The Pacific Ocean is small compared to the size of what I don’t know.

However, what I do know is that belonging is about the most important thing for a human being. Little kids know it, and are completely unabashed about it; they totally know they need to be with people, be in a group, be together with others. As adults, we often try to be cool and not look like we need to belong. Yet we do.

How we do that belonging thing is by hanging out with like-minded, and in many cases, like-hearted people. Some people are born into a bunch of folks like that, and some people not, so then it’s our mission to find them. Like-minded is fairly easy: talking about ideas and politics and workplace issues is pretty safe, and there is a sense of belonging there, even if it is temporary.

Although it was always an undercurrent in me, I didn’t recognize the like-hearted part until I grew up. Like way up: age 50! Like-hearted is where the life is, where the soul is.

Belonging is telling and listening to stories. Stories are what make us human and show us how to make sense of the world. They remind us how others have walked these paths before us. Stories allow us to validate who we are by telling our anecdotes, triumphs, and not-so-much’s. The not-so-much’s were painful or embarrassing or sad but now that they’re past, they’re funny. And the source of our wisdom.

I’ve asked before, “Why do we come to an open mic like this?”
Yes, dreams are part of it. Being brave, trying something new, pushing our boundaries, perfecting our craft, getting some feedback, watching to see what happens next. There are as many reasons to be here as there are people in the seats.

Yet I’m tellin’ ya, it’s about belonging somewhere we value. Being validated. Being recognized.
And when that happens, having something inside me clink into place that says, “Oh yeah, I matter.”

(Photo by Mary Dessein)

Getting in my way

Clouds over Washington
Photo By Mary Dessein

What a concept – things I say and do which sabotage the goals I proclaim to have. Most of the time, I don’t see these obstacles as self-erected: not allowing enough time for traffic; trying to squeeze too many tasks in before I leave; saying yes to others’ requests when I need to say no; procrastinating; minimizing the negative consequences; or the ever useful tactic of blaming people, places or things for my problems.

Another concept: getting out of my own way! I watch amazing fiddler, Geoffrey Castle, go non-stop in perfecting his craft; insightful, compelling writer, Stephanie Kallos, follow her intuition in draft after draft of a novel; master storyteller, Elizabeth Ellis, perform, write, and teach with such generosity while she travels back and forth across the country; and dynamic writer and teacher, Bill Kenower, come alive when talking about writing. Passion. Belief. Determination?

At a luncheon recently, I heard a peer say they didn’t know what else to do besides what they were doing. Is that fear leaning against the door of opportunity? If so, how do I look inside myself to sort out what is really important to me and how to get there? Get there from the safe, known, perhaps mediocre, place of here?
A friend and I were talking about dreams. His was to work at a job he enjoys and is well-trained for in Hawaii. Seemed feasible and fabulous to me. “Oh no, I’ll never get to do that,” he said. His answer to why not was vague and the conversation shifted to something else. Are we back to fear again?                                                                                                                               Do I put things in my own way so I don’t have to even approach failure or disappointment – easily two of life’s more profound teachers. Have I put the illusion of safety between me and what will truly fulfill me?