This week's Tarheel Tavern theme is "belonging." When I first saw that, I thought, well that's pretty similar to "acceptance" so this should be an easy one to write. The more I thought about it though, I realized that belonging, and acceptance are two sides of one coin. I've always been big on accepting everyone else, but I've never, until the last few years anyway, really felt like I belonged. Sometimes, I'm still very aware of how many places I don't belong actually - and why, and that's what's important.
In school I was the brain, the nerd, the teacher's pet, the skinny bucktoothed chick the cheerleaders loved to make fun of. Then I was the pregnant senior that the teacher's pitied, and the students pointed and giggled at. At work, I was the competent one - you know the one the boss loved because she'd do all the work, but the other girls hated because the boss always liked her. ass kissin' bitch! In my first marriage I was the daughter-in-law that wasn't good enough. When the kids started school I was the youngest mother in the PTA. In everyday life I'm the perpetually pregnant one and that poor woman who's lost 2 kids (which people don't want to actually talk about, they just want to tsk-tsk.)
So there are ways I still don't belong, times I feel a little left out, sure, mostly because they're places inside myself that I'm not always comfortable talking about. My point is, somewhere along the line ('round about my 25th birthday I think) I realized that being accepted by everyone else isn't nearly as important as accepting yourself. Once I did that, I realized that I belong pretty much anywhere I want to be, and with anyone I want to spend time with.
That lesson is one that has made such a huge difference in my life, opened so many doors. If I hadn't learned it, I'd have never had the opportunity to meet most of the people I call friends, especially those friends I've made on the internet. I'd have never considered things like posting my poetry, telling Nova's story, and I certainly would never have been confident enough to launch this fundraising campaign I'm in the middle of.
So I'm still too skinny, too smart, too young to have a 17yr old son. My ex-mother-in-law was right, I didn't belong in her family, I was too good. But I do belong in my own skin, and that's what really matters.