(Reflections on life that were inspired by the book, “Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Yearning to Belong” by John O’Donohue)
Yearning to Belong – Part 1: Background Story
Read this quote, and tell me you didn’t just have an “ah-ha!” moment…
“The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives. Mostly, we do not need to make an issue of belonging. When we belong, we take it for granted. There is some innocent childlike side to the human heart that is always deeply hurt when we are excluded. Belonging suggests warmth, understanding, and embrace. No one was created for isolation. When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to fear and negativity. The sense of belonging keeps you in balance amidst the inner and outer immensities. The ancient and eternal values of human life—truth, unity, goodness, justice, beauty, and love are all statements of true belonging; they are also the secret intention and dream of human longing.”
How many of us are yearning to belong?
“When we belong, we take it for granted.” (EE)
Growing up, I was part of a close-knit homeschooling group. I had a family who truly looked out for one another, and friends who loved me in spite of my quirks. Home would be the place to gather or invite friends, especially those I felt might need to experience the love and generosity that I was constantly receiving. In my mind, I knew that I was blessed; but it wasn’t until I experienced isolation, that I fully knew just how blessed I had been.
At 19, my then, boyfriend and I got pregnant with our first child. Coming from a devout Catholic family, this news was devastating to my family and friends. Although all responded in love, there was a deep hurt that needed to be healed. I was still too wrapped up in my own emotions to fully sense the isolation that was already taking place, but it would not be long before it would start to take its toll.
“All the natural shelter and support around your presence is taken from you….Everything about you is telescoped into the single view of this one shameful thing. Everything else is forgotten. A kind of psychological murdering is done. The mystery of your life is reduced to that one thing. You become ‘a thing of shame.’ Shame dehumanizes a person.” (EE, p. 112)
My husband and I decided to get married while I was still pregnant. A decision that was truly based on our young love for one another and not just because I was pregnant. Two weeks after our son’s birth, we moved to my husband’s hometown – over 200 miles from my own family and childhood friends.
The first year was transitional as we grew in our knowledge of marriage, parenting, and life. Being in his hometown, my husband was able to continue to hang out with his friends, having them over and going out. I was glad that he was having fun, but part of me was also very jealous. I felt scared and alone. I was blessed to have gotten to know some of the girls that my husband grew up with, and to be able to stay in contact with a few of my college friends. It was so nice to be able to hang out with them more or less frequently, but then they would go back to their own lives and I would be alone again. It was a scary time, to be alone much of the time with a newborn in a new town….
And that’s how we began, very much in love, but with so much to learn.
Although there has been much growth over the years, there has always been one aspect to the cycle that keeps coming back – that of belonging. No matter how hard I tried, or felt like I was trying, I had never been able to get a sense of belonging. There have been moments when I can just taste the feeling – like I could start to feel like I belong again – then something happens or a friend moves, and I move back into the unstable state of belonginglessness.