“feels like home” – bonnie raitt (1996)


New Year’s Eve for me was spent asleep.  I was in Kentucky while my friends all over the country and world were celebrating the end of a monstrously shitty year.  I cannot remember that last time I didn’t stay up for New Years.  I must’ve been a kid.  In recent years, I’m either celebrating with friends or family or travelling.  Either way, I’ve always been up to see that clocks change.

I slept through New Year’s Eve because I had to drive a rental car over an hour to get the Cincinnati airport and I had to leave the house at 3:30 AM to catch my flight.  Most people I know would’ve just stayed up to party, drink a gallon of coffee, and not give a damn before making that trip.  Not me.  Since moving to Chicago, I don’t drive anymore.  So, its very rare when I get behind the wheel.  I wanted to be somewhat rested before speeding down the interstate avoiding potential drunk drivers and an increased state police presence.

I was celebrating New Years in Kentucky because my former stepmother was getting remarried.  She had divorced my father earlier in the year and was marrying a close friend she had known for 15 years.  Even though she is legally not my stepmother anymore, I still think of her as one.  She has been a part of my life for 16 years.  That’s not a relationship you can easily change.

She told me the news about the wedding when I was visiting for Thanksgiving.  The wedding was going to be a quiet affair with family and close friends.  The ceremony was going to be conducted in the house in the front room by the fireplace.  I had already booked my flight for the Christmas holiday just prior to my Thanksgiving trip.  It was only a few days extra in Kentucky, so I was going to make the effort to attend.  After some discussion (and some raised voices) with my airline over my ticketing, I was able to get my flight changed for a price that wasn’t gouging.

The only downside to this trip was that I was leaving really early on New Year’s Day.  So, naturally, no one would be willing or able to take me to and from the airport (especially the day after a wedding).  My celebrations would have to be limited and revolve around my travel schedule. However, at least I could attend.

Prior to the trip, I had some worries.  There was some family drama and hurt feelings expressed about me attending my stepmother’s wedding that was taking place the same year as her divorce to my father.  Walking this fine line requires a delicate balance that takes everyone’s feelings into account while also asserting myself as a grown adult who could make their own decisions.  Still, I experienced some anxiety regarding the matter.

Despite worries about the trip, I had an excellent time and none of the uncomfortable discussions I envisioned would occur actually took place.  The days leading up the wedding were a weird blend of relaxing and eagerness to get back to Chicago and focus on my own needs.  For a while, I’ve been looking for a new job.  I’m currently employed, but I want a change.  For a while, despite my best efforts, I’ve been getting a lot of rejections.  While they sting, I am ultimately looking forward and staying motivated to make that change.  However, the holiday season is notoriously slow with people taking leave and offices shutting down.  It is a period of time where one who is demanding action must force themselves to have some patience and let things work out in their own time naturally.

Between the anxiety I felt before the trip and the anxiety I was feeling about what happens after the trip, I was in a weird flux.  The relaxation and downtime was good, but I’m not used to how much downtime I had.  I was in Kentucky for eight days excluding travel days.  That’s a long time for me.  Most people would’ve made the most of it and forgot about all their cares and worries.  And, for the most part, I did.  However, I still had one active goal that I needed to complete after the New Year.

I met with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while.  And all of them would ask me about my life in Chicago.  They were happy to hear I have a pretty good and independent life and that I have a lot of things going for me such as my friends and volunteering.  They would also discuss with me about what was next and I would tell them about my job ambitions and about a few opportunities I was equally excited and anxious about securing.  So, I couldn’t get all of this out of my head even if I tried because it was a frequent topic of discussion.

The evening before I leave was the New Year’s Eve wedding.  I was texting a friend earlier in the day strategizing on a follow-up plan reaching out to some people about some of the exciting opportunities I was pursuing.  A long time had passed for many of these, but I was still dwelling and thinking about them.  He told me that I shouldn’t waste so much mental energy on the topic and that the positions were likely filled anyway.  I hadn’t thought about it and I was shocked to have that thought in my mind.  I had spent so much time talking about these things and my plans and I didn’t stop to think about what would happen if they didn’t pan out.  Talking about it got me hopeful and a bit obsessed with it.  So, hearing that truth from my friend brought me back down to Earth. Hard.

As I was driving to my stepmother’s house wearing a really nice black pinstripe suit, I was thinking about rejection.  I’m 30.  I’ve been around the block a few times.  I can handle rejection for the most part.  However, sometimes it can still sting.  The funny thing is that I haven’t been rejected for anything.  The issue is that I applied for a job months ago, haven’t heard anything despite my best efforts, and I dwelled on it during a period of time where I didn’t have much going on because of the holidays.  Normally, I can shake these things off.  But this one stuck.

When I got to her house, it was obvious that my head was in a different space.  I was thinking about returning to Chicago and what my next steps were.  And that’s not a good mindset when you’re at a wedding and you should be enjoying yourself.  I was getting frustrated with myself because I only had so many hours to be here before I had to leave to get some shuteye before hitting the road.  I was supposed to be having fun, but I just wasn’t able to do so.

The man my stepmom was going to marry shortly noticed and asked me what was wrong.  I couldn’t believe it.  This was his wedding and I felt like such an asshole that I couldn’t have fun and that it was so obvious on my face that the groom, during his wedding, was wanting to find out why I was being a grump.  I shook it off and said that I was fine.  I just couldn’t bring myself to vent to this guy on his wedding day.  I left the room to get away from people and be on my own for a bit.

I sat in the den alone in the lower part of the house with my glass of wine.  Then, without warning, I just got really emotional and cried.  It is very rare for me to cry because that is not a typical way I express myself, so this was unexpected.  I’m someone who usually just holds things in and destresses at a later time. But, I couldn’t control myself.  These bottled emotions just poured out.  The trip I was somewhat dreading due to family drama turned out really well, dealing with health stuff on my mother’s side, and my own dissatisfaction with finding a new job were all just things I carried with me.  Not having fun at this wedding and the groom wanting to talk about how I was feeling was the last straw.  Too many emotions and they had to come out.

The ceremony was happening soon, so I got myself cleaned up.  I felt pathetic walking back upstairs and assembling with everyone else.  My head hurt and I had a pit in my stomach.  I just didn’t feel well and I wanted to sleep.

Fortunately, all those feelings just suddenly disappeared when the ceremony started.  My stepmother walked through the room with her dark blue wedding dress and her hair done and she had the biggest smile on her face.  I hadn’t seen her smile like that in a long time.  Her husband had a huge smile too.  My little brothers were standing at the sides as ring bearers trying to fight back childish giggles.  The energy was happy, loving, and positive and it elevated my mood.

From when that ceremony started to when I had to leave, I had a great time.  It was great to see the couple exchange vows.  I took pictures of the ceremony and of the couples dancing afterward (I was the only single person there other than my little brothers).  The food was delicious and I ate a ton while also sneaking samples to the family dog.  I was feeling how I should’ve felt.  How I wanted to feel.  This was a feeling I could have if I just forgot about all the bullshit and live in the moment.

The song my stepmother walked out to was “Feels Like Home” by Bonnie Raitt.  Originally written by Randy Newman, the song has been covered dozens of times.  Raitt’s version was released in 1996 and included on the motion picture soundtrack for the John Travolta film Michael.  I remember over the summer ordering a copy of that CD from Discogs.  My stepmother was looking for a copy and the soundtrack wasn’t available to stream online, so I found a good used copy for her.  It is kind of funny how things come back to you like that.

The song is very much a wedding song.  It is a song about falling in love and finding comfort in your partner.  The world around them may be dark with breaking windows and sirens wailing in the night, but there’s warmth and light in the space they made for each other in their arms.  That’s a great image of living in the moment and appreciating what you have.  Things come and go.  We go through good and bad times.  However, the important thing to is take notice of what is valuable and important in your life.  And those are the things that make you appreciate what you have and not let darkness or negativity affect your enjoyment and appreciation.  I can honestly say I am working on these things and that things will get better.  The trick is to not be so hard on myself when things don’t work out and find solace in what I do have that does work out and continues to do so.


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