Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Need To Belong… Somewhere

Life can be a pretty lonely thing for a human being. It’s hard to be alive and not yearn for a sense of belonging: somewhere we can feel welcome and safe and valued. Not just for what we have, or what we have done, but simply for who we are, just as we are.

I’ve known many people who appear to have found this in their lives, and are, for the most part, content and secure and as happy as people can get.

But I’ve known many, many more, when the truth is known, who are still wandering about this world, looking for somewhere they “belong”. I was one of them for most of my life, before I realized that for me, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Years of wondering about all of this have led me to my current perceptions, which of course, might change tomorrow, even at this late date.

So much of how life will unfold depends on the times and culture into which we are born and how well we can conform and adapt to it. Those whose skin and gender and class and abilities match up with the ruling majority find an even playing field on which to play the games already in process. Games chosen by the majority, played according to rules and norms set and enforced by those who have risen to the top of the ruling majority. This power elite, of course, in this country has always been powerful heterosexual white men. (I am still pinching myself to see if I am dreaming or not: did a black man actually make it into the White House?!)

Anyway, for those born into this structure who don’t happen to match up the majority population, like women, people of color, gays, and those who choose to come here from other cultures, it most certainly is NOT a level playing field.

I was well aware by the time I was ten years old that I would never be allowed on this playing field at all. I was a girl. A mouthy, sassy, rebellious little white girl that wanted to play football and hated dolls and starched, ruffled pinafores, born into a 1940’s super religious, totally sexist, all white, ultra conservative world. I spent 40 years in that world, doing everything possible to fold, staple and mutilate myself into some acceptable shape, and all it got me was a near death experience from end stage alcoholism. The good part of it is my two beautiful, powerful daughters. But I never knew a moments sense of  “belonging” in that world. Not one.

I did get a taste of “belonging” in early recovery, when I finally left that behind, and ended up close to homeless on the streets of a big

scary city. It was the urban Native American Recovery Community who held out their arms and gave me shelter and love and hope. I bless you every day, dear Sisters and Brothers, for teaching me what life is supposed to be.

When I see the desperation with which some (not all, by any means) need to band together at dkos, and in other all white spaces, in defense of the status quo, I have to wonder how much fear is behind that. Fear of change: fear of losing something precious. Fear of losing a space where they have found “belonging”.

I dunno. I do know when I think about it from that perspective, I don’t feel so angry. I know what fear feels like, and how it can disguise itself as anger, even hatred of others. Been there, done that. Didn’t work out so well.  

Well, enough meandering in Mooseville for now. 🙂    


  1. the sense of belonging is indeed with most i think. however to varying degrees… i once knew a dead head that morphed a few years later in an orthodox jew – for some reason i did not find this shocking.

    thanks for posting.

  2. Strummerson

    I am capable of feeling mobile without feeling adrift, and feeling rooted without feeling stuck and parochial.

    Your beautifully crafted reflection here resonates with a question I have long held about whether sense of place depends more on familiarity of location or community/family.  I am blessed with both family and community in a place I feel is familiar, but in which I don’t feel quite at home.  Ann Arbor is a lovely place in many many ways.  I know people here who would never want to leave.  Ever.  I get why.  But I’ve never felt like it was “my” place or home.

    There are two cities, NYC and Jerusalem, where I would like to live.  I have social connections and/or family in both.  Neither were my home as a child.  I could see myself ‘putting down roots’ in Chicago.  But at mid-life, I’m not sure that I will ever feel at rest anywhere.  I often envy my brother-in-law for his deep deep deep connection to Chicago.  It’s been his family’s home for 3 generations on both sides.  He’s lived elsewhere, but always with an eye to returning.  It’s sort of ‘in his blood.’  

    But I also think there is virtue in the desire (and desire is always predicated on a lack) for home.  The narratives that undergird the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of Jewish life, to which I am deeply connected, are all organized around profound rhythms of exile and return.  And I can see how these rhythms have been both generative and toxic.  And then there’s baseball, where the whole point of the game is to make it home.  The drama of a Back fugue (and a be-bop tune for that matter) is the extended play of meandering that always yearns for that final resolving chord.  Bach’s minor fugues all end on the relative major chord, which is supposed to evoke the unification of heaven and earth at the end of history, the redemption of original felicity with eternal perfection in the consummation of history.  And yet the meandering is so profound and beautiful, in Miles and Bird and Trane and Dexter as well.

    I hope you feel you belong here in Mooseville.  I recently experienced a rare bout of losing that feeling about this place.  Trying to get it back, or get back to it.  

    Maybe this will help:

  3. That’s ruminating

    That’s what Moose do.

    And this diary is not Meta

    It’s emotional metaphysics. Something we also do a lot of.

    Belonging is the key. But they key thing about belonging is that we want to extend it, outwards, beyond the hearth, village, tribe, to the whole universe

    The Moose has given me, over the last three years, an amazing sense of belonging, support, and friendship. But the strange thing is that these are people from wildly different parts of the world (the Moose Map is quite exotic), wildly different walks of life and background. Wildly different opinions.

    So we get the best of both worlds, strangeness, diversity, exploration, travel.

    But with none of the nastiness, rejection, abhorrence and judgement that can come from going out of your comfort zone.

    So. In a few words. And I’m not good with just a few words. But here goes.


    You’ve found



  4. mint julep

    the minute I clicked on the link and saw that Moose. An instant chuckle escaped my lips remembering a situation involving my brother, a lifetime ago. Picture this: Camping in Sweden, roughing it in the country side. Early morning my brother felt the need to relieve himself and wandered off to find a tree or bush or something. Just as he got ready to launch a gigantic Moose traps through the under brush scared the living daylight out of him. Needless too say he didn’t have to pee anymore… One of those priceless moments. 🙂

  5. sberel

    as always.

    I participate on a listserve devoted to discussion of scouting and the boy scouts of america (which are not the same; BSA is one of many scouting programs) and heard there first hand accounts from several of the prominent people involved in issues with the BSA.  

    These discussions made me think about the issue of participating in programs from which others are excluded.  I came to the personal conclusion that no matter how good the program is, it’s not appropriate (for myself) to participate in an exclusive program.

    Our culture is a culture of oppression and isms (racism, heterosexism, sexism, ablism, etc). Sometimes, there is not realy much option but to participate (as in our overall culture).

    But sometimes, it is a choice.  It seems to me that each person is faced with the decision to participate or not participate in the exclusion.  Sometimes, people are included but treated poorly, which is worse.  From my POV, it’s an ethical decision.  My own decision is not to participate. There are ethical ways to participate, also. I’m not strong enough for that.  

    The important thing, imo, is to discern the choice and to process it as an ethical decision.  

  6. sricki

    and I’m glad you brought it up here, where I feel most comfortable (online, anyway) musing in my meandering manner.

    At times, I’ve not really been sure what “belonging” means to me. I spent so many years feeling on the outside of everything, even around the people I called family/friends. In my case, I was just locked in my head due to illness and circumstance.

    Right now, I do not much “belong” in my physical (real life) community. It is much too red, and I am much too liberal and heathen and bisexual and all-around oppositional. I know there are like-minded people here, but I have not made proper effort to find them. I either need to do that, or move (hopefully the latter) pretty soon.

    In the sense that “belonging” is a feeling of closeness and community, I certainly feel that here on the Moose. I have known Peter, Stipes, Chris, Canadian Gal, spacemanspiff, and several others — some here and some absent — for coming on 4 years now. Since well before the creation of the Moose. I felt a sense of community and friendship with them even on MyDD in early 2008, even though most of them were on the opposite “side” of the primaries from me. Online, I certainly feel at home and communal and comfortable here. I feel like I belong, even on the few occasions when we’ve had serious disagreements in these parts.

    I also feel that sort of belonging with several biological family members, and with most friends.

    But in the sense that “belonging” is, in my mind, true safety… then I only feel like I fully “belong” with two people. Neither of them are kin by blood, but they are absolutely my family — and they are support systems that are much more involved in my day-to-day life and functioning than my parents or brother or extended family. I say I am safe with them because they are the only two people in the world to whom I could truly say anything. I try not to say nasty things around them, but I certainly have — and it has not changed the way they felt about me. And though I would never do it, I know I could intentionally spout a whole host of terrible, shameful things… could intentionally engage in a plethora of embarrassing, hurtful behaviors… And at the end of the day, no matter how angry or hurt or upset they might be… they would still care about me the way they do right this moment. It is with only two people that I know my thoughts and feelings are truly safe — all of them. I can always say what’s in my heart and what’s in my head.

    So in the end… for me, the greatest feeling of belonging is not about love. I love a lot of people. It isn’t about trust. There are several people I trust with a lot of things, but wouldn’t say I “belonged” with. It isn’t about community for me either, in the long run. Because as much as I love and adore my fellow moose, if I let fly some of the thoughts that run through my head in my worst moments… half of them would probably want to punch me. Moose can be saints, at times, but they are not fools. And the truth is, realistically, I would not want many people to see or put up with me in my worst moments. They shouldn’t have to.

    So to me, belonging is about safety — the places I feel safe. And I pretty much feel safe any place that I can have either of those two people with me. And to the best of my ability, I carry them with me wherever I go… even when they aren’t technically around. They are absolute angels — to me, anyway. I realize they would not necessarily be angels to many others. But they are my best friends — the greatest friends I have ever had — and I believe and trust that I will always belong with them.

    I belong in the places I can be most totally me — most totally honest — most totally trusting — most totally comfortable. And feel most loved and trusted and worthwhile and accepted. Truly and wholly, for who I am — deep down — at my core.

    So maybe I belong everywhere.

    So long as I can bring my angels with me.

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