Less than a week before I leave on a month-long trip, I find myself thinking about my home, not where I’m headed. And that is so unlike me.
You know how people say, “Aren’t you glad to be home?” I would just smile weakly in response, and let them interpret it as a yes. Because I’ve learned they look at you funny when you say, “God, no!”
I’m usually thinking about the next trip before I even finish the one I’m on. But this time, it’s different. I feel exquisite joy in a view that I see every day. I am astounded at the amazing place I call home. I cherish the people around me.
Part of it, I’m sure, is my practice at living in the moment. In the last months I think I’ve actually gotten quite good at it. I’ve stripped away much of the thought processes that muffle the immediate with complicated layers of past and future.
The part that stings my heart, however, is knowing that when I come back, nothing will be the same. The mountain will still be there, but there will not be another family ski vacation. The house will be sold, and the majority of the possessions that once seemed so important will be gone. Someone else will tend the garden.
And yet, there is a sweetness mixed with the goodbyes. There is a freedom in getting rid of possessions: half of my clothes, two thirds of the dishes, most of the furniture. A whole filing cabinet emptied. Christmas decorations given away. Like a military strike force, I will be light and ready to move quickly in any direction.
There is closure in saying goodbye. I had the whole family here for Christmas dinner, knowing that this would likely be the last time I hosted, yet it was not for a moment sad. Decorating the tree, all by myself on Christmas Eve, with classical music playing, I realized that it gave me joy, and would continue to be part of my tradition. But Christmas cards and cookie exchanges? Presents and hosting the big gathering? I can let all those go.
I have the opportunity to examine each item, each activity, and decide if it will continue to be part of my life. Although we haven’t exchanged presents for years, I carefully wrapped my art and books for each person I saw at Christmas, and said, “Do whatever you want with it. Keep it. Regift it. Donate it. Just don’t leave it!” And I am surprised how little in my life is actually important enough to keep, which makes the things, the activities, the people that remain all the more precious.
Yesterday I learned that although there will be no more family weeks in a cabin on the mountain, my son and I will still go skiing. We may be taking the bus from the bottom and buying a day pass, but the essence is still there: spending time together doing an activity we both love. All the rest was peripheral to what was really important.
I still love to travel. And yes, when I come home, home will be different. But when I’m asked, “Are you happy to be home?” Maybe, just maybe, the answer will be yes.