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.