This particular phrase came to me me during last week’s abbreviated post on home. I was limited on time and a bit “Chihuahua and fireworks” excited about Verseday, so I didn’t do justice to what home can mean and why its important to filling our lives with good things.
I’m from Wyoming, born and raised, with some detours along the way.
Wyoming has some pretty awesome colloquialisms (for more on that, keep in the loop about my new series set in Wyoming—very romantic-west) and “Home is Where You Hang Your Hat” is no exception. (Some other, unrelated, favorites; “wouldn’t mind if his boots were under my bed,” and “wish I had a swing like that on my back porch.”)
I could go into the history of hats, cowboy and otherwise, what they meant, where they came from, who wore them, the political and pop cultural significance each one carried, but you didn’t come here to listen to the historical social scientist in my back pocket, you came here for an expansion on home.
Hanging your hat up was something you used to do when you came in from a long day of work. I’m looking at you…slack-jawed twerker, with your suuuuper cool trucker’s hat turned sideways at the dinner table…you realize that it’s the same ‘model’ my 97 year-old grandfather would get free from NAPA (that’s the part store, not the wine country) and wear until the brim fell off… And, he wore it better but never at the table… sorry where were we?
Yes, gentlemen used to take off their hats inside and, in the case of coming home, would hang them on a hook or rack by the door.
A simple move that signified something so much more profound.
Hanging your hat, coming home, dropping the world at the door and breathing. Breathing in the place of your own, the space you occupy, the people who wait for you; who love you, who have seen your head without hat, your hair going gray. Coming home meant escaping the life’s demands and the outside world’s burdens and just be.
Why is it important, that we take off our ‘hats’ in today’s world? Why does it matter?
I’m glad you asked. It’s kinda why I’m here.
Humans these days are so connected by technology and the speed-of-light information bursts, that there’s really no such thing as a safe space anymore. Now your home has multiple outlets for this information to stream in, constant and blaring.
And the ‘hats’ have changed too, haven’t they? We used to wear one, maybe two. Now, we’ve got them stacked one on top of the other until they tilt in the breeze and wobble when we try to move forward. We’re doctors, and scientists, social activists and martyrs. We’re frienemies and friends, lovers and exes. We’re husbands and mothers, daughters. Victim and accuser, the pious and the demon.
We’re chained to the images that we build on our pages and constantly feel the need to live up to the happy smiling selfie that the world thinks we are. It’s getting so one can’t even close the door and drop what’s not real for a few minutes.
And if you can’t ever drop it, how do you even know who you really are?
It’s no wonder we’re overmedicated, depressed, anxious and stressed. People constantly shoving hats into our hands, telling us what we should be, what we could be, showing off how beautifully they’re balancing their own stack with perfect pictures of perfect lives through perfect filters that they post fresh every day.
It can leave a person feeling that if they aren’t getting enough ‘likes’ that no one actually likes them. That the measure of being loved is dependent on some superficial and meaningless emoji.
Listen, kid, ain’t nobody that happy. Ain’t nobody that perfect.
And the brilliance of those images, I guarantee, is hiding the same nasty, visceral darkness that resides in each of us, fed on self-doubt and anger. Jealousy, dis-ease with the person in our skin, and the pressures squeezing through our walls each day.
I just want to go home.
Let’s go back to that place.
The place where you put your phone on the shelf by the door and kick off your shoes. Leave your meal un-Instagramed. Your run un-shared. Write down the cute thing your two-year-old said, and then tell your mom face-to-face over a cup of un-tagged, un-pinned coffee.
Wait for your meal in silence and anticipation. Look up something– in a book. When you feel the need, the itch to pick up that screen, or turn that television on, or otherwise disconnect from real life, don’t. Over half of our lives are spent looking at the world through our screens and its becoming a new, cold, disconnected home where we find no respite.
The ball is in your court, the stack of hats in your arms. Drop them all, for just a moment and pick up only the ones that satisfy your soul. Even those, hang up once in a while and sort through how they make you feel when you wear them.
Find your home by letting go of the things you feel you need to be. Find the home in the center of your chest, your truest self, and come back to that. Hang your hat there. That’s your home.