The texture that discomfort brings

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.”  Then I read Christa’s thoughtful post based on Ram Dass’s observation that “we are all just walking each other home” which reminded me of how “home” is both fluid and complicated for me.

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.

(a repost from exactly a year ago… Christa’s post based on Ram Dass’s wonderful quote made me think about this again)

10 thoughts on “The texture that discomfort brings”

  1. thank you, lindsey. soulfully resonant. constantly searching for home and belonging. finding it in the ocean’s tidal waves. home is movement, the dance.

  2. Beautifully written, as always. When you talk of feeling out of place, never having a tribe to call your own, I remember what Anne Lamott said about imperfect birds:

    “It’s a line from a poem by Rumi. The line is ‘Each must enter the nest made by the other imperfect birds’, and it’s really about how these kind of scraggly, raggedy nests that are our lives are the sanctuary for other people to step into, and that if you want to see the divine, you really step into the absolute ordinary. When you’re at your absolutely most lost and dejected … where do you go? You go to the nests left by other imperfect birds, you find other people who’ve gone through it. You find the few people you can talk to about it.”

  3. Gosh I relate to this. I never feel at home anywhere either, and I constantly wonder if I haven’t worked hard enough to create a home where I’m at or if I simply haven’t found my home yet. How do you know?

  4. Home, I think, is in your heart. It goes where you go, and is shared with those you love.

    Thanks so much for continuing the conversation.



  5. Is there anything that will bring you out west in 2011? Lets have coffee or lunch here in Los Angeles. I swear, you have been reading my mail.

  6. Beautiful. Lindsay, your words illuminate. The sentiment in your musings ring true with me. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your own authentic truth.

  7. This writing is pulling a very deep thread in me that recognises the similarities between this and my own feelings of unbelonging

    I am back in my homeland of NZ for a holiday, feeling like this is no longer home, and not knowing where that place is now.

  8. Thank you for posting about Ram Dass…he is my hero!

    I LOVE the organization that he founded called SEVA. They work with indigenous populations on health projects. They are best known for their work in preventable blindness, and have helped nearly 3 million blind people suffering from cataracts to see again in poor countries around the world. Check them out at

    I particularly love their GIFTS OF SERVICE catalog. You can restore eyesight to a blind person in someone’s name as a gift. A wonderful alternative gift! Check out the catalog

    Thanks Ram Dass!!!!

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