“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
Sometimes we get so used to words that we look right through them. Have you ever really thought about the word, “’belonging?” We long to be. Just, to be; To be who we are, and still find ourselves connected to others. Isn’t that the dream?
Belonging. Are you longing to be? To be seen? To be valued? To be joined? To be embraced? Some people are longing to be left alone, feeling crowded out by people who are nearby, but not safe-enough people to just “be” with. Our places of belonging hold up a mirror to show us who we are, what gifts we bring, and how we fit into something bigger than ourselves. Belonging shapes our sense of purpose and our sense of identity.
Ah, Valentines. It is once again the season for nasty-tasting hearts and those commercials and cards that try to make us feel like there is something wrong with us if someone isn’t inclined to break the bank and shower us with jewelry, chocolates, cards, gifts, flowers; If someone is not the “reason we breathe,” and other sickly, enmeshed sentiments.
I am all for love. In fact, I work hard at helping people love others and themselves more completely, more healthfully and more authentically. Perhaps that’s why the commercial exploitation of “love” bothers me so much.
“Belonging” happens for us, (or fails to happen for us,) on many levels, through many means. We can experience belonging or disconnection from a significant other, from children, from parents, from friends, from a community, from a people group, from our pets, from ourselves. When it doesn’t happen, we feel the sting of not belonging. Belonging can give us a sense of comfort and rootedness that nothing else does in quite the same way. It feels like “home.”
I was raised in a culture that fiercely values “I,” as I have mentioned in this space before. We were taught to be “self-sufficient,” and “self-made.” We were raised with an unspoken but relentless insistence on competition. We must be the best, always. If we are not the best, we are nothing. There is no middle ground.
As I look around the US, many, if not most, of our systems and structures have been built on that thinking. Our government is based on elections – battles for who will “win” and who will “lose.” We favor sports where one team wins the “world” championship, (in spite of the fact that very few countries in the world even play that sport.) American businesses have operated this way for most of the history of the USA: A battle for an imagined supremacy in our work, our personal lives and our ways of navigating the community at large.
When so much in you and around you demands that you always be on top, there isn’t a whole lot of room to just “be.” There certainly isn’t room to connect with others in the way I described above. It’s not safe to be anything but the best.
That kind of living makes people brittle and mean. It keeps them disconnected from others. It keeps them disconnected from themselves. What does Tiffany always say? “When we don’t know who we are, we act like someone else.”
Fortunately there are all kinds of other ways to be. A lot of cultures put a higher value on “we” than the one I was raised in. Many cultures, companies, faith communities and neighborhoods put a high value on connecting with one another, looking out for one another, supporting one another. When we stay connected to other people, it helps us remember who we are. We have room to give the gifts we have to gift and to receive others gifts as well. We can fulfill the “longing” to “be.”
We are “home.”
What is love?
In American culture, we are a little infatuated with romantic love. We hold it up as the ultimate love experience. It is a lovely idea. When it works well, it can be pretty amazing. Much like a tapestry, an intimate, romantic relationship is finely tatted and beautiful on one side, and nothing but crazy, maddening, tangled knots on the side that stays cossetted against the wall where no one sees. Those knots are a testimony to the relentless work required to create the beautiful tapestry that’s more apparent on the outside.
Romantic love is not the only place we can find connection. When we join our hearts with others who are like-minded, we again find that sense of “longing” to “be” fulfilled. Linking arms with people who share our vision can be a truly ecstatic experience. It is not “less than” romantic love; It’s just different. It also comes with just as much tangled up knots on the backside.
If you want a less complicated place to fulfill your “longing” to “be,” you might consider pets. As I’m writing this, there is a relentless, obsessed, somewhat insane 8-month-old, 40-ish pound Standard Poodle throwing slimy squeak toys at my hands, trying to get me to stop typing and instead, pay attention to her.
I can be grumpy with her, shoo her away a million times, give her “the look” over and over again. And yet, every time…
Zen is the posterchild for “belonging.” She longs, loudly, dramatically and insistently to be with us, and to offer us a space where all we have to do, is “be” with her. She essentially demanded that Dr. Dante allow her to belong to him. It’s not an approach that typically works well for humans, but Dante is much more accepting than most humans, so…
Most of us have an equally romantic idea that when we connect deeply and well with others, it will be “forever.” When friendships that made so much sense in one stage of our lives stop making sense in another, we feel can feel it profoundly. We sometimes hold onto relationships long after their expiration date in an effort to avoid the pain of letting go of the outworn connection.
We wish for romantic relationships to last “forever” as well. When they come apart, it can all just feel so wrong. We lose people to death, to addiction, to estrangement, to mental illness, and sometimes, just because we have grown in different directions and no longer make any sense together. We cling because this relationship was, at one time, a place of belonging. If we let the relationship go, we fear that we won’t belong anywhere, (failing to recognize that we already do not belong with those people.) We choose an illusion of belonging in an effort to make ourselves believe we are avoiding more pain.
The irony is that when we cling to things, they stop being what we originally tried to clutch. If we let go of the myth that an intimate relationship will be the be-all and end-all of our “belonging” we can find ourselves appreciating all of the ways that we do belong, (including, at times, in an intimate relationship!) When we stop clutching to forever in our relationships of all kinds, we free ourselves up to squeeze the juice out of every moment that comes. When we stop focusing on what we don’t have, we give ourselves space both to notice what we do have, and to use our sense of what’s missing to shape our choices for the future.
By refusing to clutch and grab, we allow ourselves the freedom to “belong” in each now as it comes. This, is “home.”
Are you feeling disconnected? Contact me here, and let’s talk about how you might find what you’re looking for.