Saturday, March 01, 2008


I heard this song just now and for some reason it brought tears to my eyes. It's from the song Head over Heels by Switchfoot, a Christian rock band.

In this life you're the one place I call home
In this life you're the feeling I belong
In this life you're the flower and the thorn
You're everything that's fair in love and war
In love and war

And I got to thinking about belonging, and how much I seek it. How much we all seek it really, and how much even falling in love is just what we believe to be total acceptance and love of who we are (and why falling out of love can be so distressing). People get involved in crazy things like cults and gangs because of a sense of belonging. And people stay in a church when they feel they belong and are greeted warmly. Our pastor once said that after a few weeks, people typically either stay at or leave a new church based on whether they have met a small group of people they connect with.

I have struggled with belonging all my life. My mom was separated from my dad when she got pregnant. I was not planned or wanted. Mom always told me she "wanted a boy and a girl" and now she had that, but I have to believe that finding out about my pending birth was not a time of joy but marked with incredible turmoil and strife of heart and mind. My parents got back together for a year or so, then divorced. My brother so far as I can tell, always resented the new baby sister - me. Dad has said he's competed with me since I was little. He never wanted me around as far as I remember. He told me I broke his toys. In the court hearing (I have the transcript) he told the Judge he hated me, didn't want to live with me, and hoped the Judge would separate us. This was the 1970s and they rarely separated siblings, or gave custody to the dad for that matter, but they did. So after dad won custody when I was 8 my brother and I grew up separated. To whom did I belong?

In my childhood, I moved probably 10 or 12 times growing up, never living anywhere more than 3 years. I was incredibly shy when I was young, and it took a lot to meet new friends. And as soon as I did, within one year to three, I would be torn away from them again. Twice in my life, moving was sudden; one day I'm there and the next I was moving away. I learned to make friends relatively easily but always tried to guard my heart so that when I had to leave it wouldn't hurt too much. It never worked. Moving always ripped my heart out.

I was never a "popular" kid in school. I was teased for one thing or another. And unlike a lot of kids in high school I never had a boyfriend. I dated a couple of boys and had one longer-term boyfriend but he was in the Navy but there was no real belonging like you find in a relationship or close friendship. I was always longing for, not belonging. I made friends but it wasn't until high school I finally made a "best friend." She probably saved my life by being there, because by then I'd started a pretty self-destructive path, and I know for a fact she protected me from some things. And today, I treasure my friends past and present above all things and as they can attest, those who I connected with and who showed me kindness, I keep in touch with them and I'd go to the ends of the earth for them. Belonging.

Friendships are probably the only way I've ever felt true belonging. I love both of my parents deeply, in different ways, but I never felt I belonged with them. I know that some of the loss and the longing and the strife of my family history can be called "story" - as author Debbie Ford and some others call it. Two people can experience the same thing and one can find gratitude and the other rejection and pain and we can shape the days of our life by these defining events instead of living beyond them. In my life story, with all its insanity and loss - of innocence of stability of family of life of love of self - belonging was the thing I wanted, needed, longed for. Don't we all want to connect with others who love deeply and care genuinely and forgive and are true and honest and think that we are awesome and amazing? We all want to be liked. We want to belong.

There's only one thing I've found in my life that means belonging besides my friendships. That is Jesus Christ and the love of God. What that means to me, truly in the deepest part of my heart and soul, is that I am loved and accepted for who I am. I am absolutely perfect in His eyes even in my vast imperfection. I can have no friends, be in prison, be utterly alone or despised by humankind, and He would still love me. Despite all the sins or mistakes I've made throughout my life and even that I will make in the future - all the people I've hurt and all the foolish things I've said and done and all the pain I've caused others and myself, I am adored. I belong. I belong to Jesus Christ.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)


Brian Shmaefsky said...


Wow. I wish I knew how to respond to this latest entry. I somewhat know what you feel. It is amazing how you progressed from a "misfit" to such an intriguing person. I grew up learning not to trust people. Yes, "hearts" are fragile things and I remember being surrounded by people who closed off their hearts and learned how to open the hearts of others for mere exploitation. It is funny how over time we grow in one aspect of life, yet we remain hovering in other parts.


Hey Brian - just that you responded at all is enough - thanks for reading and commenting. :) I love comments! I fit in differently in different places I lived you know, and at times learned how to be a chameleon, fitting into different groups. I am learning to be myself, finally. :) Which I always was inside, but you know... it's easier when you're new to try to fit in. My dad in particular (and soemwhat my mom) did always teach me that all people are the same on the inside and to love people no matter who they were. That didn't eliminate the need to feel "accepted" but it help me accept others no matter what they looked like or what crowd - that was all irrelevant. I just like nice people :)

Sharon Guynup said...

Thank you for this soulful, honest post. We all want to fit in, be loved, be part of a community--it's a basic human need.

I look forward to reading the entire memoir one day!