Soft front. Strong back. Wild heart.~Brené Brown
I'd sit in the wingback chair by the span of windows in the living room of the home I grew up in. I'd stare at the painting on the wall and collect myself after battling through a day in high school. My mother was near, but didn't force me to talk about my day. She sensed I needed time to process the reality that I faced each day--that I truly fit nowhere. Even though I was seemingly "everywhere" an adolescent should aspire to--a talented flute player in the band, a leader in my church youth group, an honor roll student. I felt more "belonging" sitting in that chair processing my life than I felt anywhere else. I did not have the insight then to know that as I sat before the painting and sifted through the day, my mother's comforting presence hovering around me, I was discovering that belonging to myself was perhaps a key to that riddle of the paradox that I belonged everywhere and nowhere.
Fast forward decades, and I'm driving around town running errands and listening to NPR. Brené Brown, researcher and storyteller who has been studying shame, vulnerability, courage and other social science topics for more than 15 years, is discussing the time she heard Maya Angelou on a Bill Moyers interview in 1973. Ms. Angelou stated during that interview, "You are only free when you realize you belong no place--you belong every place--no place at all.The price is high.The reward is great." Ms. Brown went on to say that she never really understood what this statement meant until one day she was going through her invitations to speak. One group stated they could not hire her for their faith-based event "because I cussed too much." Another group stated she would have to cut out references to her faith if she accepted their offer to speak. "I finally got what Ms. Angelou was talking about--I fit nowhere and I fit everywhere." Ms Brown elaborated, "We confuse belonging with fitting in, but the truth is that belonging is just in our heart, and when we belong to ourselves and believe in ourselves above all else, we belong everywhere and nowhere."
I resonated with Ms. Brown. My novel, Missing God, has been critiqued by many to contain "too much cussing," or "too much Jesus." I held fast. I wouldn't change the dialogue. I wouldn't take out Jesus. Cussing did not detract from the character's heart that was searching and searching for something true and beautiful and real. Ms. Brown goes on to state, "Let me guarantee you that's what's in every story of trauma and survival and resilience, every single one: cussing and praying."
And so I go to my book signing on Sunday as a writer who belongs nowhere and everywhere. I go with a soft front, strong back and wild heart. And I also go not only with belief in myself, but also with joyous celebration, knowing I belong to the Anointed One, Jesus.