There is something alchemical about travel. It’s in the constant arrivals and departures that take place at airports and railway platforms that we re-enact the hero’s journey, the setting off on our voyage of discovery to gather experience and bring it back home. High above the fleecy clouds, suspended in space, we slip effortlessly into a private part of ourselves that may feel familiar.
Even a banal business trip offers the opportunity to share a moment of connection with a fellow traveller. And if we were to unplug from the iPhone, close the laptop, sit with ourselves. Cocoon and cuddle in thoughts that are our very own originals… what would that feel like?
As we make our “connections” to cities and far-flung places, our hearts in motion, we may be asked, “Where are you from?” Flung like a silver thread this need to find a baseline. This need to establish tribal belonging, a root, however shallow. So we lean across the armrest of our seat to meet the eyes of the stranger sitting next to us and tell the story of our belonging.
The collective yearning for home has been echoed in great works of literature and in movies that have captured the longing in each one of our orphaned hearts to return to the safety of warmth of home whatever we believe this to be. From ET the Extraterrestrial, to Harry Potter, our homesickness is universal. And it’s data mined by advertisers and the megalithic pharmaceutical companies – our lonely hearts momentarily soothed with material things or the oblivion of pills.
Katherine Sharpe in Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are, bravely explores the effect of psychopharmaceuticals in our culture and in our individual lives. Twenty-five years after the introduction of “ feel good” Prozac, she asks us to consider what our sadness and our pain mean when they are labelled as an illness. How when we turn to pills, do we know what is trying to come up from our psyche to be acknowledged, to be healed?
“Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Americans grew ever more likely to reach for a pill to address a wide variety of mental and emotional problems.” She writes, “ We also became more likely to think of those problems as a kind of disease, manifestations of an innate biochemical imbalance…less than two decades after the introduction of Prozac, SSRIs had outpaced blood pressure medication to become America’s favourite class of drugs, popped by about 10% of the nation…in permeating everyday life so profoundly, antidepressants also embedded themselves in youth, with an ever-growing number of teenagers taking psychopharmaceuticals to abate depression, ADHD, and other mental health issues. And while relief from the debilitating and often deadly effects of adolescent depression is undoubtedly preferable over the alternative, it comes with a dark side: Antidepressants confuse our ability to tell our true self from the symptoms of the disease… And given the teenage brain responds so differently to life than the adult’s, the implications are even more uneasy: Though antidepressants are effective at managing negative emotions, they don’t in themselves provide the sense of meaning and direction that a person equally needs in order to find her way in life.”
Nostalgia comes from the Greek, nostos, a return home. It’s a “ bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.” Yet our yearning may be less about place or even a person and more about the quality of the energy we find there that nourishes our innocent soul.
Many of us don’t know where our true home is anymore. We’re uncoupled, disconnected from the mother ship of our true self. Disconnected from our core aliveness, what we truly value, what gives our lives meaning.
Maya Angelou writes, “I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honour our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”
Many of us don’t know our real selves. Most of us have not spoken to the shy child inside us for decades. We haven’t a clue what we truly desire because we don’t even know who we are any more. Shamed by the harsh voice that admonishes us, scared by fears that darken our dreams, dulled by the anesthetic of antidepressants, we’ve lost our ruby slippers.
So be present as you witness the bittersweet goodbyes and exuberant home comings of feelings that surface like ripples on a lake. Dare to allow yourself to feel the nudges that stir your consciousness, however raw and painful. They give meaning and texture to life..
For there is no place like Home, as Dorothy proclaimed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the sorrow and in the pain, in the cyclical seasons of our moods, like homing pigeons, we will find our way home to our authentic self. When we quieten our minds and allow ourselves to feel the cells in our bodies respond with a soft sigh Yes! We will know we are home!
Everywhere it’s been the same… feeling…
Like I’m outside in the rain… wheeling…
Free, to try and find a game… dealing…
Cards for sorrow, cards for pain
Cause I’ve seen blue skies through the tears
In my eyes
And I realise… I’m going home.
I’m going home, I’m going home. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo Nostalgia