Being Home

I spend a lot of time at home.  About 85% of my life happens behind the closed door of our brightly-colored, overflowing-with-laundry, two-bedroom house.   My husband and I and our four children (ages 6 and under) share every room.  Our bedroom is the hangout spot during the day, the living room is where we teach and record music.  The girls’ room is also the boys’ room, which is also the corner library where we drink tea and read books.  The kitchen is the dining room, and the dining room is the school room.  The laundry room is where the baby sleeps during the day, because it is the only place that is quiet.  The bathrooms are currently only bathrooms, although Randy has been known to record whistle and guitar in there for the beautiful acoustics.

This is all true.

Our house is full to the brim of musical instruments, toys, clothes, art supplies, books, movies, seashell and rock collections, those little sippy cups with character-heads, pencils, paper, recyclables, etc.  There are moments, at the end of the 15%  of time away when I come back and see everything strewn about, that it nearly knocks the wind out of me.

Sometimes living here is like living in a tornado, with all of these little people who are in constant motion, spinning and twirling, lifting things from one place and dropping them in another.  You can find whole decks of cards that have been blown into every corner of the house–some sticking straight out of the cracks in the wall.  How can one little storm be so powerful?

I have been searching for the eye.  Where everything is calm.  Where you can live while everything around is in motion.  Where you can have peace.

I would like to share something with you that is bringing me a lot of peace in the chaos of life with small children and scrambling around to make ends meet.  I think it is pretty profound.  This is my secret:

Being home.

More than ever, I am trying to really be here.  Not like I want to do away with that last 2% (NEVER THAT!!!).  What I mean is when I am home, I am really here with my heart.

One way I have noticed that I leave home (without ever walking out the door) is letting my idle mind go straight to the world outside these walls.  Checking email, scanning Facebook, seeing if anyone responded to this or that.  It is a habit that we, as a culture, are cultivating more and more every day.  I do not want us to get to a point in life where all six of us are sitting around the kitchen/dining/school room, having conversations with the rest of the world, staring into the palms of our hands instead of talking to one another.

This is what I am telling myself, and maybe it will mean something to you, too.

Turn off the smart phone.  Put the whole wide world away (back in your pocket/purse, where it belongs), and set aside some sacred time for your family.  If it is one hour a day, two hours, three…  From dinner-time to bedtime…  Let your family know that you will be looking into their eyes at that time, that no text or email will distract you from whatever it is that they are trying to say.  I want to teach this to my children.  I want them to know that they are more important to me than: scanning the newsfeed to see everyone’s rants and raves, hearing about all the minor injustices of friends’ and aquaintances’ lives, and/or viewing the mouth-watering photographs of their perfect lasagnas.  I want my husband to know that I enjoy his company more than the company of the virtual world.  That world will try to knock down your virtual door every minute of every hour, 24-7, 365 and 1/4 days a year.  Slip on the do-not-disturb sign, deadbolt the lock, make a pot of tea, and cozy up with the people that can look into your eyes.  The people who can touch you.  The people you can touch.

Have a conversation.  Sit in silence.  Play a board game.  Take a walk.  Watch a movie, for heaven’s sake.  But do it together.  And put the world away.

And be.

Home.

Home for web

Check out our new cd, Home on our website: www.thejosephinekot.com

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Dea Irby says:

    well written and so true, good reminder, thanks

  2. Adrienne says:

    Mack,

    You capture in such simple language what is actually a very challenging reality of 21st Century life. We are all challenged, I think, by these ever-present digital streams of information, communication and stimuli. It’s not that they’re inherently “bad”, but rather, that they offer us an easy way out of the present, which is necessarily a more complex place to be than is the fluid digital world, which we can dip into and out of at will, and where we can choose what to present of ourselves, and where we can find immediate gratification, or fuel for our desires, or – most of all – means of escape.

    The sacred work you describe – waking up and staying consciously committed to the present-moment reality of your home and family – is certainly one of the central goals of any number of spiritual traditions, and could be said to be the purpose of life itself. I think of it as falling in love with the details of what-is, right now, right where you are. And I think there’s a trust involved. I think we have to be willing to trust that we can do the very work we most need to do from right where we are, right now – that this moment, this place, is a perfect moment, a perfect place. I think it is easier for us to imagine there is a “better” moment, a “better” place – one where we can’t see the laundry falling off the armchair, and can’t smell the stink of dishes piled like clunky mountains in the sink. And the digital age offers us the perfect rabbit hole through which to window-shop for those “better” moments and “better” places we imagine to exist. We slide into those rabbit holes with the push of a button, and in so doing, we turn away from the most fertile ground for awakening.

    To me, your post reads like a prayer – or, like a love letter to the present – to the “present” (gift) of *your* present (moment). In it, I feel so many dimensions of your struggle: the overwhelm of a home-centered life with a family of six, the temptation and gratification that tug at your mind, eyes, and fingertips in the presence of laptops and smartphones, the grace that allows you to shun the easy-out in favor of the demanding present-moment reality, and the unique fulfillment that comes from truly tuning in to what-is in your midst.

    Thank you for this.

  3. Victoria says:

    Mack,

    Somewhere just before Thanksgiving, I told Katie that she and I were going to be “deep at home” for the day. We cleared our schedule. I planned to have the smells of something emanating from the kitchen for each of our the three meals of the day, we put on our most comforting clothes, watched a Scottish version of Lassie on Netflix, put on the fireplace, put on the tea and, as you said so well, allowed ourselves to simply be. It was so needed.

    When I was a girl, I had a book that must have been from the late 1940s. If the illustrations, with their saturated colors didn’t give it away, then the round, cherubic faces of the children clad in bobby socks and dresses or pants with suspenders did. The story I remember most and which and made such an indelible mark on my young mind, is of the Hansen family: a little boy and girl, their mother and father, and dog, Corky. The family plans a picnic, but just as they are getting ready to leave, it begins to rain. Father, undaunted by the challenge, climbs everyone up to the top of a hill, which is, in reality, just the attic. Before they arrive and with baskets in hands and Corky wagging along behind them, they pass through the trees of the woods, which is simply the living room chairs; around a big lake, which is the shining dining room table; and Father, before ascending the “hill,” the stairs to the attic, makes a big to-do about how tired he is from the long walk so far and allows himself a rest before the rest of their journey to the top. There, they spread a blue checkered cloth onto the floor. The illustration shows it raining outside just over their shoulders, each family member sits at one side of the cloth, happier, perhaps, than they would have been had they eaten outside their home. To me, this is the essence of home. A place from which we are formed, where we learn to turn lemons into lemonade, to be sheltered, though that is hardly the right word.

    Time is different for children than it is for adults. They cannot help but be present. You allowing yourself the privilege of a quiet mind, to be present there with them, keeping your thoughts there in the home with them, is, I imagine, what I so love about the story above. The parents are fully present with their children, the children know they are loved because their parents show them they want to be with them, that their happiness is important. For a child, I cannot think of a nicer gift.

    xoxo

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