III. A body/a home
When I looked up the definition to the word “Home”, I was led to a few interpretations. One was, “The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” I found the inclusion of permanently to be an unfair inclusion. Merriam Webster claims home to be “Ones place of residence” or “A place of origin”. Through these I was led to the phrase “At home”. The definitions were, “Relaxed and comfortable: at ease” and, “In harmony with the surroundings”. These explanations felt less concrete, and at the same time, a million times more accurate.
I always wanted my home to be a place that I felt at ease growing up, but I usually found myself quite tense. My parents argued quite a bit until they made the decision to separate. My parents seemed like polar opposites to me, and so depending on which home I occupied, I did my best to fit in with my surroundings. This patterned continued when I moved in with a girlfriend at the confusing age of eighteen, then when I lived with a man I dated in my early 20’s, and again when I moved out and into an apartment with a couple. I do not know if I am what they call a people pleaser, but I definitely did not want others to feel uncomfortable, so I often sacrificed my own comfort. Never putting much of myself into these homes, they never felt like one- just a place I kept my things, showered, and ate meals. Then in 2017 I moved in with a friend who lead a similar lifestyle to my own and finally felt comfortable putting a little more of myself into our place. A few months in and we both noted how much our apartment felt not only like a reflection of both of us, but also a place we looked forward to returning to at the end of the day. Last year I moved, but not far. I moved my things downstairs. I look around now and I again feel the same comfort I had upstairs. Our place is an extension of us. Cozy, filled with art and music and literature and all that we love. Yet time and time again I run into these moments: moments where I am acutely aware that I do not know how to be myself and enjoy my own company in my own home. I do not know how to relax and just be.
No one tells you how to spend time with yourself. In my head I tell myself I never have time to do the things I love. I don’t have time to paint anymore. I was supposed to read more books last year. I cannot meditate regularly because who can find the time for it? I decide I am too busy. But the truth is that I am not too busy. Sure, I work as much as the average person, and when I’m not working, I fill up most of my time with collaborative modeling projects. However, I have down time- and do you know what I fill it up with? Meaningless busy tasks. My home can only be so clean, so organized, so ahead of things. My errands are all checked off. My winter purging done. All the blankets washed. List upon list made. Then when all is done, I say, “Okay, time to relax.” I grab a book, or a journal, or my knitting and I sit down. A minute later, I pick up my phone and start scrolling. Afraid to actually sit with myself. I don’t like to admit its fear. It also sounds like too strong a word, but unfortunately, I cannot escape that it is the right one. Side note: doing these photo series, for me, has been quite the exercise in sitting with myself. I love writing and what comes out of it, but it is the ultimate practice of sitting with yourself- and that is hard work!
Spending time with myself, and actually getting to know myself, simply takes discipline. So many things, I am learning, circle back to this answer. Lately, if I have a day to myself, I make a list of the things I would like to get done, but I now include one or two things I would like to do just for me. Staying busy is a great mechanism to avoid, but it will absolutely lead to confusion and sorrow if not full-blown depression. Yesterday I sat down and spent time writing out the goals I would like to accomplish this year. Even doing that small task felt like I was giving myself something I needed. These things only take moments, but they are moments that can be life altering. Being good to yourself opens the gate to how you allow others to treat you. Honoring your own needs makes you aware of what you can give yourself instead of looking for others to give it to you. The comfort and safety we look to the world to give us, is often unlocked by looking to yourself to provide it.
The photographs that Nicolette and I captured are meant to represent the often awkward process of learning how to have a home, in the external and the internal life. Some moments I am still unsure of what to do with myself, how to just be. Other moments I feel content and serene and so filled up with sureness that I am opening up to myself in my own time. I now try to tap into those moments more and enjoy them when they present themselves. I wish that whatever your timeline has been, and is, it continues to surprise you and bring you peace. Happy New Year.
Photography by Nicolette Nunez