Be-longing

My parents divorced when I was 20. I felt every bit as much the 12 year old who realized they didn’t love each other: angry, confused, heartbroken.

This is certainly not an unusual story in our culture.

My mom moved out of the tiny rural valley that had held her for 23 years. My dad stayed in the house where they had lived those years. For a while.

When he decided to sell our house, my inner child came back holding her hurt and disillusionment like a wounded bird. It felt as though my childhood memories, who I’d become through those experiences, and the last thread of the grounding cord to home was being sold.

This was my first awareness of attachment, and even though I had no spiritual reference for it, I knew it was emotionally unhealthy. To have language and a frame for it now is helpful, but doesn’t make it easier to let go.

My dad remarried and built a house in this little valley where he has lived his entire life. I’ve shared here several times about my dad and what it means to go home these days.

This past weekend was my {cough cough} 20 year class reunion. Home.

Literally standing over pieces of an antique chandelier from the house my great-grandfather built just down the road, my dad and his wife talked in code to her daughter about not putting up fixtures you want to keep cleaning up the shop so that… getting the bathroom painted before….

Bubby was on the case:

So… Mike… you thinking about selling the house?

Ya, we drive so shitten far to get to golf.*

*Two facts about my dad: he loves to play golf and he uses shitten as a household adjective.

We’re thinking about getting out of the valley.

***

Here it is again. The possibility of selling a home. But this time to move out of the lap of the valley and closer to golf.

Golf.

The physical quality of this news was weight. It felt heavy and at the same time, untethered. And sad.

Where would home be? Who is my dad—this cowboy who now wears tennis shoes, winters in the desert and plays golf? How do I begin to tease out my own part in this from other people’s expectations, dreams, desires, and regrets.

***

This in the same day I spent with classmates from 20 years ago. People I’ve known since preschool.

Being with them was incredibly comforting—even though I hadn’t spoken to some of them since graduation and really know nothing about them, it was as though no time had passed. We picked up where we left off.

Waves of memory poured through and I had a strong sense of belonging combined with a longing for home and tribe and family of my own, in real time rather than memory.

***

The weekend left me so unsettled. Angst about what might happen. Questions about how and why and if people change. Questions about who my dad is and if I know him. Feelings of belonging. Feelings of longing.

What I realize right this moment is that I have the connection I crave. I have friends and family and tribe at It’s All Yoga. By choice rather than circumstance.

To say I am grateful for that is an immense understatement.

And still, the little girl, so disillusioned, mourns the fact that home and family—in so many ways—do not match her picture book images. Her ideas of belonging.

***

What about you — What is family? Where is home? Is it a physical location or is it truly where your heart is? Do you have tribe? Born into or created?

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10 Responses to “Be-longing”


  1. 1 K August 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    you’ve got me thinking about this. My life has been so unanchored from the beginning. Belonging is such a loaded word for me in relation to my growing up years.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  2. 2 Amy --- Just A Titch August 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I think I’m really fortunate to have two parents who’ve stayed married, living in the house I grew up in, just 20 minutes from me. It’s a sort of stability that’s seen me through some hard times. That said, I really do think family, tribe, belonging, etc. are things you can create and add to—mostly because even when things look perfect or stay the same, it may not be the sort of stability and tribe you need later. I’m sorry this visit was unsettling for you; that anxiety must be really heavy. I hope you’re able to keep creating those sort of bonds and relationships that give you a little piece of home, no matter where you are.

    Also, shitten = brilliance.

  3. 3 Diane August 5, 2010 at 4:23 am

    I think the Longing or remembering is touched off by multiple senses – Smell, hearing, and perhaps seeing. this is my experience as a grown up “going back, back, back”. In 1974, I traveled around the world by myself and when I arrived in Korea, I felt very at ease. I had been gone for 2 months and this was week 7. I think it was the language….it was like a lullaby from a deep past. I “felt at home again” and protected. A deeply seeded emotion dating from being little and protected and living in Korea. Wow!….I’m not sure my mother and father felt so at ease and protected.
    Another……..is the smell of nastersiams and geraniums in Carmel. Very early experience evoking the free spirit of adventure. How far did I go…perhaps only the front yard.
    Another….A couple of years ago my sister and I were in Providence, RI. I was born there and my mother’s family are long time Rhode Islanders. I was drawn into St. Mary’s Episcopal Church just in time for service. I convinced my sister to go with me…and it was a wonderful mass. Everyone brought their pets to be blessed. I came home and told my mother about being drawn into the church. Turns out, that was my grandmother’s church and as a little one I loved going with her…even on Good Friday. So now when ever there, I go to the church.

    Sierra Madre is the town where I grew up. When it was time, I was Oh so pleased to go off to college and points east and to finally settle in Northern California. But now, when ever I go there, I MUST drive all over to see the homes, our house, the church, the park and even the streets as they climb up the mountain. There are no traffic lights or large intersections and the village seem to retain its character decade after decade….No small feat in greater Los Angeles! And I feel the roots of friendships, the delight of play and the excitement of my world growing as I grew and could ride my bike all over town. Once to High School in Pasadena, life became far less certain!

  4. 4 Elizabeth August 6, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I find that I feel at home anywhere I live .. I think I carry it with me in that sense, though the PacNW feels like home at a much deeper level. Family is more sticky. I find that I spend more time thinking about what I’ve lost and how things have changed in the past few years than the blessing of being very close to three of my sisters over the years and miles. And according to my vision board (that I just did), a tribe is on my list of things I would love to create. ;)

  5. 5 yogaquest August 6, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Michelle. Grateful for belonging, and to take part in our tribe.

  6. 6 Alexa Mergen August 6, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Wow. My parents divorced when I was 20 also. I helped take a lifetime (to that point) of belongings to Goodwill during a winter break from college a continent away. I have struggled to understand how I feel about “home;” for the past 22 years I have always been a visitor when I travel back East. I have no home base except what I make wherever I currently am and it always feels like it’s not enough, something’s missing. And I’ve moved a lot.

    Last night I attended a talk by writing teacher Judith Tannenbaum. She has a new book (“By Heart”) with Spoon Jackson, a poet decades into serving a life w/o parole term at New Folsom Prison. Spoon writes about how he has found his niche as an artist behind walls. This is a man who loved nature and open space as a child. It occurred to me that to find peace we choose our niche, our home (in space and in ourselves), when we realize we have nowhere else to go, whether we are limited physically by wire and walls or mobility or age, or emotionally, because the emotional landscapes that we remember no longer exist. Realizing this I’m contemplating nurturing the relationships I do have instead of chasing after something that was. I can no longer sit under the shade oak that was chainsawed down but I can look around at the trees that might eventually offer some shade, probably no single one in the same cozy was, but perhaps in concert, and tend them. Sounds good. We’ll see how I manage with the watering can. Thanks for sharing.

  7. 7 Kelley M August 6, 2010 at 3:31 am

    I cannot drive through Ben Lomond (in the Santa Cruz Mountains) where I grew up without being intensely drawn to my childhood home on a one lane dirt road along the San Lorenzo River. I’m somewhat drawn to the home but I’ve never been inside the property since 1988 when we moved to Redding, but I have vastly explored the “playground” that was ALL mine as a child by myself, with my husband, and with Julia. multiple times. I love visiting the big and gnarly trees I would hang out in as a little girl. I love sitting in my old fort down by the river in a redwood grove. I love skipping stones on the river and jumping over boulders to see if I can get to there other side. It all feels so familiar and comforting and lovely and like a giant hug from the items in my life, at the time, that brought me comfort. I now love being alone with nature and I find my tribe in the wind, the sounds of the river, the trees, and the solitude. In found so much support there and yet no one else was around. Strange huh?

    As it turns out these places I loved so much are actually on other people’s properties. Which, as it turns out, is still very much open for a visit. There’s something about this that also brings me comfort. Something about how little these places have actually changed in a world where change is happening all over the place and where so much is closed off to all of us.

    Yeah, if I win the lottery I’m heading back to that street in Ben Lomond and buying the first available property to take me home. It seems like a place where you could still let your kids play without worry and where the world is a kept a bay.

    Hugs and thanks for sharing. It really touched me and got me thinking too.

  8. 8 blogasana August 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    thank you all so much for the heartfelt sharing… adding to my reflections and joining in on the larger conversation. it’s so wonderful to feel community in these endeavors of the heart.

  9. 9 Ryan August 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I send you my compassion and loving-kindness in your process of dealing with this hard stuff. And gratitude for sharing. The openness of your heart is always an inspiration.

    I also ask, in all seriousness, do you think golf is your dad’s yoga?

  10. 10 Diane August 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I’m sorry not to have responded to you loosing your valley. That is sad and hopefully there will be enough reunions to take you home….xo


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