I believe most of us want to belong.
at least i always have wanted to–desperately. to belong to something greater than my self. an inclusive environment where I matter and contribute. (in that order.)
ergo, I’ve tried–often in vain–to belong to a myriad of entities.
as a child, I tried to belong to the group of kids who dictated what we did at recess. that Never worked out.
I tried to belong to teams that didn’t want my enthusiasm on the field because it came with no apparent physical talent.
I was adopted into a family where I largely still do not belong–despite one longsuffering matriarch’s efforts.
I married into families that did not want me.
I joined a religious body as a child because and stayed with it almost 4 decades because I was told it would accept me.
in fact, most of my life I’ve been struggling to belong…to find inclusion and acceptance, always interpreting my exclusion as rejection.
as I reflect on this past week’s immersion in family–the one place where I belong unequivocally–it’s struck me that perhaps I have been trying too hard to belong in places where maybe I’m not meant to belong. And–perhaps most crucially–I may not perceive the acceptance of others because I have not always accepted myself.
I’ll admit: ever since I was a child, I’ve not been easy to accept. A traumatic early life (where I was scared and confused and God-knows what happened to me) and a severe case of ADHD caused me to be quite a handful. Sure, I read the most books in 1st grade but I also got the most spankings. I would go on to try and kiss my grade-school crush despite her resistance. (We’re great friends now). I ripped off my 2nd grade teacher’s toenail running to her in flight from some of my classmates who I’d no doubt been irritating on the playground. I broke my 5th grade teacher’s arm at the skating rink class party, probably for the same reason. I was pummeled mercilessly on the football field as a 6th grader and ridiculed by my brother (my legal adopted father) when I tried to play junior high football. I was ridiculed by the coaches when I tried to play basketball the next year. (it wasn’t a pretty sight.) And this doesn’t even count all the things I did to try and fit into a culture and a family with whom I had NOTHING in common–struggles too numerous for this blog.
I would go on to marry–3 times–to find acceptance. Though each marriage ended in divorce, one produced my sons and another yielded two more sons and a lifelong friend and partner.
I now realize I went into these relationships for the wrong reasons. The first time, her acceptance felt so good, so validating. The second I believed could save me. And the third promised me the love of a man I’d so greatly desired all my life.
but in all of these relationships–including the ones with my sons–I failed to really accept ME. I would go on to learn that I would be unable to accept any others’ acceptance without my own.
SO the day came when I decided to shed my mask and accept who I was born to be–every last bit of it, to my very core.
doing this was very costly.
it could have cost me my family, but it didn’t. (In fact, it only made it stronger.)
I voluntarily left the religious group I’d been a part of my entire life, as I watched the faux acceptance i’d grown comfortable with wane–not just for me but my family as well.
I lost many, many relationships. yet as they faded, I tapped more deeply into the inner strength I’d always encouraged the boys to find within themselves. In the process, I discovered that the price of “belonging” was not always worth what little benefits it promised and not all that desirous but that the value of accepting my Self was inestimable.
in retrospect, I must admit that I do find a great sense of belonging–from a few of those old grade school friends, within my career, with friends who did not let religion and judgment sever our relationship, within in my community, across the twitter-sphere, with my Creator, and within a large and vibrant family to which I gladly–and gratefully–belong.
I believe this is in large part because I simply chose–and willfully continue to CHOOSE–to accept myself. I do not do this perfectly by any means; yet I am resuming the pursuit of self-improvement and tapping into my potential to make the most of the days that lie ahead.
as I contemplate my desire to belong, I realize a fact that I’ve allowed to elude me for a long time: I already have an abundance of acceptance. this realization allows me to forgive others and let myself off the hook now and then.
once I’m “ok” with who Todd is created to be and IS, the more I can cultivate genuine acceptance, find true belonging, and accept my place and role in the Universe.
So: who wants to join my club?