Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Finding a place to belong

Since I wasn't feeling too great I just laid on the couch and watched TV most of the afternoon. I got the feeling there was a reason for me to just that.
I watched Oprah and it was this Challenge Day show where they were at a high school and the students opened up about their lives in front of other students. I cried the entire show. It was powerful, and certainly eye opening.
So many young people going through such hard things and here we are as adults often thinking, "kids haven't a clue about real life". As I watched these young people speak about being teased, feeling alone, having issues they kept well hidden, it reminded me of my own school years.
I was a non seventh day Adventist kid in an Adventist school, all 12 years. Painful is a word that doesn't even come close to describing what I went through.
From grade one I heard things like, "you are going to hell and so aren't your parents, they smoke and you don't go to our church. " Now I didn't hear that just once in a while, I heard it lots. Every morning there would be a time of singing and I never knew the songs because they were learned in Sabbath school at church. No one offered once to help me learn them. I was just left out and snickered at. The teachers were not much better than the students. Since my parents smoked when I was young, my clothes smelled like smoke and even the teachers would turn up their nose at me. I was always made to feel "less than." I was not asked to birthday parties or to go to anyone's house, except for two homes, one had a non seventh day Adventist father and the other home was pretty dysfunctional.
I never was included in anything that took place after school. High school was better but those first 8 years made me into a person that felt the need to brag about how much candy I had or how my parents spoiled me. I grew into a person that had to over achieve, do everything bigger and better, just so I would be noticed. Then on the family side of it, because I went to private school, I was different than even my own cousins. You see, we live with those same childhood labels into our adult life. The issues may have changed names but we still fight that same childhood battle.
I am now 52 and have finally given up trying to do everything bigger and better.
But, my search for a place to belong is still going on.
I wasn't SDA as a child, so didn't fit in there. As a young adult I joined the church, was asked every week for 3 years, to sign the guest book when I went to church. In time I became an elder in the church but it all felt like climbing a mountain, getting to the top and then deciding it wasn't all that great a view.
Later we wanted to find a good Christian community to raise our children in. We began attending the Mennonite church, went for several years but never could be members because Emery was married before. So again, rejected because we didn't quite measure up to some requirement. I am not whining here, please don't think that, I am going to make a point that relates to all of us.
I convinced my family to go to Orthodox Jewish services with me, only to be reminded that well, my marriage is not accepted of course since Emery is not a Jew.
So many of us wander through the internet world trying to find a group, a safe place to belong. Maybe we want to be French, maybe we want to be a homesteader, perhaps its the Celtic world or the headcovering group, maybe we want to be a with people that do this or that certain thing. Those are some of the places I have tried to fit into. And parts of me fit in and parts of me just have to play the part.You see we are all scattered from our families, we have no "clan" to belong to. Or at least many of us don't. I wrote about "women grinding wheat together" last year. How so many women are lonely for the friendship of other like minded women or even just to make cookies for Christmas with a sister, aunt and cousins. We all want some sense of community, just like these high school students today on the Oprah show.
You see, we are all the same, just the number of years we have lived is what has changed.
We all want acceptance, non judgment, and friends we can count on for liking us for who we are, without having to say and do things that are just to make people like us.
Of course my family is extremely loving and accepting but women seem to need extended family in their lives or close girl friends. We are social. We need to be "women grinding wheat together" as in the old days. Women of the village working together, talking, sharing wisdom, listening and nodding with understanding.
I don't have the solution... church groups may help but we need deep, full of acceptance relationships, more easily found in extended family where unconditional love is just part of the picture.
My early school days have sent me on a life long quest to find a place to fit in, to belong to. So far I have made a real habit of finding places that were not very accepting : )
After today I plan on looking at the world with a much more accepting heart.

here is the web site with the information about what was on the Oprah show today

If this blog accomplishes just one thing, I want it to be that it gets people thinking about their life and about the deep things in life, heart things, something more than cooking, cleaning and baking. Those are good things, yes, but they are not the things that change the world or give you a legacy that will make future generations aware of who you really are inside.

Tuk Tuk and Ling Ling not being very accepting of Mrs Henny Penny


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your religious journey. Brought a tear to my eye to read how you were treated in SDA school. Shameful.

The two things my kids learned at a young age, because I enforced it: we are to love GOD and people. Not rules and regulations. That all stinks.

Again, I was touched.

Patti said...

Very good post. I agree 100%

Carrie J said...

Boy can I identify with this post. I became a Mormon when I was in my early twenties and experienced some of the same things you speak of. I wasn't good enough to marry some of the guys I dated because I was a convert and not born into the church. I wasn't as valiant as a person born into the church therefore not good enough. I stayed in the church for 20 years before my husband,who was born in it and I left. After being shunned and losing all, every single one, of our LDS friends, we started our social lives over in a town we had lived in for 15 years. We had no extended family in the area and very few close friends outside the church. I miss very much having like minded women to share time with. I have found some close friends but none that are sisters to my soul, if that makes sense. I think that is one of the things many women look for here in the internet community. Women who think and feel as we do.
I so enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post...so thought provoking. It brought tears to my eyes reading how you were treated.

I have tried to teach my children to love ALL people as our God would have us do.

I agree with all you have written Patty. Thank you for sharing...


Anonymous said...

How unkind and cruel people can be. Don't they listen to the teachings of Jesus?

I'll grind wheat with you anyday Patty! Have a cyberhug!

Anonymous said...

This was such a sad, reflective post. Sad because it did not suprise me one bit that you have found several Christian communities somewhat less that accepting. I'm an Anglican (with a strong interest in the Quaker faith)and in every Anglican service we repeat (from the BCP) ..."to love God with all our heart and to love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these"

How many communities break these two commandments I wonder? How many communities break the two most important commandments set out by our Lord, by being unwelcoming, judgemental, venerating the word of some powerful and magnetic preacher rather than the word and spririt of God?

I am not at all surpirsed that people are a little wary when I say I am a Christian...they automatically expect me to behave in a very judgemental, aggressive way...they expect me to behave in the exact opposite way to how a Christian should behave. Perhaps because they've learnt from bitter experience???

PS. Sorry for ranting! he, he, he! This is one of my "soap box" subjects!

Anonymous said...

I saw that Oprah show several weeks ago when I was sick. It was positively one of the most moving programs I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

a lurker here.. been reading and enjoying your blog for a few months now..
This entry hit me like a ton of bricks..
I've searched like you.. thinking that there was something wrong with me... maybe there's not..

like you I will keep on looking..

hugs from TN

Denise in TN

Anonymous said...

I think as we get older, we tend to want to go back to the roots, or the religion we experienced as a child.
If there wasnt' one, we continue to search.
I was very active in church as a child and teenager. After I married someone from a different background, we found a church that was good for both of us. Then we moved, and could never find a church that felt welcoming. Consequently, we stopped going to church. I am a very spiritual person, but do not go to church, and I miss it.

Anonymous said...

Pat, kids can be really cruel, but for the teachers to act that way....

Anyway, God has used all of those experiences to make you the special person you are today. He did a good job by the way!!!! =)

Gina said...

Oprah made you cry, and you made me cry. Not so much that I felt bad or sad for your experiences as a child but because I realize that so much of this sort of judgment continues in adulthood. Where did those SDA children learn there taunts? At home or at church perhaps.

Isn't it interesting how the internet has created some little corners where very different people come together and grind wheat? French Chic has been that for me. I find your posts so thought-provoking. Thank you.

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