• Jeanette Micallef

The Art of Belonging

What is belonging? We know it when we see it. We know it when we feel it.

More often, we know what it feels like not to have it.

I would venture a guess that 99.9% of folks reading this have had an experience of what it feels like to not belong. You may not feel belonging with your family, your peer group, or the world at large. It seems the older you get, the less you feel you belong. You have a falling-out with a group of friends that alters the way you interact forever after. You get married, get divorced, move, go to college. You make a life change that is good for you, and critical for your growth, and instead of it fostering more love and support, people drop off, drop out, or for whatever uncommunicated reason, can't deal with that change.

For the longest time (and I know I am not alone here) I thought that making those folks as happy as I possibly could despite living my life and walking my path (and often with the sacrifice of my own well-being) was the best way to keep the little bit of belonging I thought I had. I'd write letters, send gifts, make phone calls, connect on social media and like things they posted, but I couldn't feel it anymore. No one had uttered words of finality though, so we were still good, right?

Not really.

Not on either end, if we are all being truthful. People-pleasing becomes duty connected to a desperate longing for a thing so human, so normal, so real -- a true sense of belonging.

This line of thinking was all triggered for me by a podcast sent to me from a dear friend. We were both studying the Kabballah and had run into some of our old junk, things we were each trying to shift to better ourselves and to grow. This sense of what it is to not belong rose up like a Leviathan, out of the deep and swallowed my entire boat. I was like Jonah in the whale. Nowhere to go and nothing to do but take a good, hard look at my inner stuff.

That day, in the span of about an hour, four major issues came to the surface flying flags, blowing trumpets, and screaming at the tops of their lungs, "See? Proof! YOU DON'T BELONG!" You don't belong in your family. You don't belong in your friend group. You don't belong in your diverse group because you're not diverse enough, and you don't belong in your partnership. Talk about a kick in the head, or a series of them.

When you tell the Universe you want to grow and get beyond your stuff, it provides a means for you to do so.

The podcast I had listened to suggested turning the word belong into a verb as part of the shift. Declaring where I do belong, as an action. For example, "I belong myself to my body," was the first one she said. While the wording was awkward, it forced me to think about what I've said, instead of using lazy speech and missing the learning. So I thought, "What does it mean to belong myself to my body?"

As a Reiki Healer and energy worker, I know how very intent we are, as humans, on experiencing things outside of our bodies, or finding ways to distract ourselves from them. In many ways it is my job to help people bring themselves back into their bodies so they can hear them, love them, and heal them. This isn't just an individual experience. This is global. How out of touch with our bodies are we if we need to be reminded to wash our hands, cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze, and physically do things that protect others from illness?

My business coach, and dear friend, suggested I look up the etymology of the word belonging, and I put it off for a day thinking I already knew what it would say. This is the most harmful way ego shows up for me in my life, by the way -- not looking further because I think I know. So, I looked it up. This is exactly what it says:

mid-14c., "to go along with, properly relate to," from be- intensive prefix, + longen "to go," from Old English langian "pertain to, to go along with," which is of uncertain origin but perhaps related to the root of long (adj.). Senses of "be the property of" and "be a member of" first recorded late 14c. Cognate with Middle Dutch belanghen, Dutch belangen, German belangen. Replaced earlier Old English gelang, with completive prefix ge-.

To go along with. To be the property of. They felt like a brick in my soul. The first felt like inauthenticity fueled by people-pleasing, and the second like my role in corporate America for over 20 years. Do I really want the limitation of either people-pleasing in order to feel like I fit, or becoming property so that a fit is created by sheer force of will and the surgical removal of my autonomy? I want neither of those, and yet, my programming makes me feel like I have only those choices, and the heavy weight of dissatisfaction and hopelessness that come with them.

I decline.

No, thank you.

I have choice.

I am choosing my belonging from here on out. This is part of taking my power back -- the power I began handing others over 40 years ago -- the power of belonging to the only thing I can truly belong to, myself.

I am certain this lesson, for me, won't be just a "one and done". I am sure, like most things, it will shift and change and get easier bit by bit as I work on it. For now, I will set my energy on a new focus and creating my experiences around that -- awkward wording and all.

I belong myself to my own transformation.

I belong myself to my own spiritual growth.

I belong myself to the difference I am making in the world.

I belong myself to me.

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