Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary: The Beast Inside You

This is a year for advice (Dear Sugars, especially), and for finding the voice that sounds inside me, for the letters I have to write to find the truth. I am linking up with Joy's life: unmasked today. I'm unmasking the only way I know how: in letters. 

Dear Hilary, 

I feel sick to my stomach. Not the cute, butterflies anticipation heady something really cool is about to happen sick. No, I mean the on the floor, doubled over, why won't this end and I hope I don't throw up all over this airport floor sick. I write to you because my plane just landed back at home, after a trip to a city that I love, and I am a mess. I want to cry, or rage, or yell at my innocent family members, or throw up. What's wrong with me? Why does this happen? 


Dear TW, 

If I were a doctor, instead of a voice out in cyberspace and heart-space trying to sort out life, I would tell you to rest easy, take some antacid and close your eyes. I would tell you that you might have inner ear balance problems, and so flying might not be a good idea, or I might dash off my signature on an order for a blood test or a CAT scan or an MRI. Just to be on the safe side. 

But as this voice in cyber//heart space, I'm going to tell you that you are homesick. How the hell can you be homesick if you're at home? I can hear you rage at me too as this terrifying and unknown thing leaps out of you determined to cry and attack and mourn as soon as the plane lands. That's the beast of homesickness. It's curled up inside you, and when you leave the place you love, it wakes up. 

Do not be afraid of the beast inside you. 

Like all of the beasts and dragons and beautiful heroes and scientists and painters who live inside us, homesickness is a part of you. You didn't "catch it" from someone or somewhere. You haven't lost your mind, or been temporarily taken over by hostile forces. You are just deep in love with somewhere you have to leave. You are just exploring the edges of yourself rubbed raw by that love. 

Who doesn't rage a little bit when they leave their heart in Kampala, Uganda? Who doesn't cry and shoot get-out-of-here looks at their family when they've knelt on the ground outside St. Peter's Basilica and asked only to stay a little longer, only to stay forever, and had to depart? Who doesn't double over wanting to throw up when the plane or the train or the car screeches to a halt, and we realize we can't go home, to that home, for another ten months or years or half a century? 

There is not a day that goes by where I don't think about the places I've left. They flash before me in journals and photo albums and names of foods and strange memories of kayaking or drinking cappuccino in a cold kitchen or the look on my friend's face when she hears me talk about mornings at Eastern Market. The beast inside me can be mean, and angry, and so deeply disappointed you can measure it on my face when I come back. And when I double over, TW, like you, clutching my stomach - I think something is seriously wrong with me, too. 

But it isn't, love, it isn't. We are rubbed raw by love and we ache with leaving. Our bodies want to remind us. Our bodies wants to help us embrace the beast, and keep on loving the places that bend our hearts.

If I were you, I would keep that seemingly terrifying beast inside you. Stay deep in love with the places you leave, raw at your edges, aching and hopeful. 



  1. home is where the heart is. but your heart can be at home in a number of different places at the same time. It is a mystery often. Peace upon TW.

  2. Thank you, Anna. I feel like my heart keeps finding homes in many different places, and I hope that the love keeps building, too. 

  3. My favorite part: "We are rubbed raw by love and we ache with leaving." That's how we know we're loving fully, and loving with all we've got. Such a powerful reminder that not every beast needs to be tamed. Thank you for this!

  4. Thank you, Sarah! I'm so glad you stopped by. I loved reading your post today!

  5. Oh, and is that beast powerful! But what if it isn't a beast at all, but the strength of your ability to love? Never underestimate that potential. If you can love even with all the leaving, the missing, the longing, it will make your love greater, and your ability to love. And the reality of it is that we are never quite fully home, but we live and love anyway. More and more what amazes me is not certainty or settledness in life, but how we live and love and rejoice in the midst of - and sometimes because of - all the mystery and questions and longings.

  6. thank you so much for this hilary. it is perfect timing since a year ago i was on a plane to costa rica and i miss it and the people i left behind like crazy. i hope i always "stay deep in love with the places i leave"

  7. Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, and yes. We should always live and love and rejoice in the midst of all the mystery and questions and longings. Exactly that. I'm excited to write with you on Friday!

  8. Oh friend, I know how you feel. I think of all of you wonderful friends who were leaving for adventures this time last year, and who are homesick now. I know we'll always carry those places inside us. 

  9. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt so many times.  We've moved 8 times.  The last was particularly difficult because it was a "home" I had gotten to return to.  It's not just the people.  Like your list of D.C. places (which I'm very near now), it's sandwich shops, churches, lakefronts, tourist traps, hair salons and secret treasures.  My family, most of which still live in the same place, can't fully understand. I'm so glad to see that you and others do.  I don't think this is a beast, it's a wonderful gift to love deeply and broadly.

  10. I agree, Amy - it's a wonderful gift to love deeply and broadly. I feel you about finding homes in the small things - shops and churches and lakefronts. I hope we can keep encouraging each other to love deeply and fully, even as we are far away from those places. Thank you so much for visiting!

  11. thanks for putting valuable words


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