— Talk by Emmy K. Robertson, 10th May 2012
Feeling at home during my life’s journey has certainly been helped in recent years by being a member of WomenExplore. Finding a spiritual home with women who identify themselves as feminists is so deeply satisfying that it can actually bring tears to my eyes. Feeling at home means being understood for who one is without pretense or artifice. What a blessing all of you are to me. How thankful I am to be able to be a part of this organization. I am at home here.
But, feeling at home? Hmm, do I? Have I always felt at home? What does this mean? I sat down to write about this with some consternation , but also with a smile and some humor. Feeling at home is so basic to me that it may be hard to delve into.
My childhood was divided into two parts based on where I lived. The first seven years were spent in a little house where I had to share a room with my sister who was disapproving and hostile towards me. We had an invisible line drawn the center of our room. Either of us could do whatever we wished while on our side of the line, but must abide by the other’s rules when we were on her side. I had to cross Sue’s side of the room to get in or out. However, this house was located on a block where over 100 kids lived, so the possibilities of playing outside were endless and fun. At the end of first grade we moved about a mile away into a new house where Sue and I each had our own rooms, but where there were at the most three kids in the neighborhood my age to play with.
Life was difficult in the new house. Looking back I know that my mother had bi-polar disease and was coping as best she could, however, the reality of daily life could be quite grim. Because I now had my own room, I could retreat there whenever I wished and I had an active private life where I felt right at home.
When I have spoken to this group in the past I have shared the incredible experience I had while still in the crib under the age of three. It was an experience of feeling a oneness with the universe and of knowing God’s endless love. I did not have words to express this experience until I was in my 30s, but I lived it each day of my childhood. We have gotten to hear Liz Dodson-Gray and Jadzia Allison recount almost identical childhood experiences which is a tantalizing subject all in itself, but not for today. Anyway, this experience provided me with a deep and very private mental and spiritual life.
I had had childhood allergies and many many rashes which were treated with an ointment that came in a cobalt blue jar, so early on I would look at cobalt blue glass and be comforted. Any of you who have been in my home know that I have cobalt blue glass pieces in my kitchen window. I look at them every day, sometimes many times a day and I am at peace.
Once I turned 18 I left home to go to school and began a nomadic life of moving, getting familiar with my surroundings and then moving on once again. However, I knew that no matter how strange the place I was setting up housekeeping in was, it would soon feel like home to me because I also knew that the words, ‘home is where the heart is’ were literally true, and my heart was always with me no matter where I was. I had my oneness with the universe memory, my cobalt blue glass and my private interior life. They were always with me providing comfort and strength to me when I needed it.
Somewhere along the way I came to believe that God wants us (me) to continue learning and changing all of our (my) lives. I had some clear examples of this in my beloved grandmother and in Mrs Gerlinger whom I admired tremendously and for whose children I babysat for several times a week throughout my teen years. Both of these role models gave me wonderful advice and examples of how to live successful, productive lives, but unfortunately for both of them they felt that their best years had been lived while they were in college. Observing this taught me that I must never lock in, I must never think that sometime in my past had been my best time. I have really taken this to heart and I still believe that it is the fascinating possibilities of today and tomorrow that are if interest and not what has transpired in the past.
Besides looking at cobalt blue glass everyday, there are some other things that I endeavor to keep in my daily life that help me feel at home and grounded as time moves on. Friends who have known me for a long time always laugh when they first visit me in a new home. The reason for that is that the kitchen is always white and there are always the cobalt blue accents. I love order and while my drawers and cupboards may not be as organized as they might be, the rooms in which I live are most always free from clutter and disorder. It is very important to me to live this way and I will feel uneasy and nervous if I cannot maintain that order. I also need a place in my home surroundings where I can rest my eye and relax my focus.
Having a flower garden is also very important to me in making me feel at home where ever I live. I love color. I love the intense colors found in flowers because they remind me that nothing lasts forever, that life is always changing and that I need to make time to enjoy what is around me in the present.
Although it is not possible to have fresh flowers in my yard or in my house at all times, it is possible for me to enjoy intense colors at any time by using a kaleidoscope. I received my first kaleidoscope when I was very young and looking through it calms me and makes me remember the peace that is to be found in solitude.
Enough of the material possessions and surroundings! While they are crucial to my sense of feeling at home where ever I am living, they are not the most important criteria.
I need my friends, family and husband to also make me feel at home. I need daily interactions with other people and this has been an issue for me thorough out my lifetime. I need the give and take, I need the untidiness of other people’s opinions and behavior to really feel a sense of being at home. I need messiness within boundaries, I need chaos that can be stilled. I need the unexpectedness of someone else's needs and demands. At different times in my lifetime this has been hard for me to achieve as I don’t find that people seek me out. The phone doesn’t ring much in my house. I am the one who most often needs to reach out and make contact. I do not know why this is so, but it is. This is a great regret of mine because I can become very isolated if I don’t take the initiative to reach out.
I was thrilled when Sunday Conversations needed a new home and I could volunteer my house. Having those of you who attend Sunday Conversations actually come into my home and feel comfortable and secure is a tremendous gift for me. I thank each and everyone of you.
As an artist I have to work alone. I could not produce any work if I weren’t alone, but then I suffer from being isolated and long for companionship. It’s the ying and the yang and I have a very hard time finding balance.
To somewhat compensate for this ease in becoming isolated, I like to have a dog living with me, too. This has not always been possible when I was in the workforce, but it happily has been the case for the past 17 years. A dog is a great companion in its sloppy, demanding way. Much can be said for this pet whose very nature is to create messiness and chaos. It is very calming for me to attend to those demanding needs and to be rewarded by a wagging tail.
Finally living with the ‘right’ person, namely, my husband, Mike, has validated my sense of feeling at home because Mike also likes to live in an orderly house full of visual stimulation and calming order. This style of living has not come naturally to Mike as his inclination is toward hoarding and chaos. I am barely able to enter his office at church because of its clutter. However, we have been able to come together in agreement and willingness to keep a serene environment for me to flourish in. I think this is possible because Mike knows that living within my parameters is so key for my psyche that it simply would not be possible for us to be together were our home any different than it is.
Finding my center as I grow older is a challenge these days. I am still recovering from being way too busy, but at the same time I berate myself for not doing more with my art such as entering shows and writing a book about it, let alone creating a web site. I am often my own worst enemy because I guilt trip myself about things I don’t really want to do. I am restless these days, more so than I have been for some time, but I will tough it out and see what happens.