Big Little Wolf wrote beautifully yesterday about home. In her trademark eloquent prose she wrote about the consequences when “home” shifts, the difficulty of feeling really at home in a place or with a person, what it means to be homeless, whether or not you can “go home again.”

I read her words with tears streaming down my face. I’ve written before about my stubborn sense of not really belonging. Big Little Wolf’s words accessed this same seam of feeling, reminded me of my feeling of having a foot in many words but a home in none. This feeling runs deep in my soul, and always makes me sad when it bubbles to the surface. It animates many of my actions and habits.

There is no point in wallowing in it, that much I do know. And today I am interested in its source. Where does my persistent feeling of not really fitting in come from? It would be easy to point fingers at my nomadic childhood (I lived in three countries by the age of 12 and moved consistently across an ocean every 4-5 years). But I think that is an overly simplistic answer. My slippery but inescapable sense of being outside rather than in is more fundamental than that. I think the restlessness of spirit that keeps me from fully engaging in any one world, from fully embracing a single identity is innate. It courses through my bloodstream as surely as platelets and plasma.

Is it some kind of defense mechanism? Why is it that I refuse to fully let go and surrender to one clearly-defined life? What am I afraid of? Of being seen? I write all the time about the human need to be seen, but I wonder if I’m actually afraid of the vulnerability that goes with this kind of being known. If I skip around between worlds, never fully engaging in or identifying with one, do I hope to innoculate myself from this scary vulnerability? Am I scared of what someone who really sees me will see?

Or is it a basic unease in my own skin? For some reason that I cannot articulate yet, maybe I am not wholly sure of where I fit because I am not entirely sure who I am yet. Maybe I have met so few native speakers because I am still fumbling around with my own language. I do like people, and I am lucky to have many friends; the fact remains, though, that there are very few with whom I feel truly at home.

The shadow of this discomfort about belonging follows me around, its size and darkness varying by the day. It feels like the oblong shadow of a balloon floating above me whose string keeps changing length; some days it is far ahead of me, and I walk in light, and at other times it is positioned just right so that my entire face is obscured by the penumbra.

It makes me oversensitive and insecure, for sure, but I think it also makes me empathetic. I am hyper-aware of other peoples’ comfort or discomfort in situations. I am compassionate and identify with those who do not belong. I also have a faint but undeniable suspicion towards those who exhibit an easy sense of belonging. Are they real?

This sense of not being fully at home anywhere is so essential to my being in this world that I can’t imagine a more secure and simple feeling of belonging. It is ingrained in my spirit, and it colors the lens through which I see and experience everything. In this holy season of darkness and light, may I turn my empathy and compassion on to myself. My vague discomfort in any single home rises like pentimento from underneath of the painting of every day, regardless of how beautiful the scene I manage to draw. May I forgive myself for this, and may I embrace it for the texture that it brings to the art that is my life.

4 thoughts on “Home.”

  1. As usual, Lindsey, a beautiful and profound post.

    For a long time, I was one of those suspicious characters "who exhibit an easy sense of belonging." I made friends easily and quickly. I still crave the feeling of fitting in and, in many ways, I still manage to do it – to surface appearances anyway.

    But lately I've become more thoughtful, more reflective on the idea of not really being known and not really being seen. So I wonder if your feeling this way, for so long, may in fact be a reflection of your own temperamental tendency toward self-study. And whether, if we all looked at ourselves as adeptly as you do, we'd all feel aloneness at our cores.

  2. As someone who always feels like an outsider, this post spoke to me.

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of giving the gift of kindness to yourself this season.

  3. I just stopped by (might you offer me some milk?) – and here we are. We are searchers, Lindsey – those of us who drift in and out of our own depths and shallows, whether we seemingly want to or not. It's our curse, and part of our beauty. We annoy some, and please others. The trick is not to find fault with ourselves.

    You address the issue impeccably. I love your imagery of the balloon and its string, the shadow always there. The lifetime of not quite fitting anywhere.

    Yes, lifetime.

    What changes with time is that you see the virtues in this quality of homelessness; we are not misfits so much as malleable, evolving, and on some level perhaps, unwilling to fit in. The performance of trying to do so is wearing. So don't do it, unless it's absolutely necessary. I learned to perform; now I only don the required masks when it's a must. It's just too tiring.

    And as we grow older, we make more peace with the not knowing enough, the not knowing who we are, the not belonging, the loneliness of it. And it is, or can be, lonely. More so for some of us than others.

    We also treasure it. As you said – it makes us empathetic and open. It is our strength and vulnerability.

    I don't wish to "belong" as I used to. Though I miss having family, a sense of family. I don't need a "home" in the same way as I used to, though I am definitely searching for a home – differently – and I'm stilling figuring it out.

    Maybe that's the point, Lindsey. We'all always be figuring it out.

    So I take my moments when there are elements of being "seen" – as Kristen said, elements of belonging, elements of home. I cherish those moments. And wonder if I will ever get closer to a self or place or relationship or circle of friends that feel more fitting, and comforting, and who understand.

    Take your questioning, your eloquence, your capacity that runs wide and deep, all your shadowed and lightened selves and let them explore. We belong to ourselves, most of all, even if we don't have a single name or job description or address for what that means.

    Own yourself as you are, and understand that it's a gift more than it is a burden.

  4. BLW's post spoke to me as well, though I didn't get into it in the comments. Yours has also – because yours hits a certain spot over and over. The fitting in. I never have, we too moved around growing up (though within the same state) and I was homeschooled until 8th grade, which adds another sense of feeling like an outcast. All things combined, the feeling of belonging is different to me than the feeling of home. The two to me are not intertwined, home being where I know I'm loved, belonging where I wish I was, but uncertain that I am. I don't know. You make so many eloquent points that my mind will be pondering this for a while. Thank you.

Comments are closed.