Where You Hang Your Hat

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.

Cowboy Hat1

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.

Caps For Sale
Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. Esphyr Slobodkina (how is it I never knew that was the full title?)

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.

Finding The Path

Human lives are constantly being pulled in different directions and subjected to demands from outside forces. Some of them we want to go along with; some we’re forced to ride along beside. The older we are the more paths we’ve walked, lost, found ourselves on, resisted to leave, and feared to lose.

Of late, I’ve found myself being pulled off of my desired path by well-meaning but (for lack of better word) pushy people. They are people in my life that I respect and admire. We are compatriots in a common goal and therefore, we walk beside each other on parallel paths. But sometimes their strong personalities engage in manipulative tactics to pull me over with them on their path.

It is, in part, my own fault. I’m a people pleaser. I want to make people happy, often at the expense of myself. After all, what greater gift can I give than to be a benefit to another?

But now, after months of stress-related, psychosomatic issues, I’m realizing how detrimental this pattern can be. When I tie my worth around my ability to be useful and giving to others, I let myself be pulled along by people who insist that their path is the right and best path for me in order to feel valuable.

I let myself believe that they know me better than I do, that perhaps, they could be right. Their path seems like a good one. It’s not a bad path. It has interesting things to see along the way, it’s headed to different and new places, it has challenges and triumphs…it’s a decent path. Nothing is acutely wrong with the path.

Except it’s not mine.

It’s theirs.

I am slowly learning that there is no goodness in putting yourself second time, and time, and time again. There is no goodness in letting someone lead you away from your dream and your path. It twists your gut, it drops your mind into dark places, until all you can do is stare at your feet and feel the heavy weight of someone else’s wants and expectations breaking you down into the ground with every step as you cast longing glances back at the sunshine dappled trail you once took to so excitedly.

So how can I stop, mid stride on the dusty path, let go of the expectations and wants of others, and get back on my path? How do I love myself enough to know that I am worth the leaving?

Every decision, no matter how coerced, is a lesson, not necessarily a mistake. And what I’ve committed to for the wrong reasons, I don’t have to continue with. I tried another path. I tried to please others. I did what I thought life wanted from me. I’ve learned. I gained education along the path, methods, techniques, and experiences but most importantly–I’m learning about Me. Learning about oneself is never a mistake.

Sometimes the most important thing we can learn about ourselves is what we don’t want, what we will not endure, what we will not take, and what we will not put up with. That is how we grow strong.

So the next time you are on your path, where you should be, and someone takes your hand and says, “Hey, come check out my path over here!” you can look at it, and understand that your priorities and dreams are important enough to stay on course and take your hand back with a firm no thanks.

Your dreams are important, more than anyone who isn’t wearing your shoes will ever understand. You don’t have to justify their worth to anyone else. Your goals along life’s journey are enough.  Your path is well-suited and enough. You are enough.

I’d love to hear any stories or comments you may have about how you’ve chased your own dreams and what it has brought you in terms of fulfillment and/or hardship.

Until next time, stay on your path.