On the way
As with most letters to you, this one too starts early in the morning. I’m sitting on the yoga mat in the living room, between the fireplace on my right and the coffee table on my left. I’m facing the windows and I watch as a cloud shaped like a warrior on horseback drifts into sight. I’m impressed by how low the rider is bent over his horse and how the two appear as one as they ride steadily across the sky and disappear from view. I wonder where they’re headed and what they’re chasing, and on the heels of that thought, I wonder what it means to leave some place and what it means to belong, though those two - to leave and to belong- are not necessarily opposites.
What does the word belonging mean to you? How does it feel in your body? Who do you belong to? Is belonging the place we arrive at the end of a journey? Or, does belonging help us better navigate the journey? Is it a byproduct, destination, or both?
Belonging is a complex idea, and the subject of both poetry1 and research2, but at its simplest, I understand it as being me, and in the presence of you. Belonging asks me to allow myself to be seen, and for you, to hold space and to see. It’s both something I do for myself, and we do for each other. I can talk or think myself into belonging, but we both know that belonging is a visceral feeling. It shows up as not needing to remind yourself that you belong.
I write about journeys, but sometimes, I think what I am really writing about is belonging, and the different ways we get there. And one of the ways I have experienced belonging to myself is as a reclamation.
I wrote a lot as a child and young teenager, but I stopped once I got to college. Then, nearly two decades later, I heard about blogging and looked it up. It seemed easy enough, and something in me wondered what it would be like to write again. Perhaps what I was really asking was can I allow myself to be seen again. Because that’s what the intervening years felt like, a kind of hiding. I started writing on the internet in 2008. I had a blog called Once Upon A Tea Time. I loved the name, the act of writing, and of sharing it with others. I wrote about the things that fascinated me: tea, teatime, home, and interior design. My mother and my sister were my first readers and they faithfully left supportive comments. I remember feeling a kind of giddy joy, disproportionate to my writing skill and blog audience size. It was as though something that belonged to me was now returned to me, a piece of myself, and I was a little more whole.
This is, of course, only a small part of the belonging story, but it’s important because we often fixate on the destination/arrival moment of a journey and forget that setting off on a journey changes you.
Dear Reader, I’d love to know how you’ve experienced belonging.
Until next time,
P.S. I have updated my About page and would love for you to take a look.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.” - Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
I think these might be the most powerful lines on belonging.
“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 a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone