This summer I spent some time considering a move to Des Moines, but after talking to a realtor (what was I thinking?) and finding out how impenetrable the subsidized housing process is there, I changed my mind. Instead I opted to work at making Marshalltown my Home.
I grew up here and have been back for ten years, but I never really thought of it as home. Growing up on a farm, “town” was a place to get groceries, a place the school bus dropped me off and picked me up. After going through electroshock, losing my job, my home, and my husband coming back to Marshalltown mentally ill was a personal failure and a punishment.
I left Minneapolis with its liberal politics, diversity of culture and a townhouse I loved for a conservative rural backwater where I lived in my friends’ spare room with a curtain for a door. I didn’t want to be here.
My life became richer over the last ten years. I learned how to manage my illness better. I moved into an apartment I loved. Our eco-conscious public library and busy YMCA became part of my daily routine. I embraced our Aquatic Center by water walking in the silky summer evenings.
But I still despised the town. I hated the trains blasting at 5:00 AM along with the barking dogs and screeching kids next door. I hated the yahoos who barreled along my street with their woofers blowing out my eardrums and their muffler-less pickups rattling my windows. I hated the decrepit meth-lab houses and the soul-sucking poverty evident on most every street. I still didn’t want to be here.
The work of Making a Home, I’ve discovered, is much like the work of Gratitude. Instead of focusing on what I’m grateful for, I purposely seek out what I love about Marshalltown. I quiz others about where they like to eat and hang-out, what they like to do here. I’ve started reading the newspaper to look for events to attend and to get a better sense of the community. I plan to take a class at the art center or with the continuing education program at our junior college.
Another part of making a home is practicing forgiveness, not just accepting people, places and circumstances for what they are. The first target of forgiveness must be myself—for all the ways I let myself down, abandoned my dreams or my safety, and let the negative voices of my illness tell me how horrible I was. Acceptance of my whole self took decades, but I feel like forgiveness can’t be that far away. Whenever old resentments or regrets surface, I open to the possibility of forgiveness. Whenever I turn my attention to the negative aspects of Marshalltown, I open to forgiveness and pull up my list of “Marshalltown Love” on my phone. It’s startling how many times a day this happens. It’s equally startling how long it’s taken me to be willing to forgive myself and others.
Forgiveness, like gratitude, requires a change of perspective, a change of heart. Sometimes those changes are a long time coming, so I’ve adopted an “act as if” attitude until it makes a home in my bones. But, I’m determined to forgive. I’m determined to find all the hidden spots of beauty and compassion in Marshalltown. I’m determined to be my authentic self and thrive here.
Because, I’m still on an Adventure.