Belonging to the World

Belonging to the World

I just finished reading Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor.  It’s about some traveling they did to Greece and France, separate and together, over the course of a few years and the shifts that came about in each of their lives along the way.  It’s a good book.  I’m not going to get much more into their story other than to say they were each searching for the story that fit for them in a new phase of life.  Ann was moving from college into a choosing a vocation and starting married life, trying to find her place and calling in the world, struggling with depression along the way.  Sue was moving from young woman and mother into later life, exploring what it might be like to become a novelist, and trying to figure out how to embrace that new part of herself.  They were trying to figure out how to belong in the world as they changed, and as the worlds they knew changed.

Ann finds a few quotes that speak to her along the way, as does Sue.

Here’s one of Ann’s, from David Whyte:

You must learn one thing:

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all other worlds

Except the one to which you belong.

I lost my day job, a job that I held for nearly ten years, a few months ago.  I’ve been looking at and applying for and even interviewing for similar positions as the weeks go by.  But I find myself asking if I really want to go back to the world that I left when that door closed.  It seems like it should be easy to get out of a world to which I don’t belong, but it turns out that it can been pretty hard to figure out which world is the right one to embrace fully.  How do you give up a world that defined your days (and paid your bills) for almost a decade?

This is one of Sue’s, from George Sands:

The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now.  Another I is beginning.

No matter what world I discern is the right one to embrace, with each step I take into it, I’m going to be different than the person I am today.  Every person’s life, even though the core remains steadfast, is an ever – evolving work of art, even when it feels like it’s a big mess and nothing is working.   I’m not interested in trying to live in a world that makes me feel like a shell of myself, or pushing aside the things I value just to pay the bills.  In each phase of life, whether it is from young to old woman, or from corporate employee to person in between jobs to whatever comes next, I want to embrace the world that makes me feel alive and at home in myself.

And this is one of mine, from Christine Chitnis in an issue of the magazine Taproot, which has nothing to do with Traveling With Pomegranates.  But I read it recently, too. 

Life is beautiful and difficult, full of joy and sorrow.  Happy endings are often just for fairy tales ~ but that doesn’t mean life isn’t beautiful. [Making/creating/writing] is what keeps me afloat.  It brings me into the moment, focuses my thoughts and allows me to lose myself in the art.  And no matter what, there is beauty in that simple fact.

Perhaps the art mentioned in the passage above could be thought of as life itself.  What if I could just lose myself in the art of being alive? Even when I am feeling adrift and unsure of what world I need to inhabit, what if I could keep doing those simple things that focus my attention, like slowly kneading bread in the late afternoon sun or noticing a tiny creature’s footprint on fallen log in the snowy woods or savoring the act of writing about how a tangerine and violet sunrise makes me feel?  Would it help me identify the world that I’m supposed to inhabit?  Would it help me continue to evolve into the person I am always becoming?  Would losing myself in the art of living be a door into the more beautiful world that is always there when I remember to notice it?

  • Keith Long

    Thanks for this. I am going through similar growing pains in my search to belong in a professional atmosphere that painfully and persistently “makes me feel like a shell of myself and pushes aside the things I value.” Your words affirm my only coping technique keeping me afloat– “losing myself in the art of living” by noticing the small, beautiful things that are indeed everywhere.