The Practice of True Belonging

Lately I have reflected alot on Brene Brown’s definition of “true belonging” from her latest book, “Braving the Wilderness”:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to
yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

There is a big whopping heap of wisdom in that one little definition! Consider it from the framework of a marriage: a happy and successful “union,” some say, is the sum of two whole parts. Both partners are complete going into the union. What about the years when outside influences and family responsibilities gnaw at the core of one’s “whole self” – what about times when you are giving so much of yourself, you feel lost inside your own home?

This happened to me when a series of overwhelming challenges happened in rapid succession. Not only did I not belong to myself, I felt separate from the “wholeness” of marriage. Alone and terrified. Money, kids, health, work, geography and all kinds of other mini-challenges crept in my life and the me I was once so solidly familiar with started to disappear. Often weary, I dulled my fighting impulse with red wine. I thought I was stronger (i.e., belonged more authentically to myself) when I was drinking, but this could not have been further from the truth. I forgot how worthy I was of a happy life, so I drowned all my dreams and ambitions in alcohol. Fortunately for me and my family, a spark of life remained and I woke up in 2015 to the realization that I had made a big mess trying to comfort myself through numbing rather than belonging. I was in a crisis of disconnection.

Brene Brown continues her definition of true belonging”

“True belonging is not something that you negotiate externally, it’s what you carry in your heart. It’s finding the sacredness in being a part of something and in braving the wilderness alone. When we reach this place even momentarily, we belong everywhere and nowhere. That sounds absurd, but it’s true.”

I wonder if the quest for “true belonging” isn’t the biggest challenge we as humans are meant to overcome. It seems so simple but the piece that brought me back to myself and the living world and my family was finding the sacredness in being a part of something. Somehow I had internalized the message early in life that belonging equaled weakness so when the road of my life got very twisty – I retreated into myself and stopped connecting.

Many addiction experts believe that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety – it’s connection. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. The joy of connection is an equal opportunity healer – yet for some, the most difficult to attain. If you are around enough people who suffer from addiction disorders, you will likely hear it repeated that they are grateful for their addiction because it led them to this awareness that true belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world.

Living a sober life after years of dulling the brightness of the real world truly is an adventure in re-connecting with the child you once were and the loved ones you travel with. I am grateful to Brene Brown for helping me to clarify the importance of true belonging, it is the foundation for my whole life now.

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City Pups Immersed In The Country

I don’t know about any other gals, but 19 years ago when I said, “I Do,” I didn’t give one darn about whether the Handsome Groom could drywall like a champ, or, on the more basic level, even fix a leaky faucet.  Does anybody?

I married him for his intelligence, wit and that mysterious Half-Latin machismo that got me so stirred up at our first lunch date my calves literally burst through my pantyhose – and he didn’t mind!!!!

Then things started to break around the house.  ALOT of things.  In conversations with my husband about what needed fixing, I started to feel like Emily Newhart and her adorable, book-smart, practical Bob.  bob-newhart-show-suzanne-pleshette

Fortunately, my lawyer husband had plenty o’ handy clients who were good-hearted and just a phone call away.  Problems solved!  At least some of them.  I learned that certain men who are genetically challenged in the handy department are also – well, to put it bluntly, pretty lousy GRILLERS, too!  We had our share of well-intentioned dinner parties where the guests walked away wondering, “What the hell was that mystery meat I was just served?”.

It was fine, though, we lived in the city and any deficiency of the homemaking sort (I am neglecting to tell you that I, the “Pumpered” Princess, as our Argentinian cousin lovingly  refers to me, am completely worthless around the house) was easily solved by finding a “service.”

In 2002, now with two babies, our perfectly appointed household “rescue team” went away because we moved to…..and I shudder to say this …… THE COUNTRY!

Mike with kids on 70th  “Goodbye, City Life – Green Acres Here We Come!”.

In Southern Kansas, a fellow knows how to do many handy things – to infinity.  We bought 34 acres – to do what with, I am still mystified.  But there went “Brender and Eddie” while their city friends waved goodbye…..

My husband immediately traded in his BMW with lovely seat warmers for a bright red F-150 pick up truck.  Perfectly Appalling, Right?

“What are you going to do with a pickup truck?” I calmly inquired one day.  Oh, his eyes lit up with wonder as if he had seen Jesus himself as he replied, “You know, haul shit and stuff.”

Okay.  That’s fine.  We can do this, my Inner Diva told me – we can rise above our pathetic City Helplessness and conquer the untame land of the heartiest souls on Earth known as…...KANSANS.  Yes, that very special place where people throw parties to, of all things – burn their land!  The place that was once referred to by a City Transplant not terribly unlike myself in the 1800’s as “The land of grasshoppers and drought.”

Soon, our lives became an adventure and our completely privileged and helpless demeanor became a source of entertainment for the locals.  One time I was advised to seek advice from the Farmers at the local “CO-OP” about our barn swallow problem.  These awful creatures build mud nests on your home then sit atop your roof (because they basically own you at this point) protecting their young.  “How do they protect their young?,” did I hear you ask?  By divebombing the eyeballs of any threat.  So, I put my signature red lipstick on and drove to town to this apparent shrine of intelligence, the Co-op.  I was told to tape plastic snakes near the nest of the barn swallow and assured that my problem would soon disappear.  What I would give today to hear those farmers’ howls as I left from the Co-op on a mission to the local Dollar Store in pursuit of plastic snakes.  The joke was on me:  it did not work.

Finally, exasperated by our complete incompetence, I suggested we do something as a family that would be good for the community.  We were matched with a Little from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  He visited every Sunday.  Success!  And you know what? My sweet husband and son were the kindest, most patient souls with this lost little boy.

Mario with BrysonThey spent endless hours playing together and our Little did not mind one bit that we were weakling city pups – he really enjoyed us!!!

Fortunately, for me, our time in the land of awe-inspiring sunsets had an end – because I am just a girl who needs the comforts of a city.  George Lopez once said, “I need to get back to horrible crime, terrible parking and great Chinese food!”.  But we did have a lot of laughs, and I grew to accept my husband – and his adorable, quirky, country-wanna-be self.

We did what we could to “work the land” we bought and had some memorable bonfire parties in the canyon behind our home.  But, alas, the city beckoned us back.

And now “Bob and Emily” are back where they belong – laughing and reminiscing about the times we had trying to be RUGGED INDIVIDUALISTS.

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Welcome To My Mid-Life Crisis

9 lives2002_mini_cooper_s-pic-8750964173784534205556964_3969215241468_697743296_nWho ARE these people that become so selfish and self-absorbed in their late 40’s and 50’s?  Pathetic.  Cliche.  So. Not. Me.

 

I have decided that I need a lobotomy or a conversion experience or both to expel the demons of MID-LIFE CRISIS lurking within!

We have all witnessed the predictable path of men’s mid-life:  the younger woman, the sports car, the sudden interest in physical appearance.  Cliche, right?  I lived through a mid-life crisis, of sorts, with my husband who is 11 years older than me.  His was definitely fraught with personal and financial torment, but it brought us closer instead of farther apart.  It made our family stronger.  Now it’s my turn.  And thank goodness I woke up and recognized it for what it was (is) before it was (is) too late.  True to my character, I’ll refer to my mid-life crisis in one simple phrase:  OVER-INDULGENT.

My life is becoming the metaphor of drinking from a fire hydrant to satisfy one’s thirst.  It’s too big, too much, too fast.  I suspected that navigating my children’s adolescence while walking through my own mid-life might be tricky.  They need guidance, wisdom and support from a SANE adult who is willing and able to step outside of the self and enter the world of the young adult’s psyche without the need for affirmation or adulation.  Let me repeat:  without affirmation or adulation.  That’s the part that stings!  Four years ago, when my daughter began her journey into adolescence and our family was undergoing a massive uprooting from our rural dream life back to the city, I used to joke innocently, I thought, about “Momma’s not getting a lot of love back these days.”

 The unsolicited hugs and flattering emulation had come to a screeching halt.  I was becoming “invisible” and it hurt.

 

Fast forward four years later with a husband who is turning 59 and a son in the throes of adolescence, too.  I realize my entire identity has been wrapped up in 3 separate individuals for more than a decade – my children and my husband.  And I am angry with myself.  I feel robbed of my youth.  I am going to REBEL!!!!!

Enter “Party Girl” Joanie, living large in the city.  Meeting peeps for drinks.  Sipping on amazing wine while making dinner.  Just being glamorous, right?  WRONG.  Oh, so wrong.  One drink every other day became two drinks every night.  And recently, it became A BOTTLE.  There was never ENOUGH of ANYTHING to affirm that I was ALIVE and SEPARATE FROM MY FAMILY.  My own cool mid-life self – living as though I had 9 lives.  But I only have 1.  Time to re-evaluate.

I thank GOD for the wisdom of my 15-year-old daughter and the unwavering love of my gentle husband who have enlightened me of late about my reckless behavior.  But in a way a rebel can accept and digest – non-threatening.  My daughter simply asked me recently whether I would be willing to remain sober long enough to pick her up at 10:00 PM from a party.  Simple and direct question, right?  It felt like a thunderbolt jarring my brain into a million pieces!  What is WRONG with this picture when your daughter has to ask such a question?

My “aha” moment was brief and we all escaped relatively unscathed.  I am 36 days sober today and plan to stay that way – after all, I am just as “interesting” over-indulging in sugar-free popsicles as I was champagne!  Now to the paradigm shift in my parenting and relating to young adults versus small children.  As tough as it is, I am beginning to accept that I can shift from a total domination decision-making model to a shared one with my kids.

When my daughter was about 3 and struggling with sharing her toys at play group, her adorably honest retort to the nonstop encouragement from adults to “share with others” was:  “I want to share with ME!”.  This is the battle I find waging within my middle-aged heart and soul as it confronts the challenges and responsibilities I have taken on in my life.   But I am not going to express my frustration in ways that drive my family apart and tear at the fabric of my most important relationships any longer.  I am putting my “BIG GIRL” panties on and moving forward towards 50, muffin top and all.

Yes, you heard me right:  I am at that delightful age where I weigh more than my IQ!

 

So, together with my bruised ego and expanding waistline, I choose to embrace Mid-Life and all the AWKWARDNESS it brings.  Ironically, I am going through a more awkward phase than my adolescents.  But it is THEIR time of discovery, not mine.  I can choose, every day, to “rebel” a little in ways that are harmless and not self-destructive.  I think I will get a Mini-Cooper!