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.
-Brene Brown, from “Braving the Wilderness”
I’ve been spending a lot of time alone lately.
Shortly after my eldest child left for college, I felt the need to withdraw, to step back and re-evaluate. So much of my life had been devoted to caring for others and putting their needs first, and now I was given the time and space to explore my desires and goals. And while I love being a mother and wife, I began to remember that I am also a poet, a voracious reader, a photographer, a knitter, and I lover of long solitary walks with my dog—especially on crisp autumn mornings.
But as I was rediscovering my connection with myself—much of which I did while on these morning walks—I found myself struggling; I didn’t know how to integrate my “belonging to myself” with my belonging to a community. I shared my thoughts with a friend, who thankfully suggested I read Brene Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness”. As Brown’s above quote beautifully explains, it’s only after we establish the strong connection with ourselves, that we can then be part of something greater than ourselves. So we take all that confidence and clarity and strength of will, and we off this to our families, our communities, our world.
But, it’s not always neat and tidy! We are constantly navigating murky waters, dealing with paradoxes and our own hypocrisy, and establishing healthy boundaries. But, that’s life! We figure it out as we go along. Brown closes her book with these beautiful and encouraging words: There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, “Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.” This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness.”