A Sense of Un-Belonging
Am I to be forever on the outside looking in? It has become a place – a feeling – so familiar, that I now fear the very thing I seek. I carry it with me and yet it doesn’t have form, this nebulous thing; I cannot grasp it, and yet I can feel it’s elusiveness. I have looked for it in my home, work, relationships and among my things. I have few items from my family home – they should evoke a warmth of feeling, a welcome symbol of my belonging somewhere but I find none, only a physical ache for something lost – no for something I’m yet to experience: an ongoing penance for daring to be here at all. It’s not my destiny, it is and always has been my reality, the outsider as one country became another and I learned to count the number of schools in different languages. Letters sent to best friends who’d formed new allegiances before the postmark had dried.
For a moment, I felt I belonged to something or someone, I wasn’t sure. It was a feeling unfamiliar despite my one score year and ten. It was only later with divorce papers in hand that I realised I hadn’t belonged at all, I’d wanted it so much that I believed for a while only to discover I’d found something different, an identity that didn’t even begin to fill the void. I’m trapped in this waiting game, on the outside while everyone else is within, strangely similar to my childhood punishment of being left out in the hallway while the rest of the family were in the sitting room with the door firmly closed.
And so I find myself on the outer edge of others’ comfort zones, kept in some kind of friendly exile as they perceive my differences. Or perhaps it is I who perceive them, me that does not know how to fit in. The roots of belonging are established in childhood and strengthen as we mature. If for some reason this fails to happen, I have come to accept, at least for me, that it will never do so. A sapling starved of essential nourishment, continuously uprooted and replanted in new territory every few years will struggle to thrive, it’s energy channelled into mere survival, unable to blossom or reach it’s full potential as a mature tree. It will never have the stability of it’s contemporaries, it’s roots exhausted by constant disturbance have little strength to weather the next storm.
Unlike the tree, I can choose my environment and find shelter from stormy weather and in the calm of my simple life I can thrive and flourish, untethered by my un-belonging, abiding by society’s rules but unbound by it’s conventions. There is a freedom to this existence from which I can emerge at my choosing. In this existence I can create my own place unrestrained by outside expectation and dictates. I’ve ceased to seek this thing called belonging – the need, the void is still there but I have learned to carry it not as a burden but like a warm coat. There is now a comfort in not belonging, a familiarity I would miss. I can finally embrace being on the outside looking in, not in judgement but with a welcome sense of reflective clarity that is borne by detachment as a gift. These are the desired nutrients for the flourishing of creativity and unfettered freedom to blossom.
Acrylic on Canvas 2014 Rebecca Pells
Thanks for the follow, Rebecca. I recognise your sense of unbelonging. It’s a useful place from which to create?
Hi Tish. It’s taken me a long time to realise it but yes I think it is. You are relieved from the obligations and inevitable restraint that ‘fitting in’ requires in favour of the freedom to be a little different!
I wish I could let go of the desire to belong. But here I am at 54, still wanting the sense of security that belonging brings.
I believe that even when we don’t belong to the society at large, or to a conventional family, we can still find a context in which we learn, provide, and find and give comfort to our surroundings. It is possible to exist alone. Many of us know a sort of existential loneliness… And there are the analogies of the black sheep, the lone wolf. But the human being is at its core a social animal. I’ve known loneliness. I’ve known ‘being different’. And still, I seek out the warmth of companionship, and find it readily available,,, even if in unconventional circles.
Thank you for your insightful comments Shimon. I feel a freedom in being alone but yes I often seek out and enjoy the company of others no longer feeling the need to change to fit in. Perhaps it is an acceptance of self that is important rather than the acceptance of others which is so often sought.
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