"We used to laugh, we used to cry,
we used to bow our heads then, wonder why.
And now you're gone, I guess I'll carry on,
And make the best of what you've left to me,
Left to me, left to me.
I need you like the flower needs the rain,
You know I need you, guess I'll start it all again.
You know I need you like the winter needs the spring
You know I need you, I need you..."
My senior year of high school I suddenly discovered that I would need to live away from my parents for the last semester. I ended up staying with a family I'd never met before, and didn't think I had much in common with. They were lovely people with a wonderful home, but they were not my family, and it was not my home.
This probably wouldn't unseat most people, but for me it was as seismic a shift as anything I'd ever experienced. From the time of my birth I had never, ever, been away from my mother. And other than a very infrequent overnight with a friend from Sunday School, I'd always been surrounded by my entire, very large family. We moved a lot, so I'd never been able to maintain many close friendships. This made my family uber-important to me. They were my everything.
To be away from both my mother and my sister was catastrophic. There were nights when I thought I would collapse with grief. I'd never missed anyone or anything in quite the same way...before or since.
One of the ways I would get through those days and nights of heartache was to go down to my host's family room in the middle of the night, put on a big pair of headphones, and listen to one of three albums I owned while lying on the carpet in the dark. America's self-titled album was one of them...and "I Need You," was one of my favorite songs for reaching a cathartic emotional release. I would listen to it first for a good soul-spilling cry. I cried hard...the kind of tears that spill down your temples and soak your hair. I cried for so much. I felt that I needed my mother and my siblings...I felt that I needed all that was familiar...all that was "home" to me.
But then I would listen to it again, and this time, I would think about what I really needed. I would question all of the things that I had always thought I couldn't live without: my family, my home, to be surrounded by my favorite things, a ride to school, books I loved...and on and on the list would go. And something would shift.
I realized that I really didn't need need most of those things...obviously. There I was, living in a stranger's house with none of those things I loved, and I was still me. I was still thinking my own thoughts, making my own choices, breathing, loving, wanting to be loved, longing for opportunities to be creative, to make a difference, to learn.
I was learning the difference between wants and needs. And I was discovering that what I most needed was the space to think and question....to realize that I was conscious and that ideas were constantly coming to me for how I could navigate a challenging situation, find solutions to almost insurmountable problems, and find my way in the world.
Looking back on this time...almost 40 years ago now...I can see that it was one of the most important times in my life. I learned the most valuable skill I would ever need. To think...to question...and most critically, to listen to that inner voice, that still, small voice within...for what to question, where to find answers, and how to be at peace with a home that is defined by "the kingdom of heaven within."
I discovered that I needed very little. I loved a lot. But I needed very little. What I loved and what I needed were different. It's never too late to remember it again, and again, and again.
shared with Love,
Kate Robertson, CS