I have been absent from writing for a little while. I never fret over such absences for a few reasons. First, I write for my own benefit. And, if I am to be brutally honest, the writing material that’s been flitting around in my brain over the last month or so has been pretty raw, pretty personal, and would put me at risk for further alienation from those around me. However, if I honestly write for my own benefit, I’m not sure why I care if others disagree or take offense to what I write. I’m still working through that one. A second reason that I don’t feel badly about my writing hiatuses is I know that few actually read what I write. Again, since I write for my own processing benefit, that doesn’t really bother me. Last night, as I was struggling through a somewhat intense panic attack, I started to think that I needed to write out some of my thoughts. My head is just too bogged down with the weight of pressing matters–both in my own life and in the world around me. So today, I decided that I need to get some of these thoughts out of my head so I can work through them as they flow off the tips of my fingers. I have never been hesitant to write how I feel, but this time, I find myself in that place of hesitancy. I’m sure there will be some who, if they read my words, will shake their heads in disapproval and even disagreement. As always, I am okay with that. I would welcome any opportunity to clarify myself and present evidence on my behalf if that is the case. Strange thing, though, is that most people just do the shaking of the head and never really seek to go deeper as to why I write what I write. That statement fits this post perfectly. As you can read, it is titled “Belong-‘ing'”…and that is something that, once again, has been plaguing my thoughts over the last few months.
A couple weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted a link about a conference for women that was scheduled for our area this coming fall. I had never heard of this particular conference so, like most modern-day-somewhat-technologically-savvy adults, I Googled it to get the scoop. The gist of the conference is that women were created for relationship. (This is a women’s conference so the website specified women–I don’t doubt that men are created for relationships as well) The website says, “Authentic relationships are key to a fulfilled life. We were made to engage each other.” The conference is named the “Belong Tour” and has a lineup of speakers that are well known in the Christian community.
Now, before I say anymore, I have to disclose the fact that I am not much of a conference person. I find them to be a lot of hype–something that gets you fired up for a while but eventually that fire starts to fade as real life is faced again. I have been to several conferences–both women’s and unisex–and also have a husband who has been to several men’s conferences. Each time, my above statement has played out as true. The hype lasts a little while, but it is soon forgotten as the pressures of life invade from all sides. I say this because I didn’t Google the conference with any interest in attending. I will admit, though, that I was curious given the name of the conference.
Belonging–it is something that every human being desires. No one (I think anyway) enjoys being in a group of people, whether that group be a few or many, and feeling like he or she does not belong there. It is uncomfortable and it wreaks havoc on one’s self worth to be the obvious “unwanted” person in the group. Yes, I say unwanted because I truly believe that to often be the case. Maybe not always, but often enough that the use of that word can be justified. I liken it to the new kid in a private school. (Yes, that was me at one point in my life) Friendships are already formed and the new person is viewed as an outsider, maybe even a threat in some ways. Will this new kid be better at ___________ than the reigning king or queen of that activity? Will the new kid wow teachers and other students to take over popularity? Most of my life I have not belonged when forced to be with groups of people. From being the new kid at a private high school to church situations, belonging has never been something I sensed as a quality of mine. When a lengthy bout with depression and illness is added to the equation, it only intensifies that sense of not belonging. Many say they want to walk the difficult road with you, but like Christian’s “friends” in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, when the road turns out to be longer than expected or more difficult than at first anticipated, the friends who pledged to walk the difficult road soon disappear. With these experiences shaping so much of how I think, perhaps you can understand why I laughed at the concept of a whole conference pushing the idea that we are created for authentic relationships and that said relationships are actually possible.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that it must be my own fault for not having such relationships, I will tell you that on many occasions I have tried. In fact, my husband and I were discussing this topic because of an e-mail we received from church. I know that often my thoughts are unique to me, and when that happens, I am the first to admit that I am probably wrong or overthinking something. But in this case, my husband agreed with me, saying that he is not sure we can find authentic relationships with other Christians. I have struggled even more with this since moving sixteen months ago. A recent Facebook post of mine garnered interest only from the friends I left behind in the town where we lived for twelve years. When I posted it, I told my husband that would probably be the case. We both smiled when that actually happened, but at the same time we were both somewhat frustrated and hurt. We agree that we have tried to build new relationships but our efforts were not reciprocated. Of course, people are busy. I know my husband has a busy schedule as well, but still, the truth is people make the time for what is important to them. I often feel like crap, but if one of my kids needs me, I give 125% effort to be there for them. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed and my energy level is depleted after the “work” of showering and getting dressed. It’s worth it to me, though, because I care about my kids and their spouses and my grandson enough to borrow energy from tomorrow to be used to help them with whatever they need.
I don’t know if I will ever really know what it is to belong anywhere. Every Sunday morning, I fight with myself to go to church, knowing that most likely I will not feel well and will see many I know with few conversations. I tell myself that I don’t go to church to socialize but rather to grow deeper in my walk with Christ. And even though I wholeheartedly believe that, there is still a slight sting each week as I leave with the feeling that I just don’t belong there.
A friend once told me that in reality, no follower of Christ “belongs” here since this world is not our home. I often remind myself of that fact and look forward to the day that the feeling of not belonging is gone–when I am done being locked up in the prison inside my own head and instead live in a place where I truly don’t matter–only God does. Until then, I think I’ll continue to pass on conferences that, although they mean well, simply reinforce the fact that I don’t belong. Buddy the Elf said it best as he contemplated jumping off the bridge into the Hudson River below: “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”
Note: I know there are a few people who will read this and think, “But I do want you around.” I know that–and I know who the few of you are. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my true friend.