"B" is for Belonging

Grateful April in the A-Z Blogging Challenge

Unlike yesterday, the letter "B" presents many options for which I am grateful, most of them pretty obvious for a Book-loving Baseball fan who enjoys the Beach. And, once again, I'm plagued by my Pacific Time zone creating a delay in posting. By the time I am on my second cup of coffee and ready to write, I'm already behind (especially behind those who posted their "B" before going to bed last night, you adorable little cheaters).
Dana Martin Writing Bakersfield Belonging

The sense of belonging is sort of abstract, and I'm not sure many of us raise words of praise for this particular type of blessing. I know I took belonging for granted and never considered how powerful close relationships were until faced with the opposite.

When I married at 19, I was so enamored with my new husband, his family, and future life in Neverland that I poured everything into the endeavor, leaving a lifetime of other family and friends in my wake. I took for granted that the people who'd originally loved me--my girlfriends--would be there regardless of my selfish behavior.

I was right, but only partially. After my total disregard for their college experiences, trials, and triumphs, they sort of moved on. Even my best friend chose someone else as her maid of honor. Talk about a wake-up call.

But the true discovery of my neglect took years. I didn't realize overnight (or even at my best friend's wedding) that I had ditched the Originals to search for new belonging. I'm not really a perfectionist, but I am competitive, and I like to be the best at whatever I do. Therefore, a new husband, a new family, new home, and a baby were a shot of steroids to my competitive muscle; I double-timed my efforts to ensure everyone in my new life would feel a sense of belonging.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, though, God zeros in on your failings. I believe He uses every situation for His work, sometimes connecting the dots in a peculiar but beautiful way.

In 2006, I opened up the paper and read an obituary. The young woman had married one of my high school boyfriends, and they were in love. Among the poignant words and news about her tragic end were assurances that her best girlfriends (about 20 of them) would miss her desperately. I began to visualize her funeral and the lives she had touched. She had kids, a husband--and friends? She belonged to many people. My internal camera zoomed in on my own funeral. Who would be there?

Only the people who had to be there.

The thing about friends is that they want to love you; they don't have to. When I step into a room of friends, I feel like I belong. At home with my little family, I belong. In my writers groups, at my haunted houses... I belong. And because my only blood relatives are the ones to whom I gave birth, I am grateful for any relationship that makes me feel a sense of belonging.

After reading that obituary, I realized that I’d put all my eggs in one proverbial basket. I had ignored the people whose natural instinct was to make me feel like I belonged because they loved me for who I am, regardless of my lack of their DNA.

Belonging isn’t earned, it’s freely given. And today I celebrate the friends and family who give me a sense of belonging every time I see their smiling faces or receive a precious note of love. I love you and want you to feel protected in my friendship. Thank you. Although 20 years have passed since I was that silly obsessive little perfectionist, I promise never to take you for granted again.