They say there is no place like home… but what if you have no clue as to where home is?
It used to be quite simple for me. Home was where my dog was, but due to time, the universe and me all being complete and utter assholes my buddy is no longer with me. She passed away last November, and after that it felt like I could never go home again. (since I’m not really down with suicide and I don’t really think I’m cut out for a quest like Orpheus was) I had and still have no idea where home is anymore, or even what it is. With my buddy gone, I didn’t want to talk to my friends anymore, I ignored my family, and for the first few days after she died I cared not to get dressed, fed or showered.
From the moment my mom called to tell me she wasn’t there anymore, the flood gates opened. I spend days crying, staying in bed, having Vodka for breakfast and Gin for Lunch. All I could do was shed my tears and watch Community. It wasn’t until the umpteenth day of gut wrenching pain that I finally managed to kick myself out of the house to the coffee shop to do some writing; but instead of putting words on paper I sat behind my computer and wept. The “cool” kids in the coffee shop quietly drifted away as they saw me pour small bottles of Whiskey and Malibu in my coffee and wipe my nose on my sleeve. Clearly there are some car wrecks people don’t care to stare at; one of them is me drinking and crying covered in snot and tears.
But as bad as it sounds, I did learn a lot in those days, mostly that having Vodka for breakfast is probably never a great idea. Another thing I learned is that in pain, we are as alone as we humanly can be. Through the darkened valley of grief, we all travel alone; and there is no knowing what lies waiting for us at the end.
You hope there is a light shining at the end, that at some point things will get better again. But the Universe makes no promises or writes you a check to guarantee you that there is. Sure, I was hoping my friends and family would be waiting at the other end. Yes, I truly hoped they would understand- not my pain, but at least my need for space to breathe my grief away. And obviously I hoped that with time, I would be able to return home again. But mostly I hoped that with time, I would be able to forgive myself…
Now, a few months later…. I’m still not sure I ever will.
I try to live my life without regrets, but there is one thing I won’t ever let myself off the hook for: when my buddy, who was always there for me when I needed her, was ready to check out, I didn’t get on an plane. I did not fly back to be with her in what is arguably the hardest thing to do in life — dying.
I can come up with many excuses and reasons as to why this is. But reasons don’t matter; not to me. I don’t care about the reasons. There barely is reason in life and dead. And even if there was some, there is no reason good enough for me… ever. I was a coward. I wasn’t there for the one person (yes, I say person because to me she was) who was always there for me. She was my buddy, and I let her down. And if you ever want to see me cry, if you want to hit me where it will always hurt, remind me of what a shitfuck of an asshole I was for not getting on a plane when I should have.
I thought there was more time, I thought there were reasons to stay, I thought there was work, relationships, and general health issues that were more pressing, I thought that she would live forever. I was a fucking stupid idiot coward. Unfortunately I can’t turn back time on anything, and if I could, I probably wouldn’t anyways. Except for this one thing…. I don’t care how many people I have to murder to go back in time and be there for my dog in her final hours… Seriously, all of you would be dead. (Especially you)
And it’s not to wipe my conscious clean, or to feel better about myself. It’s not so I can look myself in the face. It would be because it is the right thing to do. It is the one thing I wish I could have done, and failed. I imagine her being scared and confused, and I wasn’t there to make it better. I wasn’t there to comfort her as she has always comforted me. I wasn’t there to support her as life slipped away.
Unfortunately there is no going back in time, so for now you are safe from my murderous time travel plans. And I have to learn to live with the fact that I failed her, my best buddy. I have to look myself in the eye and know that I wasn’t there for her. And that hurts. It fucking hurts so much that in this actual moment of writing this, I actually well up. It hurts so much that I am writing this piece of shit post about it, because what else can I do? Not much, besides being ashamed and disappointed in myself.
She meant the world to me. Her warm fur that was so huggable, her incredibly stupid smile, her energy and relentless love— in an instant they were gone. i didn’t get to say goodbye and now I don’t really know where I belong anymore.
Last year I traveled back to London after a month of being at home, and I remember trying to figure out whether or not that was the right thing to do. I felt incredibly torn between my life here and my life there. My friends and family, my dog were all here. My job, my freedom and (at that time) boyfriend were all in London. I got on a plane, my heart beating nervously in my chest feeling I was making a huge mistake.
I still don’t know if I have. If I did, I made it over year ago the moment I left the Netherlands the first time to move to London. Because on that plane ride I realized that as soon as you move away, you fragment yourself. One part of me belongs firmly in Amsterdam, with my friends; another part of me belongs firmly in London with myself. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t lived anywhere else. The moment you leave, you can never go back home again. Because where-ever you go, you leave a part of yourself behind. Nowhere you are, you are complete.
One of the notes I wrote that night is that the only solution is to keep moving and traveling and seeing the world, until the only place that you can call home is the ground beneath your feet. And that is perhaps the only way to be truly at home, when your home really is where your heart is. Alone with yourself, with no one to long for, you can truly be at home anywhere.
Maybe that was true, but it certainly is a depressing thought. I don’t think I’ll ever be that fucked up. Missing things are part of what makes us human. I’d rather wander the world feeling incomplete and longing for something more than being a content and homely sociopath.
Yesterday, as I flew home for the first time since my dog died, I felt as torn about whether or not Amsterdam was still my home as I did 6 months ago when I flew back to London. The sun was just setting behind the horizon, and London bathed in small, artificial flickering lights. High above, from my comfy leather seat, I saw the 02 Dome and London Bridge and I realised how much I love London. But then as the coast line of the Netherlands appeared and I was welcomed home with fireworks (yea, that’s what they do for me here) I felt strangely emotional. Because the lights flickered in the water, and the lands were flat and the trains rode on the right side of the track. And this is where I am from, and where I can always return to.
London and Amsterdam are both my homes, and I am incredibly lucky to have two such beautiful place where I can be myself. Or at least as much myself as is socially acceptable. And I’m just going to have to accept that I can never be fully in my place in either one of them either.
Because my friends here are having conversations I can barely comprehend, and I make jokes (obviously hilariously funny ones) they can hardly follow anymore. I have grown (relatively) quiet in their company, because I am now more of a guest than I ever was before. It is what happens, they have moved on with their lives and I am less and less a part of that. I guess I am fine with that.
And I guess I am fine with the fact that I sometimes have no idea either what my english friends are one about. Because they are English, and I am Dutch, and English people care about stupid things such as manners and marmite (either of which I find disgustingly foreign). So sometimes I will just stare in space when they are talking about Ant & Dec and wish I was back home where we can talk about Geer & Goor instead.
So wherever I am, I wish I wasn’t there. Perhaps some day I’ll move on again in my quest to find a place where I can truly feel at home. In the end however, I don’t think there is such a place. I knew of only one, and that place was my dog. In that place I could truly be myself, and I was accepted and loved as I was (aren’t dogs great).
So when I get really sad and confused and start to over-think where I belong, now I just think of my dog. And when the tears of anger and sadness have dried up, I am just grateful I had her. I once had a home, and if I had it once, I can have it again.
Once upon a time I will find another person- perhaps one you don’t have to adopt and even a human(oid) this time- that will make me feel completely in my place.
And that place will be my home.
(and if it ever leaves me I will kill you all and travel back in time and hell fire to reclaim my lost loves…)
PS- If this entire post makes no sense, I blame the Dutch Genever I accidentally drank by the boatloads because it cures all ailments. (or so they claim)