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A reader wrote recently to ask about the effect of multiple moves on a child.

It got me thinking about the concept of “home.”

There’s no more powerful trope in human society.  “Home” as a concept relates to the child you once were. It triggers a universal longing.

The word resonates so strongly that real estate listings often use “home” instead of “house” to describe a property for sale.  They’d rather market a concept – something we all long for – than the thing itself, a heap of wood and brick, cinder block and glass.

The word “home” is ubiquitous in our common language, as well – embedded in everyday phrases:  welcome home, home base, home run, homing in, heading home, home sweet home, writing home, home-making, come home.

You need a home.  You may search for it all your life.

As a child, you long for stability – a regular schedule, predictable places and events.  A child savors routines that would bore an adult to tears: watching the same dvd over and over again, having the same book read to him over and over again, eating the same meal (chicken nuggets or pizza) over and over again.  A child wants to stay put and feel safe. Familiarity is like food – he gobbles it up.

The effect of multiple moves on a young child is that he will feel destabilized and anxious, and turn for succor to the one place whence he believes all stability derives – his parent.  That usually means mom, literally his first home, where he first found food and warmth, love and care.  Mama equals home.  She is the original safe place.

For an adult, that’s no longer the case.  The illusion of mom as an omnipotent, omnipresent figure fades as you mature.  In its place, a real woman emerges.  She was once a child herself, and she has her own struggles to wage.

So you turn vagabond – and search for a new home, elsewhere.

You might seek it in a big house.  Or maybe a bank account or a heap of possessions represents your vision of stability and safety.

Ultimately, home must be a person, just as it was when you were a child.  Money and things cannot offer you a true home.

But seeking your home in a partner doesn’t work either.  A relationship must be a meeting of equals – two whole people, not two half people.  It cannot be a rescue.

You cannot build a home with someone else until you feel secure in yourself.  No other person can make you feel secure in your life, and partners cannot run to one another for something they both lack.

You have to build your own place of safety.

Home must exist within you.

Luckily, it already does.  Home, for an adult, is nothing more than acceptance of yourself – the person you truly are when you are your best – your most conscious and most authentic – self.

You are already home.

You always have been.  You always will be.

Always there, always ready to offer love, security and safety.  For yourself.

What a house symbolically offers.  What mama used to offer.  What the word “home” promises.

You can provide that for yourself.

Welcome home.

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