Being & Belonging


Something that has been up for me for years, being somewhat of a preoccupation, is how I can be who I am while being in relationship with other people. Now you might say, of course you are yourself. Who else could you be? And of course you are in relationship with others, just look at your life. On the surface both would be true. However, I find that there is something much more interesting, and challenging, that resides below the surface of being and belonging when we are willing to look.

In the early years of life we were all 100% who we were as babies and young children. Quite literally, we knew nothing else other than being. Just being. Whatever that meant. In joy, sorrow, hunger, need, exhaustion, satisfaction, fear and trust. Then, the weighty and complicated importance of relationship began to take hold. We knew on a primal, basic, survival level, that we would not be OK without those around us, and that meant that we were bound to how they felt about us. Meaning that we had to do things to keep them interested in us, wanting us, willing to look out for us. And so, we began to make adjustments. A little here. A little there. A lot here. A lot there. In the process, we began to forget how to just be unto ourselves. Without negotiation, justification or distortion.

The need to belong began to take precedent over the need to be. And perhaps developmentally, this is as it should be. Who knows? What I do know though is that the loss of being able to just be takes its toll on all of us. For there is no authentic expression, no joy, no ease, no true fulfillment unless our lives are an expression of our truest Being. Simultaneously, there is no true belonging unless we are fully being ourselves. But this is a gamble that many of us would rather just not take.

When I was in the desert a couple of years ago, there was a small tree that symbolized the Christmas tree of my childhood. I spent one day placing little rocks underneath it that represented gifts that I so needed as a child, but never got. As you can imagine they were not things. The biggest gift of all that I gave to myself was that of the right to just be. It sounds simple. Maybe obvious even. But I will tell you, more than 2 years later I am still working on that one. And with more than fifty years on the planet, it has been a rare encounter to meet another person who allows themselves to just be.

It feels to me that while difficult to get to, there is no more noble effort than this. Than to devote ourselves to who we truly are and what it means to be with others from that place. Can you imagine what we would individually and collectively experience and be capable of if we all aimed for knowing who we really were and chose to belong from there?

If you want to check it out for yourself, watch your thoughts as you move through your day. How often do you allow yourself to be who you are, what you are, and where you are? Try making this a point of your existence, and then watch what happens.