways.

In our ever-expanding world, people very rarely continue to live within the same ten-mile radius that they were born into, often times moving thousands of miles away from where they were born and where their nuclear family unit resides. What then? We create our own homes, we find a new tribe, and we integrate into a new community. We set about adding branches to our family tree.

The people who surround us, care for us, and support us become our family through ties created of love. I’m very comfortable with the idea of an “extended” family. When I was growing up, it didn’t occur to me that my Auntie Rose and Auntie Nettie weren’t my mom’s real sisters — she loved them, so I did. They are part of my family. End of discussion. As a teenager, I began to wage my own life-long bonds of friendship and sisterhood. It was the first time I recall feeling bonded through shared experience: we are the same age, we come from similar dysfunctional backgrounds, we have similar interests. That was the foundation of our friendship. Then, just like Mary-Louise Parker’s character says in the movie “Boys on the Side”: there is something special that goes on between women. Through time and the magic of sisterhood, we became more than mere friends. We were sisters. Now they are my family. They are my blood. Period. End of discussion.

When I was 20, my mother died after slightly less than a year of fighting multiple myeloma. Just a year and a half earlier, we had lost my stepdad to lung cancer. I had moved from California, where both my relatives and my tribe did reside, to an itty bitty island in the middle of the Pacific in order to live with my mom and dad. And then they died. And I was alone in a way that one person should ever be. I had a roof over my head, but no home.

It took some time, but I crawled out of the crater left by that gargantuan life event. I finished college. I got married. I figured out who my real friends were and who would be members of my new tribe. I still felt like an orphan, but I managed to connect with a number of compassionate women who loved me like a daughter. I started to mend.

The thing about love, though, is that not all love is created equally. Don’t get me wrong: all love is good. But when you lose the love of a mother, no amount of love from friends or siblings or fathers is going to completely fill that empty cup. I felt, deep down to the very bottom of my soul, like a motherless wastrel in desperate need of some mothering. Every day that passed I felt more and more like an orphan, and all I wanted was my mommy.

I got my wish, after a time. In spades, you might say. And this is where I think Fate played her hand: if I hadn’t come to Hawaii, I wouldn’t have learned about Hanai family, and I would never have found mine. In Hawaiian, hanai means to adopt, to be close to, to nourish, to sustain. It was not an uncommon practice among Hawaiians newlyweds to practice the hanai custom by bestowing upon their parents their first born child to be raised by them. Children whose parents were unable to care for them were also given hanai parents, perhaps outside of their blood relations. It was seen as a blessing to the hanai parents, to be given the opportunity to care for and love a child that did not come from their union. The concept of family, or ohana, extended to all members of the society: we are all in this together, we who are bonded by blood or by love, it makes no difference. My hanai mom (really, I have more than one), like my sisters, has no qualms about our relationship. We’re family, with all the rights, privileges,  and responsibilities therein. Period, end of discussion.

It’s funny to think: I had to wind up a million miles from home, in a place I never anticipated I would go, surrounded by people I didn’t even know ten years ago, in order to find my family. My home.