A man calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough”.
“Dad, what are you talking about?” the son screams.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer”, the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister and tell her”.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
“Like hell they’re getting divorced”, she shouts, “Let me take care of this”.
She calls her Dad immediately, and screams at her father, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing till I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.
The man hangs up the phone and turns to his wife. “Good news”, he says,
“The kids are coming home for Christmas and they’re paying their own way for a change.”
Some parents will go to great lengths to get their kids home. I heard another great trick. Send a letter to your kid and mention in the letter that there is a check for $500 enclosed. Only, don’t include the check. They will be home in days, maybe even hours. On the other hand, many kids will go to great lengths to avoid going home.
Why is home such a troubled place for so many people? I’m sure it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to explore some of the ways that we make “home” a problem when we don’t need to, and how we can heal the thoughts that make it so. This relates just as much to a kid going to College as it does to coming home for Christmas, or returning from a vacation.
Recently our oldest son left for College. I went to an orientation where one of the presenters described going home when she was a student. She said she argued with her mom for the first two days, then they had a nice time together for a few days, before arguing the last two days of the visit. She said this happened every trip home. It was like their hello and goodbye ritual. Maybe you can relate. It wasn’t like that when our son first came home. We had a nice time together. Maybe it’s different for girls and their moms. But I did get an insight into the experience of coming home.
Our son’s world had just exploded before his own eyes. He’d had an experience of independence like no other, a full immersion into life with few boundaries. I can imagine that coming home to a place and a family who haven’t had that experience would be strange. To walk back into the place and people who stood between you and freedom for all those years has to leave some resentment. Home is just the same, and family members are still going about the same routine, and yet his world now looks totally different. I wonder if this is part of how we can heal the coming home experience.
The more that each person recognizes that they are the ones who’ve changed, and takes responsibility for their reactions, the less expectations we will have of those around us. You’re the one who changed. Family are still family, with all their idiosyncrasies. Home is still home, with all its mixed baggage. You’re a different person.
Doc Childre says,
We have two choices: continue to blame the world for our stress or take responsibility for own reactions and deliberately change our emotional climate.
One of the biggest impediments to accepting home for what it is, is comparisons. As soon as we start comparing this time and place to some other time and place, we open up a world of suffering for ourselves and others. When you’re comparing, you’re not really present. So it’s not a fair comparison. You’re actually in the other time or place. If you fully immerse yourself where you are, without reference to any other time or place, you will cut out a lot of the suffering. You will experience what is, as it is, and it will be perfectly what it is. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Dropping comparisons is not about lowering your standards and living without ambition. I saw a cartoon where a guy was talking to a travel agent about where to take a vacation. He explained to the agent, “I want some place where the food is terrible, the rooms are filthy and the weather stinks. I want to make it easier to come home.”
Forget that. Take awesome vacations, the best you can create, and really be there. Then come home, and really be there. And don’t compare them.
Immerse yourself fully into adventures like college, or honeymoons or work trips, and really be there. Then come home, and really be there. Don’t compare them.
In the end, it’s all about being who you are, being where you are, and letting others do the same. Comparisons put you some other place in a battle for your affection. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres described a coming home experience. She said,
I was coming home from kindergarten- well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for ten years. It’s good for a kid to know how to make gloves.
That’s an extreme version of what happens when we live in the middle of comparisons. We look back on the job we cursed for years, the relationship we blamed for years, or the place we despised for years, only to realize we weren’t really there. This is not to deny that there are times when you need to leave jobs, relationships or places. But do it for the right reason, and not because of some unfair comparison that convinces you that the grass is greener somewhere else.
A man joins a religious order and takes a vow of silence. According to the rules of the monastery, he is allowed to speak two words per year.
After the first year the head Monk calls him in for a meeting and asks for his two words.
He replies … “Bed hard.”
After his second year the head Monk asks him again for his two words for the year.
He replies … “Food stinks.”
After the third year the head Monk asks him his two words for the year.
He replies … “I quit.”
The Head Monk says … “Thank goodness. You’ve done nothing but complain from the minute you arrived here!”
Come home to a complaint free, and comparison free mindset. You just might discover that the person, place and “grass” is just right, exactly where you are. It’s just right, because you are just right with who you are, and feel no need to change anyone else. Because you’re at home in your own skin, you can go anywhere, including home, and feel right at home. T S Eliot described it like this,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.