It felt like a betrayal and I was struck with the surprising impact of it.
The night before, driving back from Nashville I had pulled off Exit 59 on I-81 in Kingsport, Tennessee. It was 9:30pm on a Sunday and a close friend had kindly offered her empty home for me to sleep the night in rather than push through the three more hours to Martinsville, Virginia. They were away traveling and there was no sense for me to waste money on a hotel. As I drove down Ft. Henry Drive (which is not so much a "drive" as it is a five lane highway through a busy section of the town), I was flooded with an overwhelming sensation I'd much forgotten: familiarity.
I realized while stopped at a traffic light that it had been nearly four months since I had driven somewhere that I knew. Four months since I'd known the roads I traveled. Four months since I knew what turns to make or what restaurant was around the corner. Four months since I was the captain of my ship, confidently leading the way. I felt tears prick my eyes at the surge of emotion. I hadn't known how much I missed the sense of security the comes with knowing where you are -- that comfortable familiarity and knowing expectation with a sense of place. My heart ached with longing for it.
I pulled into my friend's driveway and parked my van where I'd always parked when when I visited. I walked over the same walkway I'd hopped over dozens of times before to reach the door. (This time I managed properly disabling the security alarm, unlike previous attempts!) I walked through the same rooms, by the same walls, by the same furniture that I've spent warm evenings filling my soul with laughter and love. Only this time, her presence was missing. This was just the shell. Her absence while I made myself at home within her walls was an echo of my heart. These things are so familiar. So wanted. And once, they were mine. But they are no longer.
The next morning I remade the bed and tried to erase any evidence that I'd disturbed the peace that ever transcends this home. Five days had transpired since I'd last seen my kids and I needed to return to them. The ride back to Martinsville was made longer due to a last minute detour for a few errands in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was nearing sunset Monday evening when I finally crossed the border into Henry County, Virginia. The trusty GPS had told me in her soothing Australian accent to get on Highway 220. The GPS told me when to turn onto Highway 58. The GPS had instructed I merge onto 58 Bypass. And then the GPS told me to turn into our neighborhood.
It was at that right turn and then proceeding up the hill into Patrick Henry Farms that I was sucker punched with betrayal. I finally knew where I was, once again, and as odd as it sounded to my brain, it felt like "home." In driving through our neighborhood, I was flooded with a sense of "ahhhh, finally I'm home." "Home is Kingsport!" my mind protested. Home is where we were, not where we are now! Home is where our friends are, and where I know how to drive places!
Yet there was no denying it. Navigating these neighborhood streets myself, after this first time of being away since our move, and then pulling into our new driveway of four months at my favorite time of day when the sun was about to set, filled me with the unmistakable pleasant sensation of "home."
I had to be honest with myself. I didn't know it, but I had been holding something back. It felt like a betrayal to everyone back in Tennessee to let Virginia "in" to my heart. It felt like a betrayal to let this new place become familiar, even beloved. I'm such a loyal person, and I wanted everything and everyone to stay just as they were. But time has its way with us, regardless of our intentions.
It's said that "home is where your heart is" and if that were true, my heart would have said Kingsport unquestioningly. It's also said that "home is where you make it." I think this is where I'd been focusing. I could make our new house our haven in the midst of all this change. It didn't feel wrong to like our new house and our new yard. What felt wrong was to like the new town. This is why I think the blow of finding new streets feel familiar and comfortable was particularly striking to me.
Perhaps the biggest lesson my heart is learning through all of this is that our sense of "home" is ever fleeting. What feels comfortable and familiar can be taken away in a flash. It was all an illusion, a momentary taste of eternity. These glimpses of feeling "home" here on this earth just point us towards what we were really created for. The German word sehnsucht conveys "the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what; the yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one's home." Moving away from all I'd ever known as an adult just ripped the blindfold off so I could face the truths of what it means to be home for what they really are.