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.