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Me and my shadow - that's where I belong

Picture of the shadow of my car as I drive along the highway from Iowa to Vermont
Iowa sunrise - 1200 miles to go

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

from Sweet Darkness, David Whyte (House of Belonging)

I’ve just returned from a 3000 mile road trip to visit my family in Iowa. It’s a trip I’ve made countless times since I left at the age of 18. It’s been a trip from Port St. Lucy, Seattle, Portland, Seattle, San Juan Capistrano, Seattle, Aquasco, Madison, Seattle, Somerville, Chester, and Brattelboro. I may have even forgotten a few. No surprise that the notion of a world where you belong is a phrase that rings loud in my ears.

So much of our decision-making revolves around positioning ourselves in the world. It’s always been interesting to me that the physical environment pulls me so strongly. Much has been written about the relationship between land and how it shapes a culture, yet positioning is generally more challenging in the relational dimension than in the physical. Questions of where do I fit in within this family, this friend-group, this workplace, surface and resurface across the landscape of our lives.

Many times, we get mired down into a passive position, perceiving our place to be one that is assigned to us. Our thoughts and feelings becoming reactions to being acted on rather than being active in. The passive position is not entirely a distortion, because some of us preempt the vulnerability of the passive role with an overly assertive acting-on strategy. An extreme circumstance arises for people who rigidly rely on one of these strategies without flexibility to account for the unique aspects of the present moment they are encountering. A more healthy situation is to assess each encounter as it arises and consciously choose a position. Yet even this is doomed to fail our ultimate purpose. A far more powerful position is that of being in relation with.

We cannot belong without being in relation with. We cannot be in supportive, secure, uplifting relationship without knowing where we belong. Whyte counsels us to “Give up all the other worlds except, the one to which you belong”.

Applying Chang’s definition of hard choices and what happens as a result of how we make them, I’ve gained a lot of insight reflecting on why I chose to leave each of the places I’ve lived and why I went to the next, specific destination. The non-casual reader may have noticed I’ve moved to and away from Seattle four times (so far). Clearly, my experiences there can reveal some important aspects about the world to which I belong, as does my perennial return to the land and people to whom I was born.

Fortunately (I guess), one doesn’t have to move around the country or world to gain insight into the world in which you belong. You simply have to take seriously the question of where you belong, where you are free? Where and with whom are you in relationship with, that results in clarity, insight and passion? The answers to these questions may depend on the most subtle of changes in relational position. As subtle as one room in your home verses another, one activity with your lover verses another, one task at work verses another. Subtle perhaps in description, yet potentially profound in experience.

My aspiration for 2020 is to be continuously aware of my relational horizons and to be an active participant in creating the experience of belonging.

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