Dear Donagh,

Do you have a ‘cure’ for homesickness?  I'm now two years working in Dublin but I miss my home and family in Galway as much as ever.  I can't wait to go back every weekend, but I know that it doesn’t help me to make friends here when I can't be with them at weekends.  This sounds awful, but it’s the place I miss, not so much my family, because I'm often on the phone to them.  The house, every inch of it, the garden, the places we used to play, the stairs, even the clock in the kitchen! - I just miss everything…. Can you suggest anything that would help me?  Fiona

Dear Fiona,

I'm afraid I don’t have a cure for anything, but it’s good to turn things around and look at them from different angles. 

I won't talk to you about ‘putting down roots’.  That’s a metaphor for sticking you to one place for the rest of your life, like a tree.  That would make your problem seem unsurmountable.  Let’s talk instead about ‘heart’, because the heart at least is portable. 

Home is where the heart is, they say; so it seems you didn’t bring your heart with you when you came to Dublin, and you have to keep going back to find it.  It’s a bit unusual for a young person in this footloose age to be so attached to home.  But it has to be a good thing in itself: it shows you are capable of attachment, you are not living in your head or on a cloud (or icloud), you have a feeling for things and places.  My father lived in the same house for 80 years, his entire life - as his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather had done before him. 

But leaving home is normal, after all, like birds leaving the nest.  My father was the only one of his brothers and sisters who didn’t leave home; the others all moved on.  And it was the same in previous generations.  So, Deirdre, what you are feeling is an age-old form of human suffering.  It makes you one with all the past – right back to Adam and Eve getting the push from the Garden of Eden and taking to the roads of the world.  You are luckier than they; they could not go back, because God had placed at the entrance “Cherubim with a flaming sword” to prevent their return (Genesis 3:24).  But you can go back to Galway every weekend. 

People have different attitudes to leaving home.  Some can't wait to move out, others are so full of their own plans that they leave without a thought, and others again move back and forth so often that they experience little or no separation.  Your situation is comfortably closer to the third of these.  
‘Home’ is one of the most beautiful words in the English language.  We would never want to deconstruct it or lessen its emotional meaning in any way.  Many years ago, when a British politician referred to homes as ‘accommodation units’, Winston Churchill parodied, “Accommodation Unit sweet Accommodation Unit.”  There’s no warmth in an accommodation unit even if the heating is on full.    Something dies in us when affairs of the heart (what else are homes?) are described in cold bureaucratic language. As a dictionary had it: ‘Home: see housing’.  We call someone who owns a house a ‘home-owner’.  Strictly we should just call them ‘house-owners’, because a house is something you can own, but a home is not.  If a man can be called a ‘home-owner’ just because he signed a legal document, why shouldn’t he be called a ‘wife-owner’ if he is legally married?  You are blessed that home is something more to you than a house; it is able to tug at your heartstrings.  It promises that you will be more capable, not less, of making home elsewhere.  

I found myself staying with that verse in John’s gospel, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you” (15:4).  Many people today practise some form of meditation, and many of those use a mantra.  It struck me that the word ‘home’ would be a wonderful mantra.  Look up some of the questions and answers on meditation on this website if you need a bit of background, and then sit quietly and breathe the word ‘home’ over and over.  Because the word is so full of feeling for you, it will have a powerful centring effect.  It will have the warmth of Galway in it for you, but don’t identify it with Galway – that would be to trap it in the past.  In meditation, people are always stressing the importance of “here and now”.  Well, here and now, when you flesh them out, mean exactly home. 

If you learn in this way to be at home, then you will be at home no matter where you are.  And you don’t even need to be a house-owner! 

God bless, Deirdre.


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