Belfast Telegraph

Why no matter where I am in the world, there's no place like home

By Nuala McKeever

Sometimes it can be challenging to live in the life you have right now. When something changes, suddenly, through a death, separation, relocation or any sort of unwanted alteration, it's a real challenge actually to be in the new circumstances. To be in the present.

Eighteen months ago, I felt as if I moved to another country, another continent. People still spoke English but this wasn't home. I felt like I was in a strange land.

A few weeks ago I realised that I have been living in this new place but constantly harking back to the "old country". Part of me has been waiting to go back to the life I used to have back then. It was a cold shower of a shock when I suddenly faced the fact that there IS no old country to go back to. It simply does not exist. This, here, now, is where I live and it's the only place I can live.

Wow. What do I do with all this energy I've been pouring into holding on to something that doesn't exist? No wonder I'm so tired all the time. I'm living with one foot in this world and the other in some other place called "When I Go Back".

And this new world is lovely. There's nothing "wrong" with it. I have found love and joy. But I see I've hardly been able to feel this love and joy because my head has been half-turned, looking backwards. I have found happiness but keep pushing it away because what happened "shouldn't" have happened. I "should" have been able to control what happened. Let me confess. I keep saying I'm not angry. No, I don't get angry. Rubbish! I'm so angry I can't keep it in sometimes.

This misery flares up and bites people around me. I push love away because I have to be miserable, don't I? That's what grief is, isn't it? Being sad all the time, not actually being happy? Oh God, don't take away my misery!!!

But this is where I am and where I want to be. So how do I reconcile being happy and being sad and angry? Something's got to give. I'm angry because I am not in control. If I let go of thinking I can or have to control, I'm not angry.

Letting go. Sounds so easy. Just open your fist and let it go. But it's not easy, it's not passive. It takes courage. And trust. Mostly trust in yourself that you can be happy now, you can stop trying to save the world and you actually deserve to be happy and that's not a betrayal of anything or anyone you loved before. You can actually feel at home in this new world.

Feeling at home starts at home. Right here with yourself. You exist in your own wee camper van of safety. It's portable. You take it with you no matter where you go. Looking for that security out there in other people is fine, but they can go away. You don't go away. You are always with yourself. You always have somewhere to call home, even when you're in the back of beyond among strangeness.

This isn't what I intended to write about this week. But I'm in Kansas City right now attending a theatre festival and being far away from my new world in this Wizard Of Oz land has made me realise that "there's no place like home". And home is where I am, wherever I am.

We'll all suffer from art attack

Minister cuts funding for the arts. Why does that matter? Because art is about exposing yourself, palms open, to others. Whether that's through joking, painting, writing, music, dance, filming, acting, singing or making stuff, art creates empathy.

Politically, socially, we live in conflict here. Conflict isn't bad necessarily. That essential tension that holds us apart also holds us together.

What art does that politics doesn't, is it allows us to experience that conflict from the other person's shoe point.

And that is how, if at all, we can begin to let go of our own wee mindset, our own wee opinion, our own wee prejudice.

Peter fails his economics test

It's a long time since I did Economics O-level, but I'm pretty sure we were never taught that when you're in big debt, the solution is to borrow more on the strength of paying back what you owe out of next year's income.

The Executive obviously didn't sit in our Portakabin classroom back in 1980.

It's like a line from a song in Blood Brothers, "Living on the never-never...". Well somebody always pays and guess who it's gonna be in Northern Ireland? Not the politicians. Us. Short-termism doesn't work.

D-minus for that "solution" Peter and Simon.

Could do much better.

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