A Place to Belong

All I ever wanted was a place to belong.

It sounds stupid really, to want a place to belong. I mean, I have a family. I have excelled at school, and then (much) later, at university. I’ve done things, helped people, but all along, all I ever wanted was to belong. To be accepted, loved, embraced. Even when I made mistakes. It’s one of the reasons I became so good at hospitality.

All I ever wanted was a place to belong. There were moments, when I was part of a group of kids’ church leaders, that I thought I belonged – and some of those relationships persist (albeit long-distance) to this day. But for the most part, I have stuck out like a sore thumb. Throbbing, awkward. And very aware of the discomfort I cause.

It’s difficult to admit. We are social beings, and to admit to not belonging is to admit to failure. I’m a South African living in North East England. The cultural divide makes the Grand Canyon look like a farmer’s furrow. I don’t know how to breach it.

I thought when I became a mother, it would entitle me to membership of the motherhood club – play dates and after school clubs and chatting at the school gates. I know about those things, because I experienced them as a nanny in London. Or I watched them, since I wasn’t actually a mother. But Little Person is atypical in her development. After school clubs are rare. Play dates awkward. School gate chats almost non-existent. One of the most isolating experiences in my life is the knowledge that half the time, I do not understand what my child is trying to tell me. So watching other mothers with their children only increases my awareness of the differences between my child and theirs. (Yes, I know. I’m not supposed to compare. I’m also not supposed to walk this road alone, but there you go.)

I thought, since I had felt a certain sense of belonging at certain churches in South Africa, I would at least be accepted in churches over here. No. Hell, no. That’s what has put paid to any decent writing over the last month or so. How to put in words, when the place you thought you belonged turns around and tells you, in not so many words, you’re not worth the effort? Of course, I can’t write about it, because to admit the problem is to be judgemental, and that is not allowed.

I have my family. The Dude, and Little Person. And even Little Cat, who sleeps on the end of my bed and nominates herself as my alarm clock. But being mother, and wife, and cook, and laundry-fixer and shopping guru makes it all a muddle. It’s a place to belong, but the moments to appreciate it can be fleeting. That’s the struggle when the rest of the family lives so far away.

All I ever wanted was a place to belong. And then I realised, it’s write under my nose. I can write my belonging, if I’m brave enough.

It’s who I was always meant to be.

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