Several months ago, while “surfing” YouTube in search of just the right song for a post I was working on at the time, I stumbled upon the “Official Music Video” of Miranda Lambert’s chart-topping hit “The House That Built Me,” a song I quickly realized I had heard many times before but never really listened to. Miranda plays herself in the video, a wildly successful, seemingly having it all together, “not-a-care-in-the-world” country music superstar. The video opens with Miranda’s tour bus pulling up in front of a rather plain-looking, if not slightly dilapidated, white-washed house in the middle of nowhere. But as Miranda exits the bus, starts up the walk and begins singing the song, it’s obvious this is no ordinary place. It is her childhood home, the place (to hear Miranda describe it), where she “did her homework,” “learned to play guitar,” set her then tiny hand-prints in the wet concrete that became the front steps, played with (and later buried) her favorite dog under an old oak tree out back and bathed in the love of her mom and dad. It also quickly becomes apparent, however, that Miranda has not come back for nostalgic reasons. Indeed, a stranger is living there now. She has come, instead, in search of something deeper, more profound: “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it/This brokenness inside me might start healing/Out here it’s like I’m someone else/I thought that maybe I could find myself.”
I moved so many times growing up and lived amidst so much familial dysfunction that I could spend the rest of my life searching for a childhood “house that built me” and never find it. I do, however, have a small “treasure trove” of images and memories that I hold close – a metaphorical “home” of sorts that I “built” on my own through the years – a place that I go “back” to (with increasing frequency) when I need to find myself – to heal the brokenness inside of me. Some of those images are razor sharp, frozen in photographs. Others are considerably less clear, relegated to the vagaries of a mind and heart that, candidly, are beginning to show their age. But, like Miranda’s, all are of a simpler time -a time when my mind was less cluttered, free to wonder, to imagine, to create, to dream. A time when my vision of (and experience with) love was far more pure – free of the baggage, drama and other like “contaminants” that, as adults, we inexplicably surround it with to dull its transforming power. A less complicated time, when all that mattered was all that really matters – time spent with good friends, learning for the sake of learning, a willingness to be fully transparent and vulnerable (in part because I didn’t know any other way of being and in part because I wasn’t afraid of being judged by friends, let alone being judged as “weak”) – quality time spent alone and the realization that came with it, namely that it wasn’t something to be afraid of or avoided (that I was actually pretty good company!).
I know Miranda and I are not alone. All of us look back on our lives from time to time. But, I also know, because if I’m to be honest, I’m as guilty of it as the next person, that, too often, we don’t always do it for the right reasons or with the right perspective. Rather than fill the “Easter baskets” of our searching souls with the multitude of brightly-colored “good” eggs that litter the lush green landscape of our pasts and use them as a reminder of what is true about us (i.e., what has always mattered to us, who we love and who loves us, what makes us who we are, etc.), we discount the good, ignore it entirely or, worse yet, transform it into something it was never meant to be: a source of regret. We search instead for our isolated missteps, the few times we “screwed” up, the things we wish we had (or believe we could or should have) done differently and when we find those few “bad eggs,” as all of us inevitability will if we look long and hard enough, we cling to them as “confirmation” of the distorted image of self that, for one reason or another, we have misguidedly adopted over the years. In doing so, we miss the point of the exercise entirely. Here’s the bottom line: There is substantial good to be found in all of our “presents” – and our pasts – and it exists for a reason. It’s there to remind us of who we are or, as the song so simply, but eloquently states, in the case of those who may have temporarily “forgotten,” who we “were” before we momentarily “got lost in this world.”
As I watched the video end, I remember wondering whether Miranda fully grasped the powerful message she’d given birth to and whether the video was pure fiction or, as I suspected, intended to provide a glimpse into her soul. Both questions were answered in the tears that silently and spontaneously streamed down her face as she performed the song live at “Healin’ in the Heartland” – a benefit concert for the victims of a devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. You see, Miranda had come “home” – again – and the “truth” was “positively” overwhelming.