It is night and I’m standing beneath a star-filled sky having just completed some prayers and offerings with two other ritualists. They are standing close to one another, heads together, speaking quietly.
I see this, noticing the much wider span of distance between the two of them and myself. My body begins to contract, an old pattern of outsider syndrome and ‘you don’t belong’ rising up within me.
I want to back even further away, to just walk away. I am ashamed for feeling left out and for being hurt by how much closer to each other they are than to me (both literally and seemingly relationally).
Simultaneously, I want them to notice I’m excluded and to reach out to me with love and sincere desire for me to join them. I want them to offer me belonging.
In the same moment…
I remember being a young girl, hanging out with some slightly older cousins. They were laughing, talking, playing together. I am on the edge of their play, not really a part of it but pretending to be through proximity.
They decide to go for a walk and I follow along behind, not knowing what else to do, hoping one of them will notice me and invite me into their happiness. Eventually, someone does look back, sees me and, with exasperation, asks me to ‘come on and catch up.’
I have been invited to be with them and yet, I’m acutely aware of the exasperation in the other girl’s voice. I knew she was inviting me to join because she was ‘supposed to’ not because she really wanted to.
The shame of this knowing along with hatred of myself for having lingered behind waiting for an invitation fills my body and I become even more quiet, distant, and subdued. I am now both a part of and apart from the others and somehow this feels even worse than not being invited at all.
Also, in the same moment…
It is also in this instance that my ancestors speak saying, without equivocation: “belonging is a choice”.
Belonging is a choice?
When I sat down to write this post, I hesitated. I don’t want to dismiss the very real lived experience many of us have of not belonging. Of feeling removed from or outside of the bodies, families, communities, or cultures we were born into or live in currently.
This is a common theme with my clients – many experience a deep sense of outsider syndrome and of ‘not belonging’ that has been a constant their entire lives. If one of my clients were to share with me this core wound of ‘not belonging’ and I were to say to them ‘belonging is a choice’ they’d likely not respond well to that.
If you would have told me, even a month ago, that belonging is a choice, I likely wouldn’t have appreciated it either. I also have too many lived experiences of feeling/being the outsider to point to as proof of lack of choice. There’s no way, in the past, I could have simply ‘chosen’ to belong.
And yet, I feel the truth of it, that at some point along the healing journey, belonging does become a choice.
Choosing to belong.
When my ancestors told me ‘belonging is a choice’ I was able to take it in.
I felt the truth of it and saw that I did have a choice to make. I could follow my old pattern of holding myself back, of waiting for others to include me, to tell me I belonged.
OR, I could receive that deep felt-sense of belonging flowing to me from my ancestors, from the earth, from the night sky and the stars, and step forward from that knowing.
I make my decision, choosing to belong. With a smile, I step towards the other two. They notice me, and turn with smiles.
Steps along the way to belonging.
Much has transpired for me to arrive at the point of being able to hear ‘belonging is a choice’. In fact, choosing to belong while with other humans is the most recent of many steps.
Connecting with my ancestors was the first.
They claimed me as their granddaughter fiercely, lovingly, completely. They imparted to me, time and time again, a felt sense of belonging – to them, yes. Also, through them, to the wider web of life. They imbued within me a deep sense of belonging as well to the earth, to the waters, to the stars, to the trees.
As I deepened into relationship with them, they taught me to listen.
As I learned to listen, to make offerings and prayers, to give my tears to the earth and the trees, I heard/felt an echo-back from the other-than-humans… an echo back of love and belonging. A whisper of ‘you are also one of us; you belong with us.’ I could feel their love for me; in nature, with my ancestors at my side, I belonged.
Choosing to belong with humans.
It has taken much longer to trust myself and my ancestors enough to choose to embody belonging while with other humans.
In truth, it will likely be a choice I’ll need to make over and over and over until the end of my incarnate days. And yet, with the wound of not-belonging beneath so much pain and violence, I’m not sure there is any choice more important to make.
So, I choose to belong.
I choose to belong here, now, in all the messy glory of this time of unparalleled unraveling and, perhaps, if we survive the unraveling, a great and magnificent reweaving.
Like the trees, the waters, the bees, the stars, I have a place; I belong. As do you.
Enrollment is again open for my 6-month Ancestral Healing/Mentoring Circle.
As I mention above, coming into direct relationship with my well ancestors (and seeking to bring healing to those not-yet-well), has been pivotal on my own path of choosing to belong. This circle offers the opportunity for you to as well.