I spent too much time at home this year, just like the rest of you. There were moments I went totally crazy, and I’m not even an extroverted adventurer. My perfect afternoon might be a nap, a tea, a deep conversation with a friend, and a great book. This year I got sick of sitting in the same corner of the same room for hours at an end.
While I had a great and never-ending stillness at home, I also moved twice! I left a home I was in love with in Paris, and I moved into two new empty homes, one after the other. I had a lot of time to remember the fundamentals that make a house: a bed, a fridge, a washing machine, a table, a desk, a library, plates, cups, kitchen utensils... I also reflected on what turns a house into a home: being able to share the space and your process with those you love.
We serendipitously found ourselves in the homes in which we grew up as children. Neither my partner nor I imagined we would ever live in these homes again. With this twist of the universe, I discovered new stories those around me had attached to these two homes. The house in Drôme was built by Papi in the 1950s when there were no other houses around. Papi and Mami raised their four daughters there, after which of one the daughters moved in with her family, and my partner was raised. The apartment in Istanbul was already full of my childhood memories. I could picture the many different furniture arrangements we had over the years, the warm and nice moments shared, as well as the ugly and heavy. Yet I still discovered new stories of my mom moving in there as a young couple with two kids. She told me that she decided to buy the apartment when she saw how the sun rays generously filled the living room. They had little when they first moved in with my dad, and it took them years to be able to buy some basic things like a couch. My mom sewed a large cushion for the floor (the Turkish way), and that was their couch for two!
A home is an interesting place: it’s a place we take years to build, the place where we collect and lay our stories, and yet, it’s the place we take for granted. This year I felt more gratitude for our homes. I enjoyed the sun rays in the living room in Istanbul who had been consistently generous the past 30 years. Electricity felt like a wondrous thing when it took two weeks to set it up. Being able to grate carrots was joyful when I could finally buy a grater. I even enjoyed cleaning our toilets after Thich Nhat Hanh's amazing story of no toilets in Vietnam.
Once it is made, home is where we come to rest and to replenish our life energy. Resting at home wasn’t straightforward this year. I worked and created only from home. No more crowded cafes with coffee mugs and people in the periphery of my computer. No more rooms I could rent in central Paris for mindfulness meditation classes. No more taking my readings to the park. I became more creative in how I use my spaces. The same corner at home evoked a sense of work when dressed a certain way, and a sense of relaxation when dressed another.
I thought of David Whyte’s words as I did housework all year long. In an essay in Consolations, he had this poetic way of describing housework as a necessary part of a creative life. He was urging us to consider how work and life would both be meaningless without the rhythm and chores of a house to take care of. Thich Nhat Hanh echoes the same teachings in his books. He says he couldn't be a poet without washing the dishes. He couldn't wash the dishes (and enjoy them!) without being a poet. This year, I had the chance to start or fold laundry in between calls, cook lunches or dinners in weird hours of the day, clean and tidy as our spaces got dirtier and messier with us both being at home all the time. David Whyte and Thich Nhat Hanh were both very right. These were not “chore”s. They had become a grounding part of my day.
For Your Reflections
- What did you discover at home this year?
- Which parts of your home do you take for granted? Which parts do you cherish?
- What's your relationship with housework?
Continue reading this series: Family
Go back to the beginning: Fundamentals