The need to belong is part of the human genome. We all have a need to feel that we belong. I've been trying to understand this lately as the issue of belonging has been a major part of my life, or should I say not belonging. First of all, I am the odd duck, the one who never will fit into anyone's bell curve on any issue. I know that and I'm understanding it more and more, and I know also that that is ok. It is who I am and that's just fine, or so I'm told.
If I haven't shared it before, I lost my mother in a fire when I was not quite 5 years old. I actually watched the house burn and saw my father trying to get inside to rescue her. It was, of course, absolutely horrific. It was made more horrible by the fact that it happened nearly 60 years ago when only crazy people went to therapists. My father never recovered from the accident, but he also never acknowledged, I suspect even to himself, that he hadn't recovered. And absolutely nothing was done for either me or my younger sister. We were just told not to discuss it. It was only years later that I realized I felt I was responsible for the accident because I hadn't been able to keep my younger sister quiet enough when my mother was ill so my father had taken us to the beach and we came home to the fire.
That start to my life obviously changed our family forever. Add to that, that I am the ugly duckling, a late bloomer, and someone who has always seen the world through different lenses and it is easy to see (well now with 20-20 hindsight) how I've gotten where I now am. I tried to fix things for my father, who was a deeply wounded perfectionist. I was the good little girl who always tried to do what I was supposed to and tried to make his life easier. He did the best he could, but he left some major scarring, as I suppose all parents do one way or another. But since I was so different, I never fit his idea of what a daughter should be. I was always told I was the stupid one, the clumsy one, the ugly one, the one with not a single artistic bone in her body, etc. And the constant criticism left me seeking my merit in others, seeking approval, wanting desperately to belong.
So most of my life was spent attempting to conform in some way to my family and then society's expectations and standards. I did my level best to try to be what everyone else wanted. Thankfully, I was dismally unsuccessful at it all the way around. I was married, to the wrong guy, had two beautiful children, joined the PTA, etc., etc. In fact, it was all, except for the two beautiful children who are thankfully a major except, a lie. I didn't even figure out that I'm gay until I was 52! And again, now, I realize that I'm actually lucky that it was such a dismal failure or else I might never have started on the path I now am traveling, searching, excavating, trying to find the real me.
I had to hit rock bottom, losing everything that mattered to me, before I saw that my father was wrong. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, acting tough, pushing through, dealing with life at outrageous speeds and keeping frantically busy, all that simply doesn't work. And so now, alone except for my wonderful four footed companions, I am trying to find the real me and trying to learn that my way of looking at the world is different, yes, but wonderful, nonetheless. I have a fantastic therapist who is helping me a lot, but the work is still very difficult and at times overwhelming, no matter how necessary.
As I do this healing work internally, I am also completely rebuilding my home. As I discover who I am and what I want to do, I am changing my home to reflect that. My home is now a two room home with only one door (on the 1/2 bath) with wide open spaces and bright colors. I have yet to have someone walk into my yard and home who doesn't smile, and smile in a good way. They might say they would never want their home purple with brightly painted rooms, and maybe they wouldn't, but that doesn't mean that my way is wrong or defective or whatever. It is after all, my home, and I'm the only one who lives here, so I can now do it my way and that way is fine.
Still, the issue of belonging (remember that is supposed to be the topic here!) arises. I am alone. I don't fit anyone's bell curve. Many people find me an embarrassment, including my family who pretty much ignore or outright refuse contact. On my good days (and yes, I am by nature a melancholic person who battles to keep from sliding into depression--part of the artistic temperament I'm told) I realize that doesn't matter. I am who I am and people can either like it or not, that is their choice. However, it can also be incredibly lonely.
I'm working at finding kindred spirits and the closest I'm coming is in the artistic world, specifically that of poets, and haiku poets at that. I notice as I write my daily haiku following the prompt put out by NaHaiWriMo that my spin on the prompt is frequently completely different from the traditional or even other not so traditional responses. And truly, I do love my haiku and I'm learning more and more about the art. But at times, I wonder if my haiku would be more accepted if I were different. Then I realize I'm falling back into the same old trap--trying to please others so that I might feel as if I belong.
Even with my blog, I'm trying to write what I want, but also I have to admit, I write posts based on which of my previous posts garnered comments. That is again, falling into the trap of wanting to belong so desperately that I would do anything to get an outside "hug" so to speak, when it is my interior hugs I need to have. Developing compassion for myself, nurturing that small little girl inside me who never had a childhood (I wrote a haiku about that and in fact am planning a haiku memoir novella), helping her to feel safe, these are my tasks on my path now. And I'm hoping that if I can heal and develop my inner self and my inner strength, that true belonging will eventually happen. It isn't wrong to want to belong as that is part of the make-up of the human species, but I cannot abandon myself simply for a false sense of belonging. Been there, done that, for over 60 years. Now, at 65, I have to hope that I can still manage to sort this out.
Such are my thoughts on belonging, and I shall continue on this blog to post both personal and philosophical musings like this as well as remodel updates, which I'll also be doing today. Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.