A Safe Haven

by Kenneth L. Stewart, Ph.D.  

Home, Ah yes. In the 19th century home took on a

romantic ideal. That ideal was that home was supposed

to be a "haven in heartless world" - It was place where

one could find solace against the slings and arrows of

outrageous fortune or all the crap you had to put up

with in the outside world. Home had a kind of pastoral

image to it, where out in the country away from the noise and pollution of the new industrial age one could retreat to and enjoy the bucolic pleasures of solitude and warmth. As I write this piece, it is a cold morning outside. The winter sun shines through the south window of my study and into my eyes and the strains of a Chopin nocturne play on my tape recorder. I have these images in my mind when I think of the haven in a heartless world. A retreat away from all the assaults and insults we sometimes have to endure. I mean, who of us hasn't come home from work or school on some days and feel as if we have been assaulted ? And thinking about returning to that scene the next day brings a tightening in the gut and a moment of panic. So if home can be that safe haven, with Chopin, hot soup, a warm blanket, a friendly cat and a good book.

And if we live with others in some kind of family, how do we help to create an atmosphere of safety and warmth for them, for their safe haven ? How do we avoid pouncing on them with their latest shortcoming, or failure to do what is expected from us? How do we wait with our agenda and find out about theirs ? How do we put out a welcome mat without violating our own values. Is it just a matter of timing, wording, and negotiation ? All take a degree of delicacy and practice. We can't just say whatever it is we feel compelled to say at any old time, using any old words and expect immediate results. It just doesn't work that way. It takes timing, careful wording of questions and statements, and flexible negotiations. And it is done with the delicacy of a piano nocturne by Chopin or the careful crystalline structure of a flake of snow or the warmth of roaring fire on a cold night. If we can practice these arts of timing, wording, and negotiation with delicacy, flexibility and warmth, then we have done a lot toward creating a safe haven in a heartless world. A home that someone would like to come home to. A home that nurtures us, that gets us ready for the onslaught the next morning.

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