Figs in Winter

A family songbook came across the checkin table today, and I casually opened it, being a middling ukulele player always looking for new storytime tunes. I opened it to Swanee. Just yesterday I had stood in this very same place, reading Brené Brown’s retelling of the story that “defined [her] life”, an unsuccessful high school drill team tryout to that same song.

“These are the moments,” she wrote, “that, when left unspoken and unresolved, send us into our adult lives searching desperately for belonging and settling for fitting in.”

Contemplating this synchronicity, I began to compose something to share. I had a few good words, maybe a phrase or two, on belonging, convergence, synchronicities themselves. “I am not Anne Lamott,” I wrote in this post-in-my-brain, “so please don’t expect that of me.”

Some hours later, I remembered the post-in-my-brain, and tried to extract it. First, I thought, I will read the next small section of Brené Brown’s book, to overprepare, of course. When I returned to the book, within the next two pages, there was Anne Lamott, just a single mention – I checked the index.

This morning, before Swanee, before Anne Lamott, I sat at my dining table to write reflections – to engage in metacognition – on my academic work of the last few weeks for my contributions portfolio.

This week, like every previous week, my metacognitive reflection highlights that I do not belong. Other students do not respond to my contributions, my project group would not respond to my messages nor review my work. When I speak I feel alien, like an outsider. We discuss culture, but my own chosen culture is on the periphery of standard. I try to bring my whole self, and yet it is incomprehensible. I look for any semblance of recognition, but do not find it.

The subjective nature of belonging means that we can never truly know if we have it; we can only perceive it, and our perception may be skewed by our own cognitive frameworks. Does belonging reside in the self? And then, to whom do we belong? Do I belong somewhere, but I cannot see it?

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Maya Angelou

This quote of Angelou’s was wrestled with by Brown through her personal reckoning of belonging, and I come to it, too, in a similar way. I have many unspoken, unresolved moments that echo through my life and do not cease. Belonging is not a steady state; even now, I wish for figs in winter.

Through sympatheia and oikeiôsis, I try to find my place of belonging in the community of humankind. This abstraction must be enough. And those moments that I feel when I most belong are those moments of synchronicity, when the leaves of the great cosmic tree are visible for an instant.

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