Longing for Belonging

Longing for Belonging

Ever since I was a child, I’ve searched for my true family, my tribe, my place in the world. I’ve yearned for a loving fortress to protect me from harm, and a place where I could find safety and sustenance. I’ve had many relationships, friendships, and families to which I could turn. But, because I didn’t understand the nature of life, I was blown around like tumbleweed, a woman without a safe haven. When my son and his wife estranged me, I was completely unmoored. I kept clinging to the hope of reclaiming an honored place in my family. I searched everywhere for comfort. Finally, out of desperation, I looked within, to all the levels of my being that called out for healing.

Our culture is obsessed with “family.” Our society revolves around the nuclear family, which can offer an insulated, self-important, wholesome and solid sense of belonging. I’ve heard it said many times that “Family is everything.” When my mother-in-law was hospitalized shortly before her death at 97, she was lovingly surrounded by her grown kids and grandkids. Her roommate was an old woman, sick and alone. At one point, my mother-in-law turned to her roommate and said, “I’m so lucky, because I have family.” She meant no harm, she was simply expressing her love for her kids. But I felt very sad for the poor woman who was alone.

Talk of family is often a trigger for me. It seems that family is glorified: holidays revolve around family as do religions, neighborhoods, discounts, schools, even greeting cards. While I’m certainly not denigrating “family,” I do wonder where someone who has been estranged, abused, neglected, and mistreated by family is supposed to turn.

The truth is that belonging to any system, group, family, tribe, cult, team, class, or party is always temporary and tenuous. Life is fleeting and so are families and organizations. People may hurt you, anger you, leave you, move away, ghost you, have a change of heart, get ill, or die. There is no permanent situation; everything dissolves. We tend to believe that our families and relationships are forever and reliable and we dread the loss of these relationships. Now, whenever I see someone I love, I celebrate and cherish them because I know that one day we will have to say good-bye.

So, where is my family? Where do I belong? Where is my home, my fortress, my safe place? My home is and always has been right here, in my own being. I belong to everything and nothing; to everyone and no-one. I belong to this earth, to the sky above and to the dirt beneath my feet. I belong to the critters – human and otherwise – that flow in and out of my life, like birds that fly overhead with ease and grace. I work on being balanced in all things and I no longer push or force anything. I’m content with who I am, what I’ve accomplished and how deeply I have loved.

Things are the way they are and knowing this, accepting this, finally feels like  home.