Photo Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

This post was originally written and published on March 5, 2022 via Substack.

For the past two years, I have slowly, sometimes in micro steps and sometimes in rare giant leaps, placed fitting in above belonging.

In Brené Brown’s The Call to Courage, her live talk on Netflix, she says:

“The opposite of belonging is fitting in.”

Fitting in is assessing and acclimating. Here’s what I should say, be. Here’s what I shouldn’t say. Here’s what I should avoid talking bout. Here’s what I should dress like, look like…

Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth. Telling your story. And never betraying yourself for other people.”

In the midst of a creative project over the past two years, I said things I might not have truly believed, I allowed myself to be censored and silenced, and I gave up standing up for what I believe for fear of no longer fitting in. (Not 100% of the time, but enough of the time that it wasn’t healthy.)

Just as slowly as this occurred, I’m going to slowly strip that away. And I’m going to do that by writing — sometimes here on this Substack (if I think it might be helpful to others), sometimes in the novels I write and characters I create, and sometimes privately.

I’m afraid this is going to be kind of like having a baby… if growing and having a baby took two years. It takes nine months to conceive, nurture yourself, and gain the weight that is apparently necessary for said baby, only to end up in immeasurable pain to birth the sweet child. Then, it takes at least nine months for most mothers to lose the weight and undo the toll growing a baby took on their bodies.

And, let’s be honest, Moms, we never truly undo what growing a baby does to our bodies. That’s our badge of honor. But we learned a lot along the way, and we have our children to show for it.

But this is where I am now. I have birthed the baby, and I can’t put the baby back in, or undo what I said (or didn’t say) or did while that baby formed.

I followed the doctor’s orders.

I also took advice from friends who spoke louder than me, even when I disagreed, because conflict is hard, and I fell into this trap of wanting to fit in to make the creative project work.

But by fitting in and allowing myself to be silenced, I lost a little bit of who I was. I stopped belonging especially, and most importantly, to myself.

Do not mishear me. I am not blaming anyone for any of this other than myself. I let this happen to me. I am strong enough to see it and admit it. I was involved in a creative project that I should never have taken on. And it was my fucking idea initially! So, if I’m being really honest, I did this to myself.

It was a good idea. Initially. And with the help of others, who were brilliant at what they do, the idea was a creative success.

But it was a business failure for a lot of different reasons.

And in the end, I was spending way too much time on something that was no longer feeding me creatively, was not going to succeed on a financial level (without a much larger commitment of time and money), and a project that was sucking the me out of me.

And speaking of time…

Brené Brown opened her Netflix special with this:

“Time is the big, precious, unrenewable resource.”

This is something my husband and I talk about all. the. damn. time.

As we get older… Maybe we’re approaching retirement. Maybe we’re facing limited time with loved ones, something I’ve written about here and here. Maybe we just want to be picky with who and what deserves our time. It doesn’t really matter why, because as we get older, what we choose to spend our time on matters for our quality of life.

And saying yes to one thing means we’re saying no to something else. We all know this, right?

And if we’re spending an ounce of time being someone we’re not, then we miss the joy of being who we actually are.

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