NOTE: I am afraid I am still sick and in a lot of pain. I’ll be so happy when this bout of shingles is over with. Even though I’m on anti-viral meds, it is still sending out new “blooms” as I’ve come to call them–new branches of the wounding attacking my nerve endings. And every time that happens I have to deal with more pain. So, my life is revolving around trying to find comfort. I’m not always able to rise above it and create. So I’ve begun to re-post some of my favorite posts from the past, as I’m doing today. Those of you new to the blog will be reading them for the first time and I hope those of you who have read them before will find something new here.
Where Do You Belong?
I never fit in my family and my heart goes out to my poor mother who had this gangly, ungainly, iconoclastic tomboy for a daughter. I passionately questioned everything, rebelled always, embraced socialism (my father’s family had escaped communist Russia), and feminism, while protesting the war. I was born an artist and I think, by nature, most artists are different. We seem to be wired for the lives we must live in order to make our art.
I spent my childhood and, truth be told, a lot of my adult years feeling unacceptable, being different, although I seemed successful on the surface. I finally quit trying to push my square-peg self into the always-round hole but it took hemorrhaging to get me there. I needed something that dramatic because I was so clouded in my beliefs about who I was and what I wanted. But little by little I glimpsed me. I tasted my truth. I started to live, to be.
In her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarrisa Pinkola Estes tells the most heart-rending version of the Ugly Duckling story I’ve ever heard. This poor creature, a swan hatched in the nest of a duck, is alien from the very beginning. He is deemed ugly because he’s not like anybody else. He is picked on mercilessly until even his mother tires of defending him and he is forced to leave his home in a form of exile. He has nowhere to go. There is no place of nurture. He faces danger and even death as he moves from pond to pond just trying to survive.
The message he has received and internalized is there’s something wrong with HIM. He believes this will be true no matter how hard he tries to change it. The possibility he’s just fine exactly as he is, but has not yet found where he belongs, never crosses his mind; belonging is so utterly outside of his experience.
This is the way it was with me I think. I always assumed I was at fault for being different. It never occurred to me I was just out of place. On an unconscious level I bent and shape-shifted, trying to be one of them, endeavoring to please. It wasn’t so much that I denied my truth but, rather, I didn’t know it yet. Like the ugly duckling, I’d been born into what I wasn’t. I had no idea there was another way. I just knew I wasn’t a very good duck but I tried and tried to be.
When we deny our own truths, when we don’t know who we are, what we fail to realize is this hides us from our own. The more false and hidden we become, often even from ourselves, the less likely it is we will ever find our place. Some of us get lost, as I did for 26 years.
But here is the thing: As much as we may want to be acceptable outside of ourselves, we never will be until we find what we belong to within. We are asked to be who we were born to be, to spend our whole lives, if necessary, discovering what that is. It’s really a deep journey of the soul—a coming to awareness and then acceptance of self.
So my exile is self-imposed, as much as it may feel otherwise, and until I see, truly see, my own beauty and worth, there is no answer for me. But when I come out of hiding and love myself exactly as I am, when I celebrate the individual who does question and rebel and can sometimes be difficult and scared, once I see her true place in the family of things, something very beautiful happens: I become willing to be found.
When I rise up and spread my wings with the sheer joy of being, it becomes a beacon of sorts, calling out to mine, and my swans will come. Like the duckling when he is finally united with his kind and is recognized and loved naturally and easily, I will be home.
Love to you all,