Got that question this morning before the sun came up. Several times a day I hear this question. Sometimes people want to know where I’m from as a conversation starter and this leads to a feeling of connection. Sometimes not. It’s obvious I didn’t grow up in southern Texas.
You guessed it. I’m a Yankee White Girl.
No use trying to hide it. I’ll never be from the South and, more pertinently, I’ll never belong here.
Possibly behind the presenting question is the thought: You’re not one of us, are you? I’m not sure why we react to ‘foreigners’ this way, but it’s human nature to try to align the ‘us’ from the ‘them’. We separate out the locals from the others like sorting through the box of puzzle pieces for the border.
Sometimes the question, where are you from? is an observation that stands between us, surrounded by a thicker silence. That’s when I answer, I know (smile)… I’m terminally a Yankee. It cuts the thickness a little, like sugar in strong tea. Sweet tea is the main drink down here, a fact that I wouldn’t know if I weren’t so focused on the local culture. And it’s not just my being a Northerner in the South. I never felt that I belonged. Actually, that’s a familiar feeling for most of us, isn’t it?
It’s a feeling of being separate from others, not at peace, uncomfortable in our own skin… you know. It’s what led me to numbing, obsessive behaviors. I’m an alcoholic, so I chose to drink in order to feel OK. Trying to capture that initial ‘ahhhh’ feeling from my early drinking days kept me going for ‘just one more’ until I reached oblivion. I only wanted to feel good, to feel at peace with myself and connected somehow.
Others, who are not so addictive by nature, choose to obsess over relationships, or work, or appearances. They keep striving to become better at what they do, improve their status, perfect their homes and family, improve the perception that others have of them–go for the win. Perhaps they find that approval and success work like my numbing elixir.
For me, the 12 Steps as a way of life, remind me to drop the expectation of arriving, or reaching perfection or gaining acceptance in this life. Being OK with who I am is changing into a new ideal. I expect to be flawed, to be a struggler–but that’s alright. I am in the process of becoming His and growing into the unique Heidi that He created. I believe that Step 11 will continue to give me a sense of belonging and the confidence that I am just where I should be– in His will.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. ~Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 59
Increasingly, I’m at peace with myself and sense that I belong, no matter where I travel. I’m not going to ‘fit in’. I never have. I’m no longer trying to. But I know where I am. I am in AA. I am in God’s hands and I am contented to seek His will daily. That assures me I can feel OK. Everyday.
Perhaps one of the greatest rewards of meditation and prayer is the sense of belonging that comes to us. ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 2012, p 105
PS: Maybe the more pertinent question is not Where are you from? but Where are you? I wonder what you’re thinking about this…