The House of Not Belonging

December 2, 2017

 

 

'This is the temple of my adult aloneness and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life. There is no house like the house of belonging.' - David Whyte


I recently returned to the place of my birth where I spent, with the exception of a brief stint in France, the first 22 years of my life.  It is a beautiful, much coveted location in England with stunning poetic landscapes. People here appear to have sprouted directly from the earth, solidly rooted in wellington boots with hands made to forge castles, Yorkshire puddings and everything hardy and hearty in between.  It is a place rich in tradition, history and culture. In short it is wonderful, and I have never felt a sense of belonging here a single day of my life.

I've always, mostly unconsciously, believed that some enormous cosmic mistake occurred the day I landed here.  My papers were misplaced, the stork croaked mid-flight, the Matrix glitched.  Planet Earth, never mind Yorkshire has always felt like a giant geographical mishap on my part and I've been trying to correct my course for as long as I can remember. I've travelled and lived all over the place trying to find my true 'home,' and the conclusion I've reached, finally, and with inexpressible relief, is that I do not belong in Yorkshire, London, Paris, New York, Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara, or anywhere else that I've lived or travelled to. I am very much supposed to be here, and by here I mean the planet, but I am a visiting tourist. I do not hail from here, nor do I belong here. Big difference.  And while some places may feel more comfortable for me than others, it is only because they support what I need at that time for my growth and evolution. The homesickness I've always felt, I conclude, is spiritual not geographical.  


So why this obsession with belonging?  Ownership is a big deal for us humans.  We like to belong to people, places and things, and for people, places and things to belong to us.  If only it wasn't for those pesky things such as death, earthquakes, fire and all manner of natural disasters and endings reminding us of the reality of impermanence.  We belligerently insist however, despite all evidence that should dissuade even the most moderately sane among us, to invest all of our security into things that we know will at some point fail or leave.

 

And the big problem with the kind of belonging that requires you to find home in a person, place or thing is the sky-high price. The un-payable price of an unchanging state of being.  Because what fits today, may not fit tomorrow, and we don't all evolve at the same pace or in the same direction.  Not feeling like you fit is only a problem if you believe that the labels by which identify ourselves are the things that make us fit. Trying too hard to fit by finding people or places who match our labels narrows our thinking and limits our freedom to change our minds.  

 

I love England, but it in no way reflects the entirety of who I am. Nor does any other country in the world. In the end I found a place thousands of miles from here where the people walked, talked and quacked just like me.  It was my ugly duckling moment. And did I feel a sense of belonging, as if I'd finally arrived home?  I felt very happy, related to, understood and comfortable. I felt seen. My outsides finally matched my insides.  But a true sense of belonging I discovered, that is really in any meaningful or consistent way available to me, doesn't come from finding a place and people who feel like kin and then nestling in to the exclusion of those people and places who don't.  Because who I am is not the origin of my birth, the color of my skin, my definition of God, my sexuality, my lifestyle choices, my relationship status or whether I've given birth to a child or a book.  I am not my nationality or my surname.  I am not my spiritual beliefs or the language I speak.  Who I am, is a soul that landed here with a spiritual curriculum that requires certain circumstances for my learning. Circumstances that must be allowed to change and evolve if I am to be freely and without restriction able to change and evolve.  I must be free to discard labels, beliefs and locations as necessary.  Identifying with anything too rigidly will only stunt my growth.

If we determine who we are by our heritage, our race or nationality, we are by definition creating within us a separateness by saying what and who we are not. The exclusion of anybody or anything from my search for home creates a feeling that is the very opposite of belonging. And what if the circumstances of our birth were simply the starting point? A temporary landing place.  These origins can become both a hiding place and a prison.  An excuse and a place of retreat should the world outside of 'our people' or 'our place' prove to be too challenging or God forbid, different. Heaven help us if we feel misunderstood or unrelated to, or if aspects of our rigid egoic identities are rejected.  And perhaps there, most importantly is where we will find ourselves urged to dig deeper to find places of commonality and connection. Perhaps this is where we will find our true home, on foreign soil, whether that be geographic or otherwise, through the pursuit of unity through the integration of that which feels alien or uncomfortable or 'other.'

We all have a heart that beats, a desire for connection and for love and an insatiable need, whether we know it or not, for wholeness. We are infinitely more alike than different, no matter what our gender or heritage.  In fact at a cellular level we are more than 99% identical.  Talk about a sense of belonging.  I am just like you, no matter who you are, or where you come from. Rather than saying I am a British, caucasian female, I prefer to say I am a soul who, for the purposes of what I need to learn here, was born into a woman's body in England as my starting point. I belong to the human race, and the entire world, and then something beyond that.  There is no deeper sense of belonging.  The call to home is not a house, a nation, a group of people who agree with me about something, or even the closest relationships in my life. It's a call to my heart and the ultimate home from which we all hail, the home from which we are never truly separated.

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