The very idea of a safe space has become almost cliche at this point in time, a joke about overly sensitive people and a need for protection from an all-too-cruel “real world.” But recently, I’ve been thinking about the idea in a more concrete, coherent, form; a safe space that is an actual, physical, space.
We think of our homes as safe spaces, surely. I’ve had this conversation twice this week in different forms, but our homes are places where (ideally) we can take off whatever mental protection we wear in the rest of the world and can just relax and be our authentic selves, whatever and whoever that may be. In order to do that, we have to, of course, feel safe there.
I was asked, earlier in the week, what it would feel like to be back in the house I shared with my ex-wife. Not to live there again, but just to be there. All I could imagine, when I thought about it, was how alien it would feel, how uncomfortable. Even when I was moving my stuff out of there, after just a handful of weeks of not living there, it felt unlike the home I’d lived in for a decade to that point. I felt unwelcome, unsafe. The bones of the place were the same, but in the emotional sense, it had become a different place altogether.
And then, later this same week, I was talking about the idea of a stranger staying in the home I have now, and what came to mind was the concept of being on guard, feeling as if I wouldn’t be able to relax properly. A sense of my home becoming something else temporarily; unsafe, somehow.
We should be kinder to the idea of the safe space, I think. Each of us have them, and they’re more necessary to us than we know.