I woke one December morning to the sounds of “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” playing on the radio. That has been my dilemma for a while now. What is home? Where is it? Is it a place, or a feeling? For many people, “home” means where their family is. But for many of us in recovery, “home” is anywhere our family isn’t. The holidays are like a game of Musical Chairs where we are always being left out.
My parents died when I was in my 20s, and the rest of my family isn’t quite what I need. I tried spending Christmas with other family members for a while and that just didn’t work out. I felt that I was always in the way, always left out. I was an afterthought, not a guest. I felt like I was crashing a party. There were a few members of the family who made space for me and seemed to understand who I am, and for them I am grateful. But it wasn’t enough to make it worth the drive.
Now that I’m married, “home” could mean my in-laws. I’ve faked it for years, but it just isn’t what I need. They mean well, but it isn’t quite the kind of gathering that makes me feel the peace that I associate with the birth of Christ.
One year it was extra awkward. Just thinking about going over there brought back an old feeling that I’d almost forgotten – dread. I thought that my hernia was acting up – but no, that’s the feeling I get in my stomach when I am very anxious about something. It is a sharp, scary pain. It is the kind of pain that curls me over into a fetal position. It is the kind of pain that stops me in my tracks.
The last time I felt that was in my first year of college. I was away from home, in a dorm room, no friends, no car, no idea what I was doing. That was about as un- “home” as possible. If “home is where the heart is” then if there is no heart, no love, no peace, then that feeling crops up.
The line from the 23rd Psalm has started coming to mind. “You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies.” This is not a vision of “home” that is particularly appealing. “Home” and “enemy” should not be in the same sentence. For many of us, it is. For many of us, “home” isn’t a place to run to, it is a place to run from. For many of us, at the holidays we remember why we left home in the first place.