I read the book “The Vagina Monologues” over 20 years ago. I can’t even remember how it landed in my lap, but I do remember how I felt reading it. I felt awakened. I felt like the vagina stories these women told were my story, and they were my story, just as they are all of our stories. I remember feeling deeply connected to women everywhere and I remember recognizing just how special this tribe to which I belonged was.
And when I went on the stage to perform one of the monologues with a cast of 25 other vagina-proud ladies, that belonging I felt reading the book swelled. There weren’t any differences in all those various women of the cast. Although, if you looked at us you would have seen obvious differences. Some of us were short (that’d be me), some were tall, some were curvy and some had previously had the traditional genetic sex organs of a man.
The differences disappeared on that stage because we came together for a common cause. We were there to raise awareness and raise money to prevent violence against women. They disappeared because we all know what it feels like to be shamed for our gender or abused because of that gender or to be made to feel inferior because of that gender. So even though we were born in different parts of the world and got out of bed on different sides, we were one that evening, as I imagine all the casts performing the Vagina Monologues all over the world are and always have been.
Curious thing to feel as though you are one with 25 people you barely know?
Brene Brown tells us “True belonging is not something you negotiate externally, it’s what you carry in your heart. It’s finding the sacredness in being a part of something.” So maybe it’s not so unusual to connect with 25 people I don’t know. I understand that word sacredness. There isn’t any other way to describe what it felt like to walk on that stage. It wasn’t pride, or vanity, or even joy. It was the sacredness of being a “part.”
It makes me crave to be a part of other experiences of belonging and it makes me wonder how can I help other women to have authentic experiences of belonging? The reason I want to help other women have these experiences is because I understand the healing power of the sacred – and if, like the wise and wonderful Brene Brown tells us, it is a sacred event to be a part of something, then it is my job to help women find their way to these experiences.
Easier said than done, of course.
Here’s what makes it so hard. Brene also tells us that we live in a culture that is separating us. The news we hear daily and the often-political arguments we are a part of highlight our differences. I posted a comment on social media the other day. The comment was not meant to be political and it wasn’t even meant for other people to comment on. However, someone felt the need to correct my lament. We seem to look for what’s different and find a way to highlight that difference and even to put energy into shaming a person for that difference.
The very expressions that have weaved their way into the fiber of our families and communities, much like the dinner table of another time, are being used to tear us apart. The technology seems to create and reinforce our separateness and the anonymity of the technology appears to breed fear. Fear is the extinguisher of belonging. It puts the fire out and it creates an environment that is no longer conducive to creating fire again.
So, I’m not such a looney therapist that I can imagine myself plucking all the lonely women out of their homes and creating vagina-related events for them. What I understand about connection and belonging at this part of my journey is that it has to come from the inside out. Seemingly counterintuitive, I know! But if you close your eyes and spend a moment scouring the landscape of your soul, you will have clarity on what I mean.
We are largely distracted. When we’re not on our computers, we’re on our phones. When we’re not on our phones, we’re watching Netflix. When Netflix loses its luster, what will be next? The sky’s the limit, it would seem, in our current climate to just how many different devices and opportunities exist to distract us from ourselves. We’ve been so conditioned to ignore our emotional experience and look for a way out from anything uncomfortable that Apple and Netflix never need to worry about where their next paycheck will come from.
What if we tried to sit in the discomfort for a moment? What if sadness came up, or grief, or even shame and we got curious about the emotion? What if we turned our phone upside down and on silent and decided to breathe through whatever the emotion might be and notice? Our emotions are harbingers. They could be harbingers of something great coming our way or of something mean and nasty. The truth is we often don’t know what message they’re trying to send because at the briefest whiff of discomfort, we disconnect.
There’s an unspoken contract many of us have made with our deeper selves and with our emotions. We’ve contracted to not feel. When we make that little pact with the devil, we also unwittingly agree to a life of distraction and addiction. We will spend hours on Tinder looking for the perfect relationship with a stranger, but few of us will spend five minutes creating a relationship with ourselves.
Instead of a bulleted list of ideas on how to begin to create a loving relationship with yourself that might just lead you to those sweet moments of belonging, I’m simply suggesting a 5 minute daily practice. That’s it, 5 minutes any time of the day you choose to spend in quiet time, sans distractions, and with eyes closed. Yes, you have to close your eyes. Just see what happens. Just see if the outside world and the judgements and the expectations start to clear for you a little. Just notice what emotions come up and notice from what place you want to make your choices about how and with whom you spend your time.
I will leave you with one more Brene tidbit, ‘cause you can never have enough Brene. In “Braving the Wilderness” she says “Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made it your mission.” How courageous we would be if we walked our internal world and found that there is no judgement there, only love. My hope for my readers and fellow seekers is that the walk will show us that we’re never truly alone in the world if we belong to ourselves.
Lydia Kickliter, LPC
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