“God always makes a way for you to come home.” – Buddy Owens
“God bless our home.”
These are the words written on a wooden key-shaped sign that hangs on the door of Unit 407. I moved into this slightly furnished apartment in August 2012, after a movement in my job provided me an income that could afford renting a place that is more comfortable than a bedspace.
Throughout the years, I have tried to make this place my home – clean, organized, quiet, cloistered, and minimal. Having a place like this all to myself gave me a sense of freedom and independence. It instantly became a reservoir of the success that I was enjoying.
Soon, the apartment walls were decorated with finisher’s medals and bib numbers that tell anyone how far I have gone in my physical pursuit. The closets and the drawers began to contain items that I used to consider a luxury rather than a necessity. Magnets featuring landmark of different places I traveled to began to stick on the refrigerator door. The clearbook in the shelf has thickened with certificates from various awards that I received at work.
As my apartment was filled with symbols of my achievements, an undeniable feeling of emptiness and weariness slowly grew and inhabited my place. I felt the desire to make this place not just my home, but our home. So, I took the risks…and I failed.
I lost my home.
The home that I built became a wreck and what were left were ruins of discrete parts that were too damaged to form a cohesive whole.
The door that bears the “God bless our home” sign is the entrance to my inner world, unknown to people who are not fortunate enough to receive an invitation to come in. At a certain point, I entrusted the duplicate keys to unlock this door to someone who I thought would make this place happier. The keys were returned to me one morning by the owner, who announced that the person I gave the keys to just left last night. The door had also opened several times to warmly welcome people that I hoped I could share my life with, but who eventually walked out the same door before I could even know their real names or true stories.
The west window takes much of the daylight and heat when the sun goes down. It also endures the cold rain and the blowing wind during stormy weather. Its transparent glass panels are covered from the inside by blue curtains that were handed to me by a neighbor who has found a new home somewhere. By this window, I watched people walk away from my life. Some did it so suddenly and unannounced that it broke me into pieces. Some cared to turn back, smile, and wave goodbyes, before disappearing forever.
For a long time, I kept this window tightly shut, not wanting to look out because I did not want to feel the pain of seeing that someone was not coming back.
The glass dining table is where I sat down eating the food I personally prepared, occasionally with a guest, but mostly alone. This table hosted several deep conversations I had with myself and with other people about writing, traveling, sports, family, career, spirituality, politics, education, rural empowerment, agriculture, love, sex, and other topics that made me laugh and cry. Some people who sat across the table shook my values to the core and made me realize things about myself that I denied or I never knew existed.
The kitchen window at the south is the spot that I first go to when I wake up each day. I could often watch the youngs and adults below, playing basketball in the makeshift court during morning and late afternoon, while I was cooking or brewing my coffee. Just outside stands a mango tree that reminds me of nostalgic childhood memories that happened under their branches. On rainy days, I sit by this window, sipping my coffee, making out the shadows going to and coming from the other buildings, listening to the rain and to the songs of my heart, and watching the dead mango leaves fall away when the wind blows. The mango tree that sheds its dead yellow leaves became my ultimate model for detachment and letting go.
A portion of the unit was divided to allocate a space for a bedroom. There is an old spring bed in it that cushioned most of my weight during that period of depression when I no longer wanted to get up and live. This enclosed corner is a quiet witness to my private idiosyncrasies, ephemeral romances, and clandestine fantasies, as well as, to the midday and midnight struggles of a lost soul trying to figure out what he really wants to do with his life.
The small monoblock table and chair near the south window, where the light of the morning shines through, occupy the space where I spent time reading the Bible, memorizing verses, reciting Psalm 23, listening to Rick Warren, and crying over the testimonies of faith from people who were saved by grace. Here, I learned to dream again with my eyes wide open. In this space of redemption, I came to know my calling, planned how to restart my life at thirty, and made the toughest decision that would lead me to the pursuit of the true desires of my heart.
Indeed, redemption is always possible even in the most broken, saddest, and darkest places if you know where to look for the light. Tweet
So, what do you do when the place you have known for years no longer feels like home?
You face the light through the south window or wherever it comes from in your own place, find your way to redemption, decide to put yourself in a better story, and then…
You leave and go back to your real home.