It's been two months since I've moved, and perhaps the most challenging part of it all has been making my living space, well, livable. I've managed without attachment to possessions for a very long time, and in many ways that is an absolute freeing feeling. I've lived in places for the last five years knowing that in two days time, four weeks or three months, that my time in a particular bed, kitchen, shower and living room was temporary, that I would be moving on to somewhere else, a place with different colored walls, a different style of furniture, a different set of keys. It felt good to leave things behind, to know that nothing was mine, that I didn't have to carry that weight.
At some point however, I started missing the heaviness of it all. I was floating, and even when I was in a familiar setting, I never had a space I could truly call my own. Now that I have my own space, more space than I know what to do with, customizing it has been overwhelming - not just physically but emotionally. This is unfamiliar territory for me, and it feels strange that I am responsible for the things in my house, even for the house itself. I am trying to find a happy medium at the intersection of materialism and the concept of home and though I'm not there yet, I'm hopeful I'll feel more balanced as the year goes on.
It's all still very new and I haven't had time to process most of it, to work through what it means to get to know the people who live around you, to sleep in a bed with sheets that you bought, to not wonder what the intent of the person who hung a painting on the walls might be, because that person is you, but to also do all of this away from your family and friends.
In between wrestling with these feelings, I walked into a resale furniture shop this week and in one instant, all my childhood memories came flooding back to me - moments spent in church during baptisms, those weekend excursions to the graves of my grandparents, arriving at a relative's home and knowing someone was in solemn thought. In an aisle of used mugs, waffle makers and ancient televisions in Detroit, I was immersed in the smell of incense, trying to sniff it all in, as if doing so would somehow take me back to a place and time that does not exist anymore. I approached the counter and asked the woman if it was what I thought it was, a mixture used during prayer for many people of Orthodox faiths made from the sap of certain trees with such a distinct, intoxicating smell that you would never forget it if you smelled it. And when the Chaldean store owner smiled, and we had a long conversation about Iraq, and her Armenian neighbors back home ("I've never seen a house as clean as theirs!"), and the troubling news about fighting in Karabakh ("Why can't everyone just leave each other alone?") and the Chaldean diaspora in Detroit ("They've all moved out of the city") and so much more, I felt like I was home. She quickly wrapped up this incense, gave me instructions on what to do, insisted that I take it, and smiled again.
I carried the incense in one hand, and a cabinet I found a great deal on in the other, thanked her and left. I drove off, back to my street, my doormat, my desk and my bed knowing the one thing that has always remained a constant in my life, that was now showing up in Detroit, too: home is not a place, it is feeling, and this week, I felt like I was pleasantly drowning in it.