“ma, would you stop doing so much! go lay down! you’re makin’ me crazy!”
^That right there is me yelling in a high pitched, full-fledged Jersey accent.
Although I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18, although I’ve lived in New York City for 16 years and traveled globally on my own, there’s nothing like being back at home in the dirty Jerz to bring out the teenager in me.
(In case you’re not familiar with what led me there, I’ve spent the last two months living with Mama and Papa Grippo to be a caretaker. Long story that I’ll spare you the details of, but two kinds of cancer plus a stroke equals mom-and-dad-in-need-of-support.)
The first night I was there, it was a full moon and all I could think about was how enclosed I felt being inside this house with central air conditioning, not being able to see the moon right outside of my bedroom window. I scurried outside in barefeet just to find it, standing in the middle of the street looking up as I heard my mom call after me, “watch out for the critters!”
i started to embrace my new role. hours of my day were suddenly taken up by doctors’ appointments, food shopping, or bringing grandma to the hairdresser.
It was kind of like I was giving myself a chance to catch up on family time after so many years of being a city girl. So in a way, it felt redeeming, rewarding.
But slowly, I got caught up in the patterns of overdoing and overgiving, losing parts of myself that I couldn’t quite name, but that were indicated by the drained feeling in my body and the absence of “me” in my voice, as a few friends pointed out.
I saw the ways I was turning into my mother.
I saw the ways she was - through her illness - being forced to turn into a different version of herself.
I saw the ways I played the “good daughter” role that didn’t actually end up feeling good.
and then every once in awhile i’d have a burst of “me” return.
These moments of getting back to myself happened when I interacted with the Turkish girl who worked at CVS as she gave me the scoop on whether or not the new Turkish restaurant in town was worth trying. (It was.)
These moments happened when my mom’s first chemo nurse commented on my strong legs, which led us to talk passionately about dance, dating in your 30s, and everything in between. (Shayla is now a friend and contact in my phone.)
These moments happened when, utterly exhausted and scattered after a full morning of Jersey-style running around, I drove my ass back to Brooklyn and then subwayed-it into midtown to show up for an opportunity to speak and lead a dance break in front of a group of people. (As Eduardo and others would later tell me, I #nailedit.)
The conclusion? No matter where I live, I don’t truly feel at home until I’ve connected with a foreign being, someone outside of my blood family (who is more likely to be part of my soul family).
despite the guilt i’ve felt over the years for leaving home, i wasn’t actually leaving home. i was coming home.
And as much as I might think everyone will be happy if I just suck it up and stay living in New Jersey forever, doing the familiar, the more natural order is for me to stretch. Like a rubber band. Exploring this world and finding my place in it, while having moments of snapping back to the smaller circle of family. It reminds me even more so of who I am and why I’m compelled to stretch.
I sense you might relate? As artists, we’re more than just machines who produce and create cool things. We’re like ambassadors, detectives… the ones who leave home to seek something greater. The ones who thrive on foreign objects. The ones who bring something different back to where they started.
I’m back at my home in Brooklyn now, although still in Jersey weekly or as needed. And while this journey is far from over, it’s comforting to write this. Because that’s the other thing that reconnects me: Doing my art. Writing. Dancing. Documenting the journey.
Take from this what you will, but here’s how I’d sum it up:
time spent connecting to other people or connected to art-making can snap you back into your sense of purpose, stat. and even though it might feel frivolous or challenging to make that time, it's essential.
Let’s make a pact to keep seeking, keep art-making, and keep connecting to each other’s lost souls that can only be found through s t r e t c h i n g.
through the dance of the rubber band and beyond,