December 2017
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31


belonging: being part of a unit


A lot of the people I know consider their family a unit they are part of, even if they hate it. I don't think you can understand what it's like to not belong unless you haven't had that feeling (or haven't had it since before kindergarten). A dysfunctional unit is still a unit.

Since I was about 6, I didn't have a unit to belong to. Since I can't remember my childhood, it feels the same as never having felt that. I keep writing about this because I feel like people don't get it, like I can't find the words to express it. When people say stuff like, "sure, this person is terrible, but they're still my [dad/mom/(etc)]" they're expressing a feeling I cannot understand because I didn't feel like my bioparents were my parents. There was a point when I was very young where they gave me the impression that if I did not obey, they would take away the food and shelter they had been providing, and that I owed them my labor in exchange for these things. They were just my employers, and our relationship could end at any moment. From that point on (and I don't remember exactly when it was but it was before puberty) I felt myself as a nanny/housekeeper working for food and rent; they never gave me appreciation because I was just doing my job. This was why I was so much more obedient than my siblings. It certainly wasn't that I thought my parents had good ideas. My parents did not contradict this in word or deed until I was 26 and long out of their house. I was less a part of their unit than I was part of the Wynnes' family -- who I was actually a nanny/chauffeur for and worked for food and rent.

Belonging to a unit means that if one person stops contributing, the unit will still exist. It means that people aren't just committed to you, but to the unit as well. And there is something very different about being one of two or one of more than two. The latter is less fragile, it feels more safe, because if one person is lacking, there are two people who can fill the gap, cutting the burden in half. I had a unit with Hannah once, with Kylei once, with Topaz now, but it was/is not belonging because I feel it takes more than two to create that. I feel like belonging comes in with the sense that if one relationship in the unit is damaged, the rest of the unit can help it heal.

I have amazing people in my life and I deeply appreciate them and I know how fucking lucky I am to have so many people who are willing to interact with me in a meaningful way. Belonging isn't something I usually think about, but when I do it crushes me. I want to feel safe and kin in a circle that lives on its own because everyone in it maintains it. I want people to invest not just in me, not just in one-to-one connections, but as a unit. I just don't think that is going to happen for me. I'm processing it now and trying to let it go. Maybe I'll just have to be the many-armed creature holding people together if I want some imitation of this in my life.

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Comments
butterbyitself ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
something like "we put a roof over your head and food in your belly so you better obey. It's not a lot to ask for you to do (various chores, caretaking my siblings)." I don't think the intention was to threaten me with taking that stuff away, but that's how it came across and since they never valued me for anything but obedience and labor, it got reinforced. I think it was also reinforced by the fact that they didn't do caretaking of me (like listening to me, showing interest in my life, encouraging me, investing effort in things I wanted to do) but they did caretake my siblings even when my siblings were 'bad.'
kiwi ══╣Blue dragonfly╠══
You're right - I don't understand that. I know in your previous post I said I knew how it felt to try and find a unit to relate to and fail at finding it but I certainly wasn't speaking from a familial point of view. I may have misunderstood and taken a different approach and for that I apologize.

What you describe is heart-wrenching to me. I don't really agree with the thought that a terrible parent is still your parent - a man who helps raise someone else's child can be that child's father whereas the one who provided the sperm is essentially...a sperm donor. He could say "I'm the father" and from a biological standpoint, yes, he could be considered as such but unless he actually had a hand in raising that child (was he the one who rocked the child to sleep at night? Was he the one who put food on the table? Was he the one who helped the child learn to catch a ball, colored with the child, nourished the child's heart and mind as well as the body?), much of society would actually agree - he's not really a father. If that makes sense. So I understand what you mean when you say that your bioparents weren't your parents. It's multiple definitions of the word and what you needed, more than anything, was a mom and a dad. Not employers. And it breaks my heart that you didn't get that and still don't get that. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how lonely that feeling must be.

You have my utter respect and admiration, for what it's worth. (Sorry, this is long, at least in my terms as far as comments go...I don't think I worded everything right, either, but I can see how this could definitely be such a painful experience.)
belenen ══╣healing╠══
nnta, I understand, there are various levels of relating so I don't mind.

I agree with you -- a terrible parent is not a parent. But in the people I have been exposed to I would say that at least 95% of them would consider the person 'still your parent' as long as they didn't overtly physically abuse or abandon you.

*hugs lots* I appreciate your empathy in this so much. <3
left_harangue ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣giving╠══
thank you <3 this was really encouraging!
fyrebard ══╣╠══
Just 'cause it isn't happening now doesn't mean it won't ever. I mean to type some encouragement here, so hopefully the words come out right, but maybe it is a timing/location thing. I have belonged before briefly in places, or felt I did. I lucked out with beautiful husband and brother, but there was searching first. Anyway, I am still lonely when I think about it, as though that easily accessible freind circle of people who are - to use your word - kin is missing, not entirely here yet, but then I always did think I wouldn't reach my self until I hit 33, and I am still two and a half years away from that time now. Remember your thoughts on 44 ages ago? Maybe there is a coming Age for you too, or a coming place - when I think on it though, I feel it to be truth that you will Have Truly in the future and it will be gloriously vibrant purple and you will be love and fulfilling and nourishing. ♡

My apologies in advance for any clumsiness in expressing. ♡
belenen ══╣artless╠══
No, I don't remember my thoughts on 44 but I would love to know them if you remember?

Nnta, I appreciated this comment. I feel like in verbalizing/sharing/processing this I have actually already moved closer to it and I no longer feel like it is impossible <3
classical_wolf ══╣╠══
Lots of hugs! Take strength and good feelings from the positive people in your life who love you ♥
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
thanks!
hardigrin ══╣╠══
*hugsandloveandhugsandlove*

Some of the hugs are just for the feeling you expressed in the cut, of being worried that people are tired of hearing about this.

I can only speak authoritatively for myself, but for me that's not true at all at all at all. This is something big and intense and close to your heart and I love and am touched by you doing the work to share it with us. <3 <3 <3

I'm so sorry that your biofamily wouldn't and/or couldn't give you a sense of grounding and belonging. I hope someday they can try to understand how deeply it hurt you to feel that their acceptance was conditional, and until then I hope that talking about about it with the people who do love and want to know you helps heal that feeling a little.

About building a unit--I really want to address that, but I don't know how except by explaining my experience. If that feels disrespectful or derailing to do in your space, I'm sorry in advance and I'll put it somewhere else if you let me know you'd prefer that.

But. For me, I kind of have opposite associations of one-on-one connections versus group connections? (And your post has made me very aware that I have the luxury to feel that way partly because my blood family gave me an incredibly strong sense of grounding and belonging.) But for me, there have been several times in my life that I've been part of a unit, a friend group that seemed fairly self-sustaining, and it always felt *less* real and *less* stable to me. Like, that I was accepted as part of the group because of my strong connection with the person who brought me in, or just because I'd generally been around so people kept inviting me around. But if i didn't have several strong one-on-one connections, it felt like my being there didn't really make a difference and my leaving wouldn't either.

The way it makes sense for me to build community (and that I feel that I have right now more strongly than I ever have in my life and it's so wonderful) is something that I've been thinking to myself as being a "heartweb," where I have strong one-on-one connections in mutually committed dyads, and then there are also strong pulls and meta commitments to people who are important to my people, which are stronger the more interconnections there are, and make it easier and more rewarding to form new dyad relationships with them.

So. It makes me really happy when the web gets incestuous enough that it pulls together as a group/unit, but that's not the part that I know how to foster or that feels real to me.

To take our group-- when I started getting close to Kylei, I started being included in group things, and as much as that was wonderful, I didn't feel at all like I actually belonged until I started developing and deepening independent relationships with you and with Abby. And now, the web of you me Abby Kylei feels strong and I'm very committed to continuing to foster all of those connections, whether or not there were group events, and I like Roger and Topaz and Allison and Anicka and Kei-Won-Tia and Camilia for themselves and for the meta connections, and would like to get to know them better, but haven't had the spoons to figure out what that would take. But. Like. Aside from organizing events, which is stressful but I want to try to get more dots in, I have *no* idea how to foster a group connection aside from fostering individual connections.

So. I don't know if the way I process and pursue connection does or could help toward building your sense of belonging. But I love you, and I will always love you, and you will always be part of my web and I hope to continue to pull closer to each other and therefore pull people that are kin to each of us closer.

<3
hardigrin ══╣╠══
This is also why I don't comment that often-- you make me think too much, so it feels like to say what I have to say I basically have to write an essay. :P <3
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
well, I like it! I don't expect it so don't feel bad if you don't have the time/energy for a long response, but just know that if you do I will be happy :D
belenen ══╣interconnectedness╠══
I really want to address that, but I don't know how except by explaining my experience

that is my ideal kind of comment, please never hesitate to do so!

Your explanation of group connection is a thing that I do not like at all or want, it made it easier to explain the thing that I do like and want, which is what you describe as heartweb <3 <3

I also didn't feel tribe with you until we started connecting on a deeper one-to-one level. I am happy happy happy that we have/are. Fostering individual connections and sharing time all together are exactly the things I want ;-)

so yay yay and thanks so much for exploring this here for me to engage with. *HUGS*
bunnika ══╣╠══
This is funny because it's similar to and totally different from my own experiences. I was literally a work horse, employed by the family business but never getting paid for it. I worked away most of my childhood, but I definitely still had that "but they're still my parents" feeling. I eventually grew out of it with my dad, when he started putting up very conscious barriers between us, which started when I was about 13. My mom though, she didn't let me have boundaries, so I was like...hyper aware that she was my mom. Or, maybe not so much that, as I wasn't allowed to see where she stopped and I began. So now, I'm still trying to find myself, and she's still this thing that exists as so essential a part of me that it's hard to cut her away.

I'm very grateful for the family unit I have with Matt and Suzu. We three function well together, and in pairs. I'd like Matt and Suzu to develop their relationship apart from me more, though. It's not that I necessarily mind feeling like the glue that holds everyone together, but it's a sort of pressure that makes me afraid to fall apart, like everything would crumble with me.
belenen ══╣distance╠══
Yeah I always (since 6) felt like the parent to my mom and the servant to my dad, so there just wasn't any parent feeling. On the not-allowed-boundaries, that certainly would make it extremely difficult to separate! I feel kind of lucky in some ways that my parents never parented me because I don't have to deal with the guilt/obligation/etc that a lot of other people have to process out of.

I feel you on being the glue and afraid to fall apart. Does Matt hang out with Suzu one on one often?
bunnika ══╣me: with Suzu (hugs)╠══
They don't really get much time without me, just because Matt's always the busy one of the pair of us. If he's available, I'm available. I'm starting to think I should purposefully create times for them to go do things on their own, but then I feel like we're missing out on opportunities to build the family as a whole. And with Suzu leaving every other weekend now, I feel like I'm missing out on too much of her time already. :-/
raidingparty ══╣╠══
I keep finding things here and there... when my sister broke up with her ex-boyfriend, "his" business fell apart. In part, because it was built on her back, never mind that she had her own business and school to finish...
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.