I tend to be an anxious person, and during my life I've had periods of time when anxiety has been so overwhelming that it's caused me to rearrange my life to avoid panic triggers. I see anxiety as something that I have to consistently manage, whether through writing, medication or shallow but mind-emptying therapeutic shopping. One thing that has always brought me a sense of peace is the comfort of my home.
The past few weeks have been peppered with moments of the creeping yuckiness of panic. There has been a lot going on around me -- health concerns in my family, my daughter's (successful) search for an apartment, my son's applications to schools for spring semester (he will be leaving home again) and most of all, my house.
To say my house has been in disarray the past few weeks would be an understatement. In order to have our desperately in-need floors refinished, we had to empty the living room, dining room, family room and my office of every single thing. Not only was this a lot of work -- the wrapping, packing and storing of all of these things -- but it turned my house, which I love and where I spend the majority of my time, into a collection of empty rooms. Of course, when it's all put back together with newly re-done floors and freshly painted walls (because it's nearly impossible to refinish floors without painting) it's going to be wonderful -- but the sight of those forlorn walls with empty picture hangers and dusty cobwebs that had been hiding behind big, never-moved furniture triggered a sense of anxiety that I hadn't felt in a long time.
I know exactly why this happened. When I was growing up, we moved a lot, and I hated it. The new schools, new homes, new sights and smells and routines were not exciting or filled with possibility in my mind, as they might have been to others in my place -- they were precursors to feeling lonely and unmoored. It's no surprise that my family has lived in this house for 21 years. Though my house is not a palace, it's filled with us -- our stuff, our memories, our routines and rituals and comfortable places. This home means everything to me.
And so, to see it stripped of us -- of our furniture and artwork; our objects and collectibles; our pens and pads of paper; extra pairs of glasses and spare keys; family photos and memorabilia; our rugs, throw pillows, snuggly napping blankets and remote controls -- to see my house emptied of us has been unsettling. This week the painters will come and then the majority of the work will be done -- we'll just have to bring everything back in, and I will spend days unpacking, putting away, cleaning and sorting and making our home our own again. I know this will bring me a sense of peace again.
And, in the midst of all this, my daughter will be moving out -- for good, I assume -- into the first post-college, working woman apartment of her (and her roommate's) own. We will help her to set up a home, to feel as though where she lives is where she belongs. We'll make her brand new bed with brand new sheets, hang her pretty artwork on the wall, and she'll be ready to have a place to come home to each night. I'll do this with her knowing how important that sense of home is -- how much comfort it can offer us when nothing and no place else seems quite right.
Because, in the timeless words of Dorothy, "There's no place like home." For me, no truer words were ever spoken.