June was full of so much fun for me. I spent the first weekend celebrating my sister’s birthday (playing laser tag) and Pride. June 9th was mine and my friend Megan’s birthday, and the day began with news that my niece was born, bringing us another birthday sister <3. We spent the day at a festival of colors and later had a pool party with friends. The third weekend I camped in Southern Utah at Toquerville Falls for my friend Amy’s birthday, and last weekend I spent three days with my extended family at the Dansie Family Reunion in Elwood, Utah. I have been buuuusy.
Being surrounded all month by people who love me has me considering my perceptions of community building and what “belonging” means to me.
In the first Lucenti Live podcast episode, I discussed how I didn’t fit into a community growing up. To a certain extent that was true, but to clarify, I didn’t feel like I belonged to a chosen community. I was part of a community—the community of my large Mormon extended family.
On my dad’s side of the family, there are 32 grandkids and 71 great-grandkids. We have spent Easter, the Reunion, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together every year for as long as I can remember. I still attend all of these events if I can, regardless of how I feel about them. On my mom’s side, there are 30 grandkids, and I’m not sure how many great-grandkids. I’m not as close to them as I am to my dad’s side of the family, but we spent a lot of time together as kids. I have only known a world with my cousins (and their babies) in it. There are over 260 people I share blood with on this planet.
I have never been sure where I belong in my extended families. I haven’t ever felt I could belong anywhere outside of them, and I have struggled to feel accepted within them my entire life. As a child I was taught “our family will be together forever,” and then told by others, “not your family, your parents didn’t get married in the temple.” I felt like I was part of a cruel joke, not understanding how only parts of my family would be together in heaven, and I only wanted to exist in a world where everyone was welcome. (I am finding this to be a common theme of my past–often my confusion as a child is derived from being taught competing viewpoints.)
I need to be clear here. I love my cousins and my aunts and uncles, all of them. I share different viewpoints of the world than many of them do, and I always have. Difference has the potential to cause real contention, and I felt that contention within myself for a really long time. It’s only been recently that I’ve realized that difference is also a huge opportunity to learn something new.
While camping at Toquerville Falls in Southern Utah the third weekend of this month, I was reminded of the love I have for my family as I held a bag of Jelly Bellies on my lap and discussed the flavors with Megan. Amy remarked something like, “I feel like I’m in my grandpa’s camper hanging out with my cousins.” And just like that, a cloudy lens was removed from my vision, as I felt familial love well up inside of me.
My family has no connection to my sense of belonging in the world. I belong simply because I am.
After spending last weekend with my cousins playing bingo, marbles, horseshoes, and riding down a meeeean slip-n-slide, I have been struck by nostalgia and a new sense of learning. For a long time I have held the belief that it is crucial for others to make space for me, but the more I study my social dynamics, the more I observe that if I want space made for me, I must make it (and that requires a shit ton of courage). I belong within and without my family.
In Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, she recites this quote from Maya Angelou repeatedly, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
This month has brought me closer to understanding how important it is for me to belong within myself, from moment to moment, unapologetically. It is through living my truth, in the present moment, that I become free of the necessity of belonging anywhere at all.