be longing or belonging?
Like most everyone else, I spent the last week reflecting on 2019, the close of a decade and the beginning of a new one. I always find these helpful and forced at the same time.
I thought about where I was in 2009 where I longed for so much. I worked retail and felt stuck in my life. I felt stuck because I didn't know what I wanted to do in life professionally and I was going through hardship personally. My sister was battling cancer and I felt tremendously guilty and afraid to make life changes out of fear that I'd miss out on being able to support my family the way they might have needed. I was very single that the idea of getting married and having kids was a farfetched dream. I longed for a better quality of life professionally and personally, and felt stuck in circumstances.
As the 2010s progressed, I held to my hopes but nothing changed. In fact, things worsened. During the 2010s, my sister's cancer got worse as we learned she had an auto-immune disease that made her susceptible to every cancer in existence. She eventually died. My parents got divorced, but I was too consumed by the cancer world, processing divorce took a distant second seat. I was still working retail, and I was still very very single. I was in a deep hard season of longing that worsened.
While the 2010s were largely spent in grief, there were also multiple seeds set to spring that were being sown. My dad remarried and I inherited a beautiful stepfamily. I anticipated living a life never knowing what it would be like to be an uncle, but with my stepfamily, I have an abundance of nephews and nieces. Though my family shrank and split, it also expanded 4 fold. One of the most important conversations I had with my sister in her dying years was the need for me to have blessing and in a way, permission, to move on in my life rather than put things on hold for her. By the end of the decade, I entered a new career and love what I do now. I'm no longer single, and learned that being so painfully single for so long makes me forever appreciate what I have now in marriage. What was once farfetched and unattainable became more than what I ever dreamed.
As I thought about what got me through the 2010s towards what I wanted, the word 'belonging' came to mind over and over.
No matter what you're doing for 2020 or the decade ahead, belonging is a critical component that can aid in sustainable long-term success. Brene Brown talks about how belonging is bringing your full self and being okay with who you are and what you bring, rather than trying to change parts of you to fit in. When going through grief, loss and longing, these reveal your authentic self.
Belonging can be found in healthy and unhealthy ways and places. The themes of how you got there are the same that's worth taking a look at. What you got of value from those communities or resources was being understood for your thoughts, feelings and experiences and being welcomed, accepted and supported. What helped you stay was safety to grow and learn, and knowing that you mattered. What helped you thrive was that you could give back as a part of your authentic self and others benefited and appreciated your care.
Whether you're in a season of longing or belonging, assess these areas and see if you have these in your life. Are there seeds springing up that you can see that could use support? Do you have people and resources that foster learning and growth? Do you believe you matter? How are you giving, knowing you matter?
Consider these and adding what you need as you make shifts for the New Year and upcoming decade.
Andy is a therapist who provides positive, helpful, thought-provoking information and tools for you