The other day it came to me that all the moves I’ve made in my life, between cities and relationships, are not what everyone does. It’s not usual, but it comes from the feeling that I have to continually start over because I don’t know where I belong, where my home is.
I’m still searching, unsettled, and this could be my pattern forever. I’ve moved across the country, moved across the world, moved with children, partners, dogs, alone, alone with dogs; moved with money from a house sale, and no money. I’ve been married twice, been in relationships with men and with women. I’ve owned two houses.
I don’t feel gloomy about being unsettled; on the contrary, I am an optimist. I get excited easily about change—whether it’s a new person or a new place. I tell myself that this person is it, this place is it, this is “home” but it lasts ten years at most and then I have to leave. My friends, meanwhile, have been with their spouses or partners for 20, 30+ years. I don’t know anyone else like me.
Maybe this seems like I’m a vagabond or an adventurer. No. I have not a shred of wanderlust. There’s no urge in me to “see the world.” I’m afraid of flying, and I have little sense of adventure. I’m not a hippie or a free spirit or a jetsetter. In fact, I’ve always thought of myself as a homebody, domestically inclined. I cook, my home is simple but well decorated, I’m tidy, and raising my children was the best job in my life. If anything, my children are my home and for the last five years I keep bouncing back and forth between the cities where they live—Brooklyn and Northampton, Massachusetts.
One time I did think of myself as an adventurer. In my teens, I didn’t live at home but with all sorts of party people. After a guy (who I lived when I had nowhere else to go) slapped me and threw me out of his Mercedes (because I stood on the seat and yelled through the sunroof to the people of Beverly Hills, “Fuck all of you!”), I was out on the street again. I went to a bookstore, a refuge from the craziness of my young life, and sat on the floor, surrounded by books. In a collection of American short stories I read “The Man Without a Country.” The story was OK but the name stuck with me. I was a man without a country.
So I packed everything I owned and moved to London with no money. I worked, and went all through Europe to decide where I should live. Spain came the closest but I wound up back in Los Angeles after arguing with a boyfriend in London. That was the closest I came to wandering.
I live in Northampton, a small town in the middle of Massachusetts. I don’t know what the hell I’m still doing here. I came here with a female partner and my two kids from NYC after coming out, leaving my husband and moving to our weekend house on Long Island—a homophobic disaster. She and I and the kids moved to this college town with a great school system. But now my kids are grown and she’s long gone. I tried to move back to NYC once, a couple years ago, but the cost of living broke me, so I came back here.
And now I’m moving again. I’m thinking about patterns in my life; what I keep coming back to is living near the ocean and living in Los Angeles or NYC (or Long Island). I’m in my late 50s and I’m single—it’s no accident that I’m a freelancer, and my children are grown. My two dogs are not young—poodles, 13 and 10. I want them to live their final years in the sun and on the beach.
My children are at the beginning of their lives, and I’ll move closest to whomever has children first. That will be an anchor for sure. But it’s the dogs that have become a symbol of stability; their eyesight is waning and unlike me, they have to know their surroundings. I feel responsible for them like I did for my children when I chose Northampton and stayed there.
I’m going to ditch the idea of “home” for now and know that wherever I wind up will be long-term temporary. There’s a David Bowie song that plays in my head lately, “Always Crashing in the Same Car.” I’m paying attention.