Belonging is not necessarily geographical.
I recall leaving the place of my birth as a young father and husband, to emigrate to the farthest point on the globe. With no friends to greet my arrival, no home or financial security, no real understanding of what lay ahead; I was searching for a place to truly belong. As the plane flew over the city I was to make my new home, I remember turning to my wife and saying “It just feels like I belong”. She too shared my sentiment and so it was.
I look back over that point in my life almost daily and can truly say, belonging is not confined to where you are, but where you should be.
We will never satisfy the outward yearning without fulfilling the inward purpose.
I believe life and the life lived, has a way of shaping our values system. Perspective shifts in a tragedy. Mortality has a significant influence on the choice of path we tread. One only needs to be exposed to an uncontrollable tragedy to gain further perspective on what counts in life. Visit the cancer ward or Accident and Emergency department to become an instant philosopher and adjudicator of life. “Many of us know the cost of everything but the value of nothing” – Oscar Wilde.
When the chips are down, we rightly define the value of a day. It often takes hard times to correct the compass of our life.
I spent the early part of my life avoiding difficulties and challenges as one would avoid the bubonic plague, these days I am more philosophical about the lesson to be learned through it. We are born with an inbuilt compass for life, but also a free will that activates its use.
“By building relations we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier”. Susan Lieberman
As a young boy of eleven, I recall going away from home to a camp with my local St Johns Ambulance Brigade Band, of which I was a member. It was horrible! Hundreds of kids running riot and living in tents like drowned rats as the rain never ceased to hose down. So wet were the conditions that the palettes upon the floors would begin to float during the night. I hated every moment of it (and all forms of camping to this day). After three days, I literally escaped by thumbing a lift and navigating the 80 mile trip home. Perhaps one the most tender moments in my life was arriving at the family home and on entry seeing my mum at the stove cooking the evening meal. The incredible smells and sense of warmth upon my face as I walked through the door will remain etched on my mind and with me all my life. I was home. I was where I belonged.
Gone were the negative experiences of the past few days and quite frankly it had little to do with geography although it did include it. As an eleven year old boy, my sense of belonging was connected to those whom I loved and whom loved me.
"Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging". Alexander Theroux
"The feeling of not belonging, of not being entirely worthy, of being sometimes hostage to your own sensibilities; Those things speak to me very personally". Anthony Minghella
Our identity is often intrinsically linked to performance and a sense of being. In the country of Wales (part of the United Kingdom), It was part of folk culture that what a person did as a job was reflected in the person’s name. Terms such as: Owen the coal, (coal merchant) Jones the meat, (butcher) Gareth the death (undertaker). A persons being was linked to their doing, and so it is today. Often ones worth is ascribed to what one possesses.
If one defines ones persona by external factors and worldly trappings, one is often exposed to continual redefinition as these things change. Change in itself is not a bad thing, (and in fact is the only constant we have in life) but in the context of this article, can serve to heighten our vulnerability, to the security found in belonging.
As a coach, I choose to use the balance model of coaching. Life is all about balance and one only needs to live life out of kilter to experience this principle first hand. If we allow external influences to define our inner values, we build our character on the shifting sands of change. Every generation brings with it, its re-defined culture and values system. In the 1920’S almost every male wore a hat in public and women rarely smoked. The community of the time regulated its culture. Today’s community too, is regulated by the change in public opinion, and unless one has personally defined one’s own set of values, one will be influenced to adopt or adapt to the culture of the day. It takes more courage to stand for something than it does to fall for anything.
Perhaps the single most empowering thought that has shaped my life and lifestyle to date has been the unwillingness to arrive at life’s end with regrets. Regret is a powerful force and a waste of precious energy and resourcefulness. Regret is pure negative energy and paralyzes us to live a life excluded from the possibilities of what could have been.
“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind”. C. S. Lewis
In part two of this blog I wills share some fundamental tools that will help you define your place of belonging.