Longing to Belong



I was afraid. Fear crept in, silently, before I even realized it, feeling like the fog in the famous Carl Sandburg poem:


The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches . . .

Alone in the fog, all I could feel was a profound sense of longing for a sense of community; to belong to something larger than me; to be connected; to be made whole; to be safe. A longing to belong.


I kept telling myself the fear would pass, but it sat silently on its haunches, watching me. Over and over again, I prayed my latest prayer—Let be. Let go. Let in.—hoping it would somehow release the fear, and the fog would roll away as silently as it rolled in. But fear sat stubbornly on its haunches and continued watching me.

All I could think about was finding a way to let go of the fear holding me in place. I was stuck, though I desperately needed to move on with my life. Somehow, I just had to let it go.


Having just finished a project involving research on faith, an Alan Watts quote sat looking up at me from a pile of papers on my desk. The synchronicity was not to be missed.


Belief clings, but faith lets go.


Belief clings. Was I clinging to fear or was fear clinging to me? Faith lets go. But how?


Just last week, musing about stories and compassion, I had written:


Stories and compassion. A seemingly unlikely combination. Stories. Our stories. The stories we tell ourselves. The very stories that we change over time.

There it was in my own words. The stories we tell ourselves. The very stories that change over time.


What story was I telling myself? What story was I clinging to? What story filled me with the desperate need to belong to something larger than me? What was I afraid of?


I didn’t really want to know the answers. The truth hurts.


Sitting alone in the dark, I worked up the courage to give voice to my fear. I whispered it, the story that I was telling myself, the story of who I thought I was. As I heard my own voice narrate the story, it felt completely foreign, like it didn’t belong to me, it belonged to someone I thought I was.


I am a strong and independent woman living on my own. I am proud of my independence and my accomplishments. Just maybe too proud to admit, even to myself, that I am lonely, let alone becoming increasingly more afraid of my own aloneness. I was telling myself I was alone and was going to remain alone for the rest of my life—and that was ok. I was telling myself I would likely never again have love in my life—and that was ok. I was telling myself I didn’t need connection, I could keep myself safe and whole—and that was ok.


As I heard my story, in my own words, I knew that its wasn’t ok, it would never be ok, and most of all, it didn’t feel ok. The stories we tell ourselves . . .


The truth shall set you free.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. —Rumi


The stories I was telling myself, the beliefs about myself that were woven into these stories, were the very barriers that held me in place, feeding my fear.


The stories we tell ourselves can be painful, but we need to be honest with ourselves and listen to our own stories, because at some point, we outgrow them. At some point they no longer serve us, especially not who we are becoming. As the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, the snake which cannot shed its skin must die. As we change, we need to shed our old stories, as painful as that can be, or die being stuck in place. We need to grow into our new stories.

For day by day, in every way, we are getting better and better. Day by day, in every way, we are worthy of love. And day by day, in every way, we deserve our own love—self-love. A blessing to remember.


—Robin










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