Sunday, December 2, 2012
"With friends, one is well; but at home, one is better"
This line is spoken by Levin Konstantin to his nurse, Agafea Mihalovna in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. He speaks it after returning home from an environment in which he has been uncomfortable, irritated, and restless. He owns a farm and finds fulfillment in the work he does there. He is returning from time spent in the city among aristocrats. He despises their lifestyle but has many friends among them and is in love with a woman that is from an aristocratic family. In a sense he felt well with his friends in spite of his disapproval of their lifestyle, but he thinks more clearly and feels fulfilled again once he returns home.
This got me thinking about my life, and the lives of many people I know. I think that "friends" and "home" are not necessarily two separate things although Tolstoy tries to make that distinction in this statement from Levin.
Home is where you can be you and not worry that people will stop loving you for it. It's where people love you in spite of how messed up they know you are. It's where people get angry or hurt sometimes but it doesn't kill the love. Home is where you want to go when the world is full of chaos and need peace and acceptance. Sometimes that place is where people traditionally think of when they think of home - the dwelling place of your biological family or the family you have created. Sometimes that isn't home at all.
Home is also the things that Levin felt when returning to his farm and his house. His nurse (and his dog - I love it!) understand him. They read his thoughts without him speaking them. They see the sorrow in his eyes when he tries to cover it up. They know what he needs in order to be comforted. It's also home for Levin because it's where he does those things that bring him true fulfillment. I think it's the same for all of us. So where is this place?
It's not necessarily where you lay your head each night. Many of us have been through periods in our lives when the last place we want to be is that place where we lay our head at the end of the day. In those times, if we're lucky, we have another place to call home. It may be among friends, it may be alone, but hopefully we have some place we can go that is free of judgment and fear. We tend to seek it out in the bad times. Sometimes our search is successful and sometimes it is not successful or we land in the wrong place.
Home can be many places. Sitting in this chair with a glass of wine and a great book is home in a sense because I find such enjoyment, fulfillment and complete lack of judgment here. And, my friends, sitting in this chair with a glass of wine and my computer, adding to my blog, is home in a sense as well. Because I find great fulfillment in that. I can share my thoughts freely and no one condemns me for them. If you don't agree with me, the worst that will happen is that you stop reading or send me a nasty email or comment.
Home for me is also in this same apartment with my two amazing children. We've seen each other in our best times and our worst times and we love each other in spite of it all. And we know that will always be true. We have always fallen and risen together and we always will and none of us doubts that for a moment. I am truly blessed in that and many other ways.
I am also blessed by others in my life that feel like home to me. That's huge and something that many people can not say they have in their lives and I am eternally grateful for that.
So - Mr. Tolstoy
"With friends, one is well; but at home, one is better"?
Yes but . . . the two are not necessarily separate because home isn't a specific location. It's that place where people love you, and will continue to love you, for who you are. Or perhaps, in spite of who you are.