Discover more from I Grow Strong Again
I'm tempted to believe I don't belong.
As a new book in the Human Library, I'm hoping to finally fit in somewhere.
“You’re a liberal, too, aren’t you?” she asked.
I hesitated before responding. As I scanned the room, I noticed all eight women suddenly turned their attention to me, awaiting my reply. I didn’t know any of them, except Jan, the one who asked the question.
“We’re all a bunch of liberals here,” she added to the awkward space lingering in mid-air.
Finally, I decided to be honest. “Well, I consider myself to be more moderate. If you’re talking about liberal versus conservative, I can usually see both sides.”
She nodded thoughtfully, then said, “That’s why we’re all here. We are all trying to see both sides to every story.”
I didn’t sign up to be a book in the Human Library for these types of conversations. In fact, I tend to cringe when I hear the words liberal or conservative. There’s too much weight in them, too many inaccurate and cruel stereotypes attached to them.
But I’m not without an opinion. In fact, I form an opinion about almost every subject. In the past few years, I have felt drawn to understand opposing viewpoints. There’s a strange pull inside my heart to be one who makes peace rather than contributes to the din of political polarization.
Jan formed an impish grin. “I think we’re going to be surprised by your story.”
I shrugged. “Maybe.”
The gathering was something to which I was invited. And I wanted so much to be welcomed into a group. I’ve tried to conform to all sorts of categories throughout my life, but I hoped those who were books in the Human Library would accept me. We are a conglomerate of misfits and outliers, and that was the one aspect of being a stranger everywhere else in the world that I could handle.
Still, my insecurities ran amok after this pointed question. I could feel my Inner Critic surface and mock me: You think they’re actually going to accept you? You don’t think like them! You aren’t like them, or anyone else.
For a moment, I was tempted to believe that I didn’t belong. That I will never belong anywhere.
I’ve knocked on the doors of the conservative Christians of my youth. They allow me a seat at the table, but only if I smile and nod. Only if I remain silent, unquestioning, unmoved. Again, this is not my innate tendency. I am inquisitive. I am curious. I am constantly moving toward greater understanding of what I don’t know or have not been exposed to or did not realize even mattered.
I’ve knocked on the doors of support groups for parents raising medically complex children. They also allow me a seat at the table, but only if I join in their angst and vent the same verbal vitriol that always results from an unexamined life, one hinging on everyday burnout and not enough sleep.
I’ve knocked on the doors of other authors and creative people. They may or may not be open, but even on the rare occasion they are, I end up feeling deflated and flummoxed by their literary knowledge and Big Name Publishers backing their ideas.
The message I internalize, time and again is this: You don’t belong here. You don’t really fit in anywhere.
I was one of the last to leave the gathering. As a severe introvert, I tend toward observation and perception in a large crowd. Still, I chose to dawdle after the majority of volunteers waved their quick goodbyes and vacated the apartment. My hunger for belonging was not satiated, and I wondered if there might be a few others who felt similarly.
Two women around my age caught my eye, and I paused with a handful of empty cups and paper plates in my hand. We chatted, Laura and Amber and I, for about ten minutes - ten uncomfortable minutes, but not wasted ones. I still did not find what I had sought, what I always need: a sense of grounding, of knowing that my presence is valued and valuable.
Even so, Jan grinned when she saw me pop my head into the kitchen to extend my gratitude for her hospitality and invitation. She wiped her hands and gave me a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here! Do you think you will be able to join us more often this year?”
“Yes,” I answered with confidence. “Because you gave me a schedule of events for the entire rest of the year.”
“Well, at least you know everyone now,” she added, while resuming her place at the sink washing dishes.
Taken aback, I answered, “No, not really. I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface of knowing everyone here today. I had a few one-on-one conversations, but I am a deep person, and it takes me time to feel like I really know a person.”
She didn’t reply, only kept grinning. I couldn’t decipher what that meant, except that I knew Jan liked me.
That was the breadcrumb I left with - knowing that there was one person amongst many who actually liked me. Me. And she kept on inviting me.
I’m learning that, before I can be welcomed by others, I must first find in myself a true home, a soft landing place.
© Jeannie Ewing, 2023, all rights reserved
Nota Bene: My goal for this newsletter is to begin sharing with you the pieces of my story that may (or may not) end up in my first memoir. There will be posts in which I share an excerpt from the current day, but I will also be delving into my past. Some of my personal anecdotes are difficult to read, and I want to be careful in sharing with you the caveat that I do write honestly about triggering experiences, including sexual abuse, passive suicidality, infertility, and miscarriage. Just know that I do my best to be sensitive, because I am a highly sensitive person. And I always welcome your feedback, shares, and comments.