Home.

“There’s no place like home.”

Ruby Red Slippers

As most of my close friends and family know, I absolutely loved the Wizard of Oz when I was a child. Actually, “loved” is a severe understatement. It was an obsession bordering on mania, as most of my loves tend to be. I remember clearly how it started. I found my mother’s soundtrack CD one day in our TV cabinet and began listening to it. From that day forth, I would play it on repeat in my small bedroom, acting out and singing along with every lyric. It spiraled from there. I received a copy of the movie and I would watch it every day. I knew every line by heart. Over the span of just a couple years, I had amassed (thanks to my very kind and supportive parents) the books, Barbies (sidenote: I should have never taken mine out of the box!), dolls, figurines, snow globes, board games, clothing, stuffed animals, mugs, posters – all of it Wizard of Oz. I was a merchandiser’s dream customer. I saw the performance live, on ice – and in 4th grade, I wrote, what I thought was a very professional letter, to my vice principal Mr. Davis asking to use the school auditorium to produce, direct, design, and star in my own production of Frank L. Baum’s classic. (Once a producer, always a producer.) That is the year I sadly learned what royalties and copyright laws are. And even though my love for this wonderful, whimsical universe is not quite as intense as it used to be (I once wrote in my diary that “Wizard of Oz is an ocean and I’m drowning in it” – once a drama queen, always a drama queen), it will always hold a special place in my heart. And I bet I can beat all of you at Wizard of Oz trivia any day.

Fast forward nearly 20 years. I was speaking with a close friend recently about which Wizard of Oz characters we would be (my preferred version of the ‘Which SATC girl are you?’ discussion) and I declared I would be Dorothy, obviously. He was surprised, he replied, “Oh, I don’t know, Dorothy always struck me as kind of dense.” I ignored that slight to my homegirl and replied, “Yes, but she’s always longing for home.”

Home.

It’s this huge, vast, complex, multi-layered concept that so many of us long for. But what it is and what that word means varies depending on who you ask.

Diana Ross sang, “When I think of home, I think of a place with love overflowing.” (I also absolutely love The Wiz, obviously, and I can’t wait for NBC’s version!) 

(Go ahead, watch Diana just f*cking SLAY this song and cry and then you can finish reading)

In fact, I don’t have to go into this much further – we’ve heard all of the theories. Any place you hang your hat is home. Home is where the heart is. Home is with the one you love. Home is wherever you are. Home. But what is home? Who is right? More so, why are we so obsessed with this idea and creating a home or finding a home?

As I’ve written before, once again I am happily resigned to say: I don’t know.

Bear with me though, I think I have some theories. I actually started writing this post months ago but never finished. Rather, I wrote down a few quotes from a podcast that I was listening to at the time which stirred something in my soul, and then never came back. Until now. Here is one of the quotes:

“It’s only by stopping movement, that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home. And home, in the end, is of course, not just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.” – Pico Iyer (NPR TED Radio Hour podcast on Identities)

The other night, I went to a party of a super cool new friend of mine. It was an awesome party. There was a DJ and lights spinning and a lot of fun, good-looking people dancing it up. I was… pretty sauced. At one point towards the end of the night, my friend, the very gracious host, was talking to myself and two others about how he has completely stopped all dating, flirting, sex, romance – pursuing or acting on – all of it. That entire part of his life is just shut down. I was shocked and reacted quite emotionally. My breakdown went as follows:

  1. You can do that?!
  2. WHAT! Like completely?
  3. But why?!

He replied, “I’m happy.”

I scoffed and laughed and then got angry. No, actually, I was pissed. But it wasn’t until the next morning in the cold, harsh, sober light of day that I actually started to think about what he was saying.

Why did his life choice – the concept of someone choosing not to look – make me react so intensely? I realized quickly that I have actually never done that. I’ve never actually made that choice. Sure, I’ve taken breaks from dating to “work on me” or quit online dating (which I do about every 3 months) but I’ve never really turned it completely off.

Ever since I was a very young girl, Disney and Meg Ryan movies (and Saved By The Bell) have instilled in me this very strong urge to find The One. That life is not worth living without Love. That Love conquers all. All you need is Love. Okay, you get it.

And as I became an intelligent, feminist, independent grown woman, I still could not seem to shake that little quiet voice in the back of my head – that I never know where I might find him (or her, I’m inclusive) – the life partner I’m meant to be with. Someone that will actually watch Netflix and chill with me, spend holidays with me, enrich my already full life, and build a family with me. Someone to be my home. (Theeeere it is.)

Hey, don’t sit there and judge me – think about it. How much energy, time, money, emotion do you spend on the idea of romantic love? The Valentine’s Day and Hallmark industry alone prove that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

So the idea of just stopping – not looking, not desiring, not wanting – is a radical concept for me. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction was: How dare he!? How dare he just completely and effortlessly reject something that has somehow become a huge, massive part of my life?

And then it turned into: Wait… but what if… what if I don’t too? What if I just stop?

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that Love isn’t amazing and wonderful and something to be desired. I’m not saying that Love never lasts and give up hope now. I’m not saying to build a fortress around your heart so you can “work on yourself” for a while. (The Universe knows that trick, trust me.) I’m actually not saying anything about Love at all.

But what if you really looked at an aspect of your life, something that you felt was so intrinsic to your identity, and just knocked it the f*ck down? Kaboosh.

Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac
Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac

The past couple years have been very transformative for me – a lot has happened, a lot has changed. I tell my therapist (and a few of my very patient friends), that it feels like I’ve built these pillars in my life – everything from people that I love to belief systems to habits or addictions to values. And I’ve clung to these pillars for dear life. I thought they made me who I am, but in reality, that clinging only holds me back. It’s time to bring out the demolition team. (or wrecking ball?)  

But this time, it’s not because I want to “start fresh” or lose weight or self-improve or even self-destruct. No, this kind of self-destruction is different than one more tequila shot or texting your ex (or both). This is a… self-cleaning oven type of self-destruction. This is an inevitable part of adult life that I can choose to either face or run away from. But if I do face it, if I’m brave and strong and patient, it could clear out the old, the toxic, the no longer useful, and lay the groundwork for the Me Yet To Come, the Me that I actually truly am, and in turn, release the truth I’ve always wanted to live.

Easier said than done. Let me tell you. It sucks. It hurts. It’s painful. But I think it’s truly necessary.

Today I came across a new post by one of my favorite Facebook accounts, The Artidote, which, as per usual with this page, spoke so deeply to my heart and what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It inspired me to come back to this old post and revisit this idea of home.

“You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference. Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.” –Julien Smith

Kaboosh. 

Okay, so if you’re still with me, let me try to tie this all in together:

Maybe there is no home. That’s a concept spoon-fed to us to trick us into being complacent, or restless, or try so hard to stitch together what isn’t there. Dorothy had the power to go home on her feet the whole time (spoiler alert!) and Barbra can hang her hat where ever she likes – that’s all good and true, but it’s also not as simple as oh, find home within yourself. That concept taken at face value can cause you to cling to ideologies or behaviors or people that aren’t yours to cling to. No Buzzfeed quiz or organized religion or partner or upbringing or generations-old tradition has ANY bearing on who you really truly are. None of that matters. You can let go of whatever you chose whenever you want.

You will still exist.

We are living, breathing, ever-evolving human beings and maybe that’s truly the beauty of it all – there are no constants, there is only impermanence. And sometimes you may find that you have to set fire to yourself. You need to go in and kick down that sand castle you so painstakingly built. You need to use the self-cleaning feature of your self-cleaning oven soul. But like an oven, you don’t do it just once. You may have to do it several times in your lifetime. And it’s very painful and it’s very hard, trust me, I know. I hate it. But think about it. Can you feel that – in your chest and gut? That anxious yet strangely calm warm excitement spreading – if you could just… be? Break free of things you once thought vital to your life – really consider the possibility. In letting go, think of what you could gain. Who knows? This is life. There are no answers. There is no home.

How exciting.

 

I don’t know.

I haven’t written in this blog in a long time. And until just a few moments ago, I couldn’t really tell you why. Being busy, not feeling “inspired,” or not having anything to share are not really accurate excuses. I think it’s because I’ve been hiding.

Photo by A. Pagliaricci
Photo by A. Pagliaricci

I didn’t know I was hiding, not at first. But like a shapeless, dark monster that creeps into your dreams, vignetting what seems to be a fairly standard happy image, I had this growing suspicion that something was not quite right with me. It’s been plaguing me for weeks, this sensation that something is about to fall apart, that I’m not truly alive and aware, that any happiness I’ve felt was false. I’ve talked about it at great lengths with my close friends, my therapist, writing about it in my journal. I could articulate it, yes, but at most it was an intellectual diagnosis. It felt like someone dubbing over my own voice in a foreign language. I knew, but I couldn’t touch it. It hadn’t hit me yet, it floated above me, mockingly. I was pretty sure of what I wanted to eat but I had yet to order it and actually ingest it.

Okay, enough metaphors. You get the idea. But for someone who always has to know the answer to everything, this uncertainty has been difficult for me to live with. So I simply didn’t. In the past 3 months since I’ve last posted, I’ve been quite busy. I held a fundraiser party, I went home for the holidays, I finally wrapped principal photography on my film, I started a writers’ group, produced and acted in a new comedy web-sketch, as well as started developing more web-sketches for PITtv. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work full-time and go out with friends or on dates. I’ve been very busy. I’ve been barely home. I’ve been rarely alone. Because I’m hiding.

When my best friend suddenly died last June, all I wanted was to be alone. Grief was the most isolating experience of my life. I’ve lived quite an individual life so far, but the alone-ness was palpable. I couldn’t be around anyone, I couldn’t smile for anyone or make small talk with anyone. I just wanted to sit outside and listen to our favorite music and cry. Nurse my grief like it was the last drink I’ll ever have. I walked the streets of New York with a bubble around me, protecting me from interaction, from engagement, from life. I just mourned.

So when I finally came out, when the sun’s rays finally actually got to touch my skin again, when I looked up, it felt miraculous. I slowly started to feel inspired again, the need to be productive, to continue living. After a while, I wanted to see other people. I wanted to start working on my projects again. I would never be the same, but I was back. And once I got my footing, I took off running. I filled my schedule and took on new projects and set up meetings and dates and outings and laughed and talked and acted like my old extroverted self again. But I was hiding.

I was hiding because I was afraid of being alone again. If I was alone, then I would think. And if I thought, I would think about Matt. And if I thought about Matt, I feared I would slip back into that dark yet brightly-lit, stark, empty room of despair again. I still am. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be sad. I’m afraid to let myself continue to grieve. I’m afraid I won’t come out of it again. It’s been 8 months and 17 days since Matt died and I’m not still fully healed. I’m not over it. That’s okay. I’m never going to be over this. People tell you about that deep loss. I know this. But I might not also fully heal from this.

Why do we look at wounds as things that need to heal? I kept trying to become this holier-than-thou totally enlightened wise being in the last several months. How pretentious of me to go on and on about how my best friend’s death changed me? I would wax poetic about death and the meaning of life like I suddenly had all the answers now that I’ve experience such profound, tragic loss. (My friends know exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for not slapping me, but god somebody please slap me next time.)

That is total bullshit. Okay, not total, but I was missing the point, I see that now. That was me trying to tie everything up neatly with a bow again. That was the same Katie that pretended to give eloquent interviews about world issues to the mirror when she was 9 (okay 15… okay 21… okay fine, last night) but still – I have this need to romanticize everything in my life, to package it neatly and analyze it and understand it all, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know anything at all.

Photo by danabooo
Photo by danabooo

I’m a mess. I’m a flawed, messy, emotional human being. Made of flesh and blood and bones and chemicals and weird shit like that and I’m trying to figure it out desperately like everyone else. I miss my best friend and I still grieve for him but also sometimes I don’t think about him. And yeah, I feel guilty about that too. I don’t always stick to my diet and sometimes I get drunk on weeknights and I date the wrong people and I can be flaky and I don’t call my parents nearly as much as I should. I make snap judgments and I say things sometimes just to get a rise out of people and I get secretly possessive over my food. I have hateful thoughts sometimes and I’m mad at my best friend for dying on me and I miss him so frickin’ much and I worry way too much and I really do want love and children and a family someday. I cry at the drop of a hat and I have dry skin and I don’t like to follow rules and I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m a human. I am not a saint, I am not the Buddha, I will not rise out of this like a glorious wise martyr. I am ugly sometimes, and I have ugly emotions sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. I’m allowed to be ugly. I’m allowed to be human. I’m allowed to let this wound fester a bit.

This all came to a head while I was listening to the Strangers podcast while at work.  I highly recommend everyone listen to this episode. When I first started researching about grief in the initial months after Matt’s death, I would scoff at those articles about broken hearts. “Who cares about a break-up? I f*cking lost my best friend – he f*cking died! We can’t ever see or talk to each other again because he doesn’t exist on this planet anymore!” But the fact is, a broken heart is a broken heart. Listening to these storytellers talk about their own experiences after a devastating break-up, it echoed exactly what I went through last summer. When Annie McEwen and Lea Thau said that even waking up is hard, realizing that this is the world you live in now, that’s exactly how it felt waking up every day last summer. And in Annie’s story, when the female character mentions just living with her lost love, not being consumed by it but giving it space and just knowing that she has to live with this feeling, without him, every day – it resonated with me.

Like these two women, my heart is broken. And I agree with Annie, I don’t think I’ll ever love the same way again. I don’t think losing Matt is something I’ll ever fully heal from. What Matt and I had was special, our friendship was truly one-of-a-kind. But I don’t think I’m necessarily a better person for having lived through this experience. I am a person. And it has deeply affected me. That’s really all I can say. But like Annie, I am more compassionate than I ever have been, and I’m finally going to start being compassionate with the one person I’ve been hardest on my entire life: yep, myself. Me. I’m going to do that by letting myself have flaws. By letting myself be messy. By letting myself grieve and cry and scream and laugh and dance and drink and eat carbs – and do whatever I need to do.

Death sucks. Break-ups suck. Having your heart ripped from your chest and stomped on really frickin’ blows. And I can’t tell you why. I have no idea why life is so unfair. I don’t know. I really don’t know. And that’s okay.