A few weeks ago some friends of ours came over and talked to us about their less than ideal living situation. They were not without a home, but they are looking for a new place to go and would like a happier environment in the interim. Jeff and I talked about how absurd it seems that we are just so relaxed after everything that has happened. We are more than happy to be that landing pad, and while we aren't up for moving a whole family in again (not just yet… haha), we feel very open to letting someone stay in our space and feel welcomed for a time. I love that we even have that to offer. Besides, they are staying mostly in the downstairs apartment with Lindsay. But my sense of ownership over this place is very loose indeed. I do feel like this house is a big gift to us- it felt like luck nabbing this thing and getting such a deal on it. Since then the doors have been open, literally. In less than five years we've had *12* different people call this place "home" for a time. With the addition of these two friends staying for a month or two, that takes the total to 14. And that's in addition to Jeff and I and our two kiddos (not counting animals). Ha! I didn't actually realize all that until Jeff and I were laughing about how we can't seem to keep this place "empty" for long. We decided that perhaps our home is meant to be a place filled with lovers and wanderers.
These are pictures from our weekend trip to visit with Jeff's mom where she lives with her new partner. It's on a lake and very relaxing, and they've been so loving and open with their space. It's come in handy when Jeff and I needed a little respite.
I've been thinking about where this desire for "tribe" comes from in me. I mean, I'd like to say that it's innate- that every human needs others and place and belonging. I guess I can't speak for everyone. But for me, even as a young child, I felt very drawn to large families and mini examples of such a concept. It felt almost magical to me. I'm the 2nd oldest of four siblings, but even my family of six didn't quite give me that experience I sought. I specifically remember this feeling with one friend in particular. She was the fifth of seven siblings, and she and I hit it off. We were 7 years old, both tomboys, both loved to climb trees and catch frogs. But the real magic happened for me when she invited me over (which was always, basically). The doors to their home were perpetually open.
The house was messy and chaotic, and everyone had somewhere to go and something to do. The size of their family seemed exponential at times, because with every child came more friends and ideas and energy. I would walk in and I would witness projects under way. I'd often get put right to work doing one thing or another, always something for the good of the group like cooking or clearing the table. My friend never seemed to ask permission for my presence in the home. It was as though that concept of territory just went out with the bathwater at a certain point in their family history. They just welcomed me, always. When I would sleep over, the alarm would go off before sunrise and we'd all get up to do the many newspaper routes that the family picked up to make ends meet. I'd pull myself out of bed, and we'd bundle up and climb into the huge van together. The sun would slowly rise and we'd work quickly and easily together. I felt so included and purposeful and cared for.
I think that ultimately what attracts me to this stuff is the values that come with it- openness and acceptance of many, a loose sense of ownership over material things, generosity of spirit, good work ethic, etc. I can have those things, regardless of how many people are in my home or family. I just suspect it's hard to realize those values without the people around to coax you out of yourself.
Lately I've been thinking about my values and desires when it comes to how I want to engage with my community and how I want to approach various relationships in my life. Relationship. It can take so many different and meaningful forms, as unique as each individual within them. It's been a little over a month since our partners left. It's so strange to me how quickly life can change. Jeff and I are doing better with it all. We've all tied up loose ends and talked about our feelings. It hasn't all been pleasant and our respective families still have trouble seeing eye to eye. Perhaps that's inevitable in a situation like this. I think after the level of intimacy we all experienced with one another, the quick transition to something different is too painful and takes too much work. Not to mention that we each have a lot of work to do in our individual families now to adjust and acclimatize to a new way of life and identity. Time will tell, but I'm working to let go of any expectations now. Hurt still exists, but healing has been swift. Boundaries exist now between our two families that are probably appropriate given all that has happened, but it still feels icky and sad. I have always struggled with being able to sit with misunderstandings and allow for a situation to remain unfastened. But sometimes, I'm learning, that's exactly what needs to happen. That's where you need that meditation on serenity… to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I love that. I'm trying to manifest an attitude of acceptance and forgiveness (for my own process as well as theirs), so that we can simply take our experience forward- separately, as it turns out- into what I feel in my heart to be a very bright future.