The question of “Where do I belong?” has been a very live one for me lately. I’m betting that it’s been somewhere in my thought process ever since Russell died. But over the last 2 months it’s been pressing closer and closer to the conscious, awake part of my brain. or maybe it’s that I have been becoming more conscious and awake, hmmm.
For as long as I can remember I’ve felt deeply grateful to be part of lots of communities that I felt I belonged to. I’ve spent much of my adult life being part of groups of people that I connected with in some way or the other. Belonging to something has always felt a part of my life, starting with my family. Somehow I always find ways to be part of vibrant, exciting communities.
In the past 5-6 years I’ve felt most connected, like I most belonged to, a few very loving communities – my family first and foremost, my WOW group, friends with a few people I have known for decades, a family faith sharing group, and Avalon. All of these to varying degrees have been threads of love and acceptance that have supported me through a lot of ups and downs. In each of these groups I have experienced a very deep sense of belonging that included the freedom to truly be myself.
What is becoming clearer to me day by day is that I don’t really know where I belong anymore. Oh I still feel in all of these groups and many more that I can be myself, and that my journey is always seen as important by others. I still feel a great deal of love pouring forth from tons of people supporting and loving me. I still experience people welcoming me and wanting to spend time with me. I even am increasingly feeling fairly settled and content with portions my life.
But there is also a very real thread of my reality that the very places I’ve spent the most time and have felt most deeply connected to – specifically at Avalon and with my closest family and friends – now feel just a little off most of the time. It’s as if I’m there but not there, looking into the party through a window from the outside. Some days it feels very off and disconnected from me, leaving me with feelings of “I just don’t fit here anymore. This isn’t where I belong.”
I still want to belong in those places that have been home for me. I want to feel like I fit there. I try to do the same things I used to do that brought me such great joy. Some are good, lifting my spirits and easing my heart. These I allow myself to rest in loving the feelings of contentment that flow through me. Other things feel like nails on a chalkboard and leave me cringing and wanting to flee as far away as possible. During these times I realize I need to rethink my life, structuring it new ways.
The biggest change isn’t the communities and groups I am part of. The biggest, most mysterious change is me. I don’t feel I belong because in many ways I don’t anymore. I am not the same person I was 15 months ago. In many ways I really did burn to ashes like a phoenix. As I am reborn from these ashes some of the basic, core parts of me remain but there is much that is new or will be new.
I find it challenging to be patient with myself as I am reborn. It’s very, very uncomfortable to feel like I might not belong in some places in the same ways anymore. My fear that maybe I don’t belong at all in communities I’ve loved for years wakes me up shaking at night. When I give into the fear I go to a very dark place.
Thankfully, some very wise folks have caught me in some “I don’t belong” spinouts lately. Seemingly out of nowhere these spinouts have left me stunned and crying as words just fly out of mouth. These women have gently and bravely given me the messages “Yes you, as you were before, don’t belong anymore. Because you are a new you. And it’s okay to be figuring out where and how you fit now. We still want you here with us. You do still belong here; you’re just learning in a new way in how you belong. And that is okay!”
To be able to speak in shaking, trembling and terrified words of my sadness over feeling I don’t belong at the places and with the people I most love is a deeply powerful thing for me. It’s speaking my deepest fears out loud to someone and having them say “it’s okay. You will find a new way.” that is freeing me to keep step by step inch my way forward to a newly created life, a newly created me.
I may not know where I feel like I belong. But I am deeply, profoundly grateful that there are others in my life who say with words and actions, we love you and want you to be part of us in whatever way you can. What a gift that is to me!