Posted: February 2021
In thinking about this blog series, that I have wanted to write for months now, I found that there are just sooooo many things connected to the word BELONGING that I honestly started to drown a bit. Swimming through my head and heart, I realized that everything starts from here. In fact, all aspects of humanity’s survival and ‘thrival’ are deeply rooted in belonging. When I say “We Belong Here” out loud my body vibrates, my heart races and my eyes mist up. What about you? #sayit
Originally this writing project was about ‘women & girls belonging in running communities and endurance sports spaces. And yes, I will talk about that in Chapters 2 and 3; us feeling safe, seen, heard, and truly owning our place out there. But before that conversation (yes this is a two-way connection:) I have to address the fact that I can’t talk authentically about belonging in those outside places if we don’t first talk about people belonging in their own lives and bodies.
Be long. Belong. Belonging. Brene’ Brown says it best….
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and in standing alone. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires that you BE who YOU are.”
Truth- we all are looking for our place of belonging. We all move through life wondering and asking ourselves “where do we belong?” The very first place we experience a sense of belonging and an innate human thirst for wanting to belong is in our own family. Then we develop out into the external world. There too, with all of its harshness, judgment, systems, and tribal ways, we again search for belonging. Unfortunately, our experiences often can cause us to question our self-identity and value. For many of us one or both of these areas, our family unit or our relationships (to our body, our mind, to others) set us up for rejection instead of belonging. Then that emotion…rejection… causes us to look harder in the wrong places, drives us to change in order to fit in, and may even have us turn upon ourselves. In this series, I challenge you to join me in recalibrating our own true belonging. I know that we ALL belong here. My hope for you, me, and all of us together is that we can find freedom and love within ourselves so great that we radiate belonging. It is only truly possible for us to help others feel like they belong, to create communities that hold belonging at their center, to shift our broken society’s rejection culture, when we ourselves know that WE belong.
Here is my story of reclaiming belonging, once again, back into my own life.
First off let’s admit that families are complex organisms. As we each burst from our Mothers into the world screaming we instantly join Team Humanity, no need for tryouts. Before we joined that team we belonged inside, to only ourselves. We each also begin the fight for survival, though none of us in the exact same way. Some are safe, nurtured, fed, educated, loved, and accepted unconditionally into their family tribe. Others are not… in varying degrees. No two of us are raised the exact same nor have the same experiences that shape our view of ourselves and the world. Many of us do not feel like we belonged inside our own families, either birth or built family units or our religious family. That first sense of personal rejection leads to our first crisis in belonging. We tell ourselves we are different (sometimes using the words unloveable) and that to belong we must adapt to others ‘right’ ways, rather than embrace our own. Or sometimes we belong so strongly to our family identity that as we grow and become independent we have to go to battle. Forcing a detachment or rejection of sorts from the family unit to become our real selves, often leaving us feeling like we no longer belong. Between them and not knowing yet that being alone with you is where YOU BE COME. We may choose to join a team, a gang, or find a partner during this pivotal time of separation from our family in-between understanding where we belong in society as a whole.
My own parents, brother, and sister, all immigrated to America with one suitcase each. I was born right after they hit American soil. Yes, I won the freedom lottery. Before I could walk however we packed all our stuff into an old Ford station wagon and drove across America looking for ‘the dream.’ Our family unit was in search of belonging and I was being taught that belonging is out there…..somewhere. Moving every two years in search of ‘the dream’ I did not find belonging in family, school, sports, communities, or friendships. By high school, I learned the craft of creating my own belonging by forming a gang of girlfriends who became like sisters to me. Boyfriends, however, seemed to do everything opposite of providing belonging. Drugs, alcohol, risky behaviors, rejection from others and myself added to my lack of belonging. And so I searched on hoping that where I belonged was around the next corner in a job, a young marriage, a career peer group, maybe down the block? Nope.
Many years later, my own personal crisis of belonging expressed itself in the form of illness. My endless years of self-rejection and a dark bottomless pit of attempts to find where I belonged caused me to break. I know I am not alone here. So many of you know this feeling of not belonging in your own skin and have broken too. There is no shame or blame here, we just did not know the truth. Truth- belonging is at the core of our being and the lack of feeling like we belong in this world causes us to slowly die inside. At the age of 30, I decided I did not want to die. And so I began the journey home to belong once again to MYSELF.
Once I learned that belonging was INSIDE me, it was a game-changer. I did not have to undo all the past to move forward, I simply had to fully own my own body and life once again. I say simply, but you know that shit is hard work. It really is a daily spiritual practice and I had no tools or support but I did have understanding. My body was weak but my spirit became unbreakable. I knew that I could learn new ways just as easily as I could unlearn these old toxic behaviors. I knew I could also wake up the very next day and choose to seek out humans who knew how to create belonging and who supported my path in. I knew that there were humans in my life who saw my beauty, valued my gifts, and wanted me in their life. In short, I gave myself a do-over. I self-invested in my own physical, mental and spiritual health for the first time in my life- finally understanding that I would find belonging there. I gradually stopped rejecting myself and started to feel more like…well…me. Once I was fully MINE again my life was lit on FIRE. No person, place, or event made me feel like I did not belong there. I knew that not only could I, but actually I had to take all of me out into the world and show up, invited or not. I became an authentic partner, parent, leader, community member, and team player of humanity. After all, the world needed and wanted ME. Now more than ever our world is looking for you too.