When I moved back to South Florida in my early 20s and back in with my Mum, I was anxious that the ghosts from my past would catch up with me and pull me under. Throughout my life, I’ve had a tendency to move from one place to another – England, Barbados, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Oregon – with the intent to leave the past behind and go on to something better for me. Going back was never in my plans.
Yet I did. My Mum’s house was supposed to be a temporary way point, a few-month-layover, on my journey to England – the place I’ve always wanted to go back to. Moving to England didn’t work out, but neither did living with my Mum.
Did the ghosts rise up and haunt me? Not exactly. Although driving around some of my old neighborhood haunts did twist my gut. I’d changed my name – and my hair color. I couldn’t even find most of the old gang I used to hang out with. (I even wrote a song about it: Home Again “I’m back home again, but I’m a stranger now. I didn’t want that life anyhow.”)
When I left for Rochester, NY, I was glad enough to move on and put it all behind me.
No more fresh starts
These days I’m more interested in integrating my life — past and present — and living from a place of wholeness. I no longer want, or need, to package away the difficult parts of my life, to tidy them into boxes to be stored in the dark recesses of my mind. Or even to compartmentalize the contradictory pieces and keep them separate from each other. I’m a mother and writer, a medium and knitter, a whatever I am and whatever else that don’t seem to belong together, but clearly do as they are a part of me.
Every time I come back to Rochester I seem to reconnect with parts of myself — who I was when I lived here in a slightly different life to who I am now. Internally, it feels like I’m finding strands of myself and plugging them in to each other, creating new pathways and strengthening my mental and emotional capacities.
In the New Year, those connections were with the kids’ Dad’s family, people I hadn’t seen since before we left for Oregon. Back when I was seemingly happily married and starting a new life with my little family.
This trip I feel like I’m reconciling and reconnecting with places within myself. Who I was then with who I am now. How do those people match up? How do I match up with the vision of myself?
Who am I now?
I’ve spent the past year re-visioning myself. Allowing myself to conceive of a new idea of who I am and how I present myself in the world. What I do. What I look like (apparently it’s without makeup most of the time).
It’s lead me to surprising places — to writing a memoir about one of the more painful and tumultuous times in my life. To reconsidering what I want to do in terms of my career (always subject to further reconsideration, of course). To learning how to consciously parent again.
This trip to Rochester also has some surprises. As I drove to a business meeting yesterday morning, I realized I was driving by the facility where I visited my ex-husband after his suicide attempt. I caught my breath, thrown off guard by sudden memories I hadn’t yet unpacked from their tidy boxes. I wasn’t able to before, but I’m willing to unpack them and look at them now, though. To think about them and feel them, as uncomfortable as it may be.
They are mine and I claim them. Even if they make my toes curl.
A city of memories
There are so many memories for me here in this city. Nine years of them. Memories of the apartment on Goodman and Monroe where the kids’ dad lived when we met. Of the bagel place on the corner we’d walk to for breakfast. The house we brought our babies home from the hospital to. The neighborhoods I’d walk with my Mum.
Echoes of a time gone now. Of relationships changed. Of ghosts.
Reconnecting with our roots
I’m glad the kids get to come back here. That they reconnect with their roots. Most of the places I’ve left I’ve simply gone from, rarely returning. A short trip or two, perhaps. I’ve been to England three times since I left when I was 10, Barbados two or three times as well. North Carolina, twice, I think. But Rochester keeps calling me back.
I come back for the kids, to pick them up and fly them home again, 2,500 miles to the other coast where they spend most of their lives. So partly there is no choice. But I choose to stay for days extra each time, visiting friends and reconnecting, meeting potential clients and making new connections. I don’t have to do that part. But I do, because there’s part of me still here in these city streets. Part of me still here in the life I built for myself in my 20s, the one I was willing to give up for yet another fresh start.
On the trip here, despite the 3:40 a.m. wake up time, the long travel and delays, I kept smiling at my fellow travellers. I realized I am one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I am loved, I have a fantastic home, good food to eat, ample clean water, a healthy wonderful family. Work that’s meaningful. A safety net of support. Time for myself (yes, with 4 kids!). I am so incredibly blessed. I have so much, and so much to give. A smile is the least I can do.
So even when feelings from the past rise up and wriggle my insides, I know it’s OK. Because I can feel those feelings, sit with them and be OK. My home, it turns out, is inside myself. And I’m coming home again.