Tuesday, February 19, 2008


There are many beginnings to my journey. It's hard to pick one to talk about. But one beginning involves Shelly (who I hope is still around sometimes) and how this whole blog started.

I had just started my search back in April 2007. I was getting ready to give a talk on the topic of "Home." I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop when Shelly came over to me and asked what I was writing. I told her about the talk I was working on and told her that it was slow going. I was distracted. And for some reason, I mentioned that I was searching for my first family. Without batting an eye, she told me she was adopted as well. I don't know what made me say it. But she didn't seem surprised and we talked for hours about it that day. (And many days thereafter.)

Now I am reading through Betty Jean Lifton's Journey of the Adopted Self. And I was struck, this morning, by her comments about home. They struck various chords in me, and it took me back to that talk I wrote and gave last spring. And since I was thinking about it, I started reading through the text again.

Not all of it is appropriate to reprint here. (There's a lot in it that's specific to the audience for which it was intended.) But I'm struck by how much of what I wrote was shaped by adoption, even though, in the final version of the text, I don't mention adoption. The first page or so, really stuck with me, and seemed to echo (indirectly) Lifton's comments. Home seems like such an important and difficult issue for me, as an adoptee. Figuring out where home is, and what home is, or even whether I truly have a home. All of that weighs on me as I think through this topic.

On the off chance it might be of interest to someone else, I offer you the opening paragraphs of that talk "The Long Way Home":

"Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." A friend of mine said this to me once. At the risk of playing on your emotions, she's dead now. She killed herself less than twelve months after saying these words to me. My response, at the time, was that "home is where, when you go there, they want to take you in." It struck me, upon hearing of her death, that she never found home. She was lost, and alone, and never found a place where she felt as though she was wanted.

I tell jokes during these talks, and during my classroom lectures, because I'm afraid I get too heavy, too serious. I don't want to take myself too seriously. And I don't want others to take me too seriously, either. I don't know how to tell light, happy stories. And the truths I've found, while sometimes reassuring and comforting, don't usually seem light-hearted. So today I've started by relating to you one of the saddest, darkest moments in my life. I figure I can only go up from here.

Over the years, I've talked with several people about what "home" means. One theme keeps coming through all of these discussions. Acceptance. Fitting in. Belonging. Wherever we don't fit isn't home. And wherever we do, is. When we feel as though we belong, we feel "at home." That is all there is to it. The rest is elaboration.

Other important things seem so complicated. What is evil? What is love? What is comfort? What is tolerance? What is salvation? All of these are difficult and complicated questions. What is home? That seems easy enough. It's where, when you go there, they want to take you in. And, just as importantly, you want to be there. And it doesn't matter who they are. Whoever. All that matters is that you belong. That belonging is what connects us to the world, to others, to humanity.

What is complicated is finding that place and those people. Finding out what you need to belong. That can be the hardest thing in the world. And sad as hell when it isn't found, even terribly tragic. How much can we survive when we are home? And how easily can we be devastated when we aren't?


elizabeth said...

I've always thought of Paris as my home.

It was definitley interesting, thanks for posting.

phil said...

For me, it's a small group of friends from college... Wherever they are, that's home.

And too often, I can't be there.