Maggie pointed out this weekend that belonging “has longing, sewn in stoutly so you can feel it like Braille letters.”  Somehow I’d never noticed this before, and reading that simple sentence took my breath away.

Oh, how I long to belong.  The longing for that is, to use Maggie’s beautiful words, sewn stoutly in me.  I’ve written before about how complex the notion of home is, for me, who had a peripatetic childhood where moves were the only sure thing.  No matter where I’ve gone in my life – schools, geographies, jobs, communities – I’ve been followed by a sense of not really belonging, like a cloud above me, between me and the sun.  My whole life exists in its shadow.

I’ve sometimes tried to fit in, to blend into the background of a group.  Because I’m such a permeable person and so sensitive to what’s going on, it’s relatively easy for me to understand what others want from me.  The path of least resistance has usually been to reflect back whatever it is I sense someone wants to hear or see.  That’s led to a frequent sensation of being in a group but not really there, a feeling of floating over my own life, observing rather than participating.  This is, I have realized, a lot lonelier than just being alone.

What I’m trying to puzzle out is why belonging is so important to me.  Why, still, do I need the validation of “belonging”?  What kind of deep-rooted human need is it, this desire to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves?  Of course, I routinely feel overwhelmed by the enormous universe and the ways in which I am connected to it, but somehow this isn’t the kind of belonging I crave.  Or, at least, not yet.  Perhaps I’m still too immature and too insecure to find the comfort I seek in that kind of unity.

The universe is providing me with ample reminders that I need to surrender to this persistent loneliness: I chose, after all, the professional route that was most likely to make me not belong anywhere – working part-time, staying at home part-time, trying to be at school pickup in Juicy sweats and also at work meetings in heels, sometimes at the same moment.  I believe my choice came out of a subconscious need to learn the rich lesson that exists in the friction between my two worlds, and, most of all, in my continued, dogged sense of not-belonging.

That’s a generous interpretation of my behavior.  There is another, less kind one: An innate restlessness of spirit keeps me from fully engaging in any one world, from fully embracing a single identity.  Why is it that I refuse to fully let go and surrender to one clearly-defined life? What am I afraid of?  If I skip around between worlds, never fully engaging in or identifying with one, do I hope to innoculate myself from this terrifying vulnerability of really being seen? It’s as though as long as I keep moving all the photos of me will be blurry; literally and figuratively, it will be hard for anyone to get a clear impression of me.

I think I lack a sense of belonging because I still have a basic discomfort in my own skin.  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.

All I know is that I long to belong.  I long to feel utterly at ease, to relax into true repose, to trust absolutely that I am seen clearly and loved for what is seen.  Oh, how I long for that.  I think we all do.

18 thoughts on “Belonging”

  1. This is very beautiful. The constant sense of being misunderstood, or not understood at all, is defining. When certain major live events happen to us (the major stressors: family member dying, miscarriage, divorce, cancer, moving, etc) we often feel that others don’t understand, they just don’t “get it.” That’s when friends have a likelihood of letting us down. When that happens we don’t feel understood.

    Of course if we don’t feel that there is potential we don’t reach out to others. Then we don’t have a safety net when things go south.

    I will be thinking about this post a lot today. And hoping that you will keep reaching out here, and that you will find those like me who want to listen.

  2. You are at your most stunning when you write from a place of primal honesty. Truly. Perhaps I feel that way because of how intensely I relate to your words, my understanding of every emotion depicted in this post (and so many others). Because I truly do get this. And here’s the thing, I’ve spent MY WHOLE LIFE living basically in the same place and yet I feel the very same. That is to say, that I think it’s some rooted deeply inside of us. As humans we need to belong, but sometimes it is so hard to find the very place we are meant to be. Like you, I have many friends, but there are very few with whom I feel completely myself. That can make for a lonely journey.

  3. Thank you … I agree with you, I think this is an innate quality, less about how I grew up and more about who I am.

  4. I. see. you. Clearly. Vividly. Crystal Clear. I see the hidden crevices of yearning to belng, the retreat of an often chaotic and cluttered world, the divine seeking of authenticity in others, the affirmation that you are among friends, accepted into your own tribe. I. see. you.


  5. I share so much of what you write here and feel the same way. The loneliness of living on the outside. I even dream about peeking in windows where parties are going on in other people’s houses.

    Just remember: you will always belong to yourself. That in itself is enough.


  6. I have vivid dreams still where I’ve been excluded from x, y, or z event. The anger and fear in these dreams is palpable even in my subconscious. Take heart, perhaps, that the need to belong/fear of not belonging is indeed universal (and underscores my belief that jealously anger and unpleasantness in others is born out of insecurity).

  7. this post touched my soul. i wonder if maybe the longing is to just ‘be’…fully, freely who we are. only then, can the belonging come together in its wholeness. naturally, it would require the courage to both face the shadows and allow our light to shine. slow and steady…

  8. I love this post. For some reason it kept reminding me of your post on “becoming”. How we are all constantly in route to becoming who we are. Are all of us feeling the same way on our route to becoming? That we don’t quite belong because we are not 100% authentic yet in who we feel we are on route to be?

    Thanks as always for the thoughtful post…

  9. You really did a good job of capturing that desire to belong. It’s where I’ve lived my whole life, too. I also moved a lot: different countries, around this country–I have never belonged to where I actually am. My saving grace has been a wonderfully loving stable homelife and creating a happy family. Outside that? I never feel that I fit in. Anywhere. (I have come to agree with the commenter, Melissa, who suggested that it’s the longing to just “be.” Since that was never “allowed” when I was growing up, the longing to just “be” has become a part of who I am.)

  10. Sometimes it feels as if Life’s journey is full of endless scenes concerning belonging…family, friends, work, etc. How easy it is to forget to be true to ourselves as we try to be what everyone else needs and wants us to be. A loving family and a few close friends provide a haven of belonging and love. I often feel as if I am on the outside looking in and cherish the love and encouragement from my family.

    Thank you Lindsey for continuing to be honest and share from the heart.

  11. Beautiful post, Lindsey! Seriously. I can so relate to knowing what other people want and doing it, but then not feeling like I truly belong (imposter syndrome, anyone). Thanks for putting words to what I basically feel. *wish* you were going to be in Oregon in June!

  12. I’ve thought about this off and on all day, Lindsey, and I still don’t have many words to use here.

    Thank you. And yes, as you put it so beautifully, we do all just want to belong. It seems that our paths may vary widely, but our hearts all want the same thing.

  13. “An innate restlessness of spirit keeps me from fully engaging in any one world, from fully embracing a single identity.”

    This is good, this is the voice of your true self, your soul-Self who knows that no identity, no role, no body can adequately contain or reflect soul.

    Perhaps I resonate to your voice, Lindsey, because I too relate to this unbearable lightness, this sense of veils that separate us with ego-bound consciousness, this melancholy that grips a world of souls that seem to shuffle and conform too often asleep within meat-suits—or are we perfectly dozing? (I think it is perfect, this design so vast, actually).

    Your photo also brought another to mind…

  14. This is so heartfelt and resonant for me. I often feel the same way, Lindsey, and wonder whether aging will allow me to grow into myself, or whether there will always be a sense that I am somehow removed from others or distal from the group. This is gorgeous: “to relax into true repose.”

  15. All of this speaks to me very deeply, but these words most:

    I think I lack a sense of belonging because I still have a basic discomfort in my own skin. Maybe I am not wholly sure of where I fit because I am not entirely sure who I am yet.

    And yet, if we are always growing, always learning, maybe we will never know entirely who we are – it is fluid and ever-changing with some constants but always recognizing there is so much more out there. More to know, more to be, simply restless.

  16. Oh. my. gosh. You took the words right out of my heart. There is this ACHE for belonging within me…always. And yet I have so securely belonged to rich, lovely, nurturing communities in my life. Yet there is this restlessness, this loneliness, this feeling of wanting to belong. Thank you for reflecting this back to me. Lovely. Simply lovely.

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