Belonging Begins in Our Own Backyard

my peeps via kimberlyanncoyle.com

He sat on the kitchen counter with a bowl of ice cream and a cell phone between us. He promised it was worth my time to listen, “I’m telling you, babe, it’s exactly what you’re experiencing.” He shoved a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth, grinned, and pressed play on his phone. Malcolm Gladwell’s voice washed over me in gentle waves as he spoke about writing and art and late bloomers. As I listened, I teared up. In part because everything Gladwell spoke of validated my experience, but more so because I realized how carefully my husband listens. He knew exactly what I needed, and he offered me another voice that spoke into my most vulnerable places.

When I consider belonging and the desire to be known, my mind immediately wanders to friendship and my local community. I think of small groups and neighbors and girlfriends and church. My mind conjures up images of moving and language barriers and cultural differences. I often see myself as the outsider, wiping away my breath on the fogged up window, trying to peer in.

When I look at the streams that flow from me to the deep ocean of belonging we call “community”, I frequently forget to look at the little fresh-water lake I call home—those waters I swim in daily with the people who truly give me a sense of place and being in this world.

I’m talking about my people—the ones who share my DNA or who belong to me through marriage. I’m unspeakably lucky. I have never felt like an outsider in my own family, regardless of our differences. Sure, I’ve felt misunderstood. Sure, I’ve felt frustrated. But they patiently suffer through all the evolutions of Kimberly, and continue to swim alongside me, trying to keep up. You’ll know them in the afterlife by the numerous crowns they drag behind them.

Lest you think my marriage is perfect, barely a week goes by when my husband doesn’t threaten to sign us up for counseling. However, this is my deepest place of belonging. I am known here. Known so well, that counseling isn’t the most outrageous suggestion. My children are a safe place of belonging. “You know mom” is a common phrase around here. I allow them to know the real me, the one who cries at sentimental movies, the one who would rather read than cook dinner, the one who has to ask forgiveness a little too often.

I have parents and siblings and in-laws and surrogate aunts and uncles who KNOW me. Who tread water with me. Who drag me to the shore when I feel like I’m drowning. They may not always “get” me, but it’s certainly not for a lack of trying. We don’t always have to feel understood to know we belong somewhere. Sometimes it’s enough to know our people love us in spite of the fact that we come off as ten shades of crazy.

I’ve often lamented the outside looking in effect, while forgetting that my most intimate place of belonging is in my own backyard. This is where I belong, and I can invite others to come in and go for a swim with me.

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Where does belonging begin for you? Have you forgotten to look in the most obvious places? Where can you start?

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Belonging is SUCH a gift. Thank you for the reminder, Kimberly.

  • This is beautiful, Kimberly!