Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Belonging

I feel precious little sense of belonging. To people, things, places, religions, commun-ities, countries, or anything else. I've always been the bemused outsider, half-attached and half-separate, looking on from a distance rather than wholeheartedly absorbed.

I lived in England for 53 years, but I don't feel very English (even if others see me as just that). I've lived in Belfast for 11 years but I don't feel very Northern Irish either. European possibly, incorporating a little something from every country.

I don't feel I belong to my family in the way most people do. I'm very different from my mother and sister (and my late father), and apart from our shared histories there's not a lot to bind us together.

I find Buddhism inspiring, but in no way do I belong to it in the sense that I'm beholden to it or engrossed in it. I merely refer to it for its insights, like dipping into a recipe book.

I like the neighbourhood I live in, but like the dozens of other neighbourhoods I've plonked myself down in, I don't feel any sharp tug of belonging, only a warm sense of "okayness".

I don't gravitate towards people with shared interests. I don't identify with other hill-walkers or Annie Lennox fans or chess-players. I can enjoy these things without the need for like-minded devotees.

There are one or two people I feel very close to, who I feel I belong to in the sense that there's some strong and compelling connection between us. My partner of 30 years for one. But not many people have that effect. Most people I meet are ships that pass in the night, similar on the outside but utterly different on the inside.

The only thing I belong to in any obvious way is the intelligentsia, that community of curious minds that analyse and dissect the world around them, that are never content with cosy platitudes but always want to go deeper, to find what's hidden.

The bemused outsiders.

PS: I forgot the two things I really connect with instantly - music and art.

25 comments:

wendy house said...

I enjoyed reading your post.

I have a similar sense of not belonging. Once when I was living in the US, taliking on the phone to my Finnish father I described this as feeling like I had no home. He beautifully turned this around be saying that Finns are at home where-ever they are because no place is home except where you are now. So now, for me, to not belong it to be at home wherever I am :-)

Nick said...

Wendy - Yes, I feel that as well, that home is wherever I am now. But home could equally well be somewhere else on the other side of the planet.

Grannymar said...

My home is bricks and mortar, I could walk out the door tomorrow and not turn a hair. I learned a long time ago that nothing stays the same, so I content myself with living from day to day. If there are people around I enjoy them, if not I enjoy my own company.

secret agent woman said...

I moved all over the country as a kid, went to boarding school in Switzerland as a teen, and then then moved to several other states since. I've also done lots of travelling. So, I've never truly felt a part of anywhere Ive lived. Nor any religious group I've been part of. But I'm okay with that. I like to just go with "citizen of the world."

meno said...

I wonder how many people feel like they fit in. I bet it's the minority.

Megan said...

I'm not one of the intelligentsia but I'm sure you've figured that out by now.

I've been trying to figure out why I keep coming back here. I never say anything really pertinent to the discussion.

I guess it's because I never leave without learning something about my fellow humans.

Nick said...

Grannymar - When I move home, I miss the old home for a month or two but then it's done and dusted. Like you, I can move on quite easily.

Secret Agent - Some people find that the more they travel, the less they see anywhere as home. Others find it makes them appreciate "home" all the more. I'd say I'm the first. "Citizen of the world" is good too.

Nick said...

Meno - I suspect you're right. The more I study other people, the more I realise how different they are from me.

Megan - Not one of the intelligentsia? Oh, come now. I think you say a lot of pertinent things. You can even say some impertinent ones if you like.

Liz said...

We have lived in this house for 20-something years and it's HOME. It's not a house; it's a place I belong.

I'm glad you have the one person who's important and close to you.

kylie said...

i belong in my house, with my kids and my dog but everywhere else i'm kind of on the edge. i never thought it was because i', the intelligentsia, i thought it was cos i have a different value system

Nick said...

Liz - Ah, maybe I've never lived anywhere for long enough. I've actually lived in 13 homes in the course of my life.

Kylie - But maybe you have a different value system because you're intelligent enough to question things carefully?

Nick said...

Val - Your comment appeared on my email but for some reason isn't on the blog. You said:

This does not come as a surprise to me, Nick, that you feel disconnected from everything (apart from your partner) and it's probably why people don't 'confide' in you, as you have occasionally said you'd like them to. People need to feel that the person listening to them has empathy, and empathy is founded in connection, if only of the spirit.

And, when you reply to comments you frequently use what I regard as a 'disconnect word'. And that word is 'but'.

Nick said...

Val - Interesting points. I think I have empathy, particularly for the poor and wretched of society, but maybe I don't have enough. I certainly don't have a frosty or censorious appearance, quite the opposite, so that's not the reason for not being confided in. It's a mystery, like so many other things.

"But" is a disconnect word? But it's a word everyone uses all the time, and they can't all be disconnected....

Nick said...

Val - People may hesitate to confide in me because I'm physically very restless and fidgety. It doesn't mean I'm not interested in what someone is saying, but they might think so.

nursemyra said...

I feel connected to my two sons but I've raised them to be independent adults so we're not an "in each other's pocket" kind of family.

Since Stephen died my connections with others don't seem as strong. I think it's a self protective thing as I perhaps subconsciously carry the knowledge that those I love could be taken from me in an instant so it's best to keep a certain amount of distance

Eryl said...

I think "a warm sense of "okayness"" sounds pretty good. The difference between it and belonging seems to me to be similar to the difference between contentment and happiness. I neither belong nor feel a warm sense of okayness living here, deep in rural Scotland, nothing about it suits me. I belong in a city with diesel fumes and debris, but I am content to keep chipping away with a rock hammer.

Nick said...

Myra - I can understand that defensive reaction of keeping your distance from people you might lose. But I guess you'll become less defensive as time passes.

I've always been slightly defensive in my contacts with other people. It goes back to childhood bullying which left its psychological mark.

Eryl - I like the comparison with contentment and happiness. Better okayness than wanting to leave in a hurry, I guess. Sad that you're stranded somewhere you don't really want to be. So how did you end up there?

Rummuser said...

The easier part is not belonging. The tougher part lies in detachment. Now there is something for you to put in your pipe and smoke.

Nick said...

Ramana - Now I never even thought of the Buddhist take on this, that not-belonging and detachment are in fact highly desirable states of being, and that too much emotional involvement in daily life just causes a load of problems.

Detachment is something I've never got the hang of. I'm always emotionally involved in life, there are so many things that either piss me off or fill me with joy!

Eryl said...

We moved for work, as so many people have to, and chose a small country town with a good school for our son's benefit. We'd moved so often for Stevie's job (seven times in twelve years) I didn't even bother to consider if I'd like living here because I thought we wouldn't stay long. Fifteen years later...

Nick said...

Eryl - Ah, now I understand. That must be a good job if he's stuck with it for 15 years. And you're not exactly hanging around like a spare potato yourself.

newjenny said...

Do you feel an outsider when you listen to Radio 4?

Have you found what's hidden?

I'm an insider.

Nick said...

newjenny - The Archers does nothing for me but there's some good current affairs stuff on R4.

Most of what's hidden is hidden so well I haven't found it. And there's a lot more hidden than there is visible.

Scarlet Blue said...

Oh dear. I will log off now, I promise. I misread I forgot the two things I really connect with instantly - music and art.
As: I really connect with insanity.

Possibly this is what I'm connecting with.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - I hope you're not connecting with insanity, it could cause a few operational problems.