The House of Belonging

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  • Kathleen Lauterbach

    I chose this poem because I think we all need to feel that sense of belonging. Like Yota, I have read it many times and I am always struck by the juxtaposition between our aloneness and the love we need to feel by belonging to something more than just us. I love how choice enters into this poem. Today could be the good day or today could be gray day . I hear in those lines that we have a choice as to how we approach our lives always knowing it could also be our last day.

    The poet used the words “this is the temple of my adult aloneness”
    I think it takes aging to know that you are the sole being that will get who you are. As I watched my mother get frailer I could see in her eyes that she was coming to grips with leaving this world and yet she was not able to express her feelings about that to us. I distinctly remember the weekend when my siblings and I gathered to clean out her house. This was a task she had asked us to tackle many times. We divided the house into the areas that most needed help- the attic, basement and garage. My sister and I took the attic.

    My brother had a cardboard box in the attic with old Mad Magazines and Met Game programs. This box, disintegrating from age , was too heavy for my sister and I to lift. We had asked my brother many times to
    get rid of it but he is a royal procrastinator and there it sat blocking our way and making us angrier.
    The next morning at breakfast I announced that Nancy and I were going to just empty the box into smaller bags and pitch them. My mother became almost irrationally furious. She began yelling at me to give him time, that he wasn’t ready to move them and that I was moving too fast. My sister tried to rationalize with her that we had asked him many times to do something about the dumb box of magazines, but there was no understanding her anger or calming her down at that point.
    As I reflect it wasn’t about the magazines or my brother or me for that matter. It was about her wanting to keep that thread from breaking any way she could. Our gathering to energetically throw away things from her house of belonging was revealing to her a thread that was becoming frayed and near breaking.

    The words -“ There is no house like the house of belonging” at first reading reminded me of the homes I lived in where I have felt secure. As I read it over and over again I realized that the sense of belonging is more about accepting myself and being content in the house of me. But therein lies the juxtaposition again. Can I understand me without others? Can I come to peace with the fact that in the end you are in the temple of your aloneness? Can I chose to make that a bright home?

    • Yota Schneider

      I love your questions, Kathy!

      I also love hearing about your mother at her “house of belonging.” Maybe she was the one needing more time because she felt time moving too fast. Although she had asked you and your siblings to clear her house many times before when it came to it, she felt she was not ready.

      As for your reflection on accepting our “temple of aloneness,” the poet also says, “This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come.” So, although this is the temple of our adult aloneness, we can still share it with our friends.

  • Linda Samuels

    This poem speaks to me about the beauty and fragility of life, loving and feeling alone, knowing that whatever you think the day might be could become something else- uplifting or heartbreaking. And that ultimately learning to make peace and accept yourself. And while I understand and accept all of those things, the poem makes me feel sad. Even though the title is “The House of Belonging,” somehow its focus on how life can change in an instant, and that alone is where we are as humans, rang the loudest.

    While I agree that life can change in a moment, and I’ve experienced that, I also feel like those changes are major nudges to help us grow and reevaluate. When someone you love dies, there is a giant hole that remains. There are huge shifts in family dynamics or friend circles. Yet, there are also opportunities to learn from that loss, appreciate what and who is here now, and change your own behaviors, connections, and habits.

    Being alone and being OK with it is a skill. When I was little, all I wanted to do was be with my mom. Where she went, I went. I was her shadow. Perhaps because SHE needed space, or maybe because she knew I needed to learn to be alone, she taught me slowly how to enjoy my own company by encouraging me to lean into things I enjoyed doing on my own like painting, drawing, exploring nature, playing with water. I learned this skill early. Yet, in becoming an adult and parent, I had less time to be alone. I didn’t realize how much I missed that alone time until our daughters left the nest. It was the first time in years I could hear myself think. And while I missed them terribly, I also enjoyed getting to know myself again.

    The pandemic gave me another unique quiet period and a certain amount of aloneness. And while I know that some struggled with the isolation, I found it energizing and much needed. After decades of caring for our kids and my parents, I was tired. Exhausted really. In the nuttiness of the pandemic and even before it began, I allowed time to nurture and care for myself in quiet ways- writing, being with nature, meditating, doing yoga, and engaging in lots of one-on-one time with friends, family, colleagues, and clients. While I can do the group thing, I also have a new appreciation for being with just one person…being able to give my full attention and focus without any distractions or navigation of group dynamics.

    The last line of the poem…”There is no house like the house of belonging.” We belong to many places- to ourselves, our family, friends, and place. Belonging can appear in many ways. I believe it’s an essential ingredient for feeling happy in your life, feeling that deep sense of belonging somewhere, whether it’s big or small, far or close, to yourself or others.

    • Yota Schneider

      It is a poem about life’s inevitabilities, isn’t it? There is a melancholy about it but also joy, the joy of sharing of ourselves, in our temple of aloneness, our home of belonging.

      It is a journey we all must make into ourselves. We belong to that journey, and it belongs to us.
      But there is no reason we wouldn’t include those we love, our loved one, our friends. Yes, everything can change in a blink of an eye, but we can “sit up in the quiet pathway of light .. the sun has made … ” and realize that this day is not like every other day. If we choose to see it that way, which I know, you always try to do.

  • Kathleen Ellis

    In reading everyone’s deeply moving comments about family I’m struck by the intensity of those earliest experiences of belonging–or not belonging. Where that first break in our consciousness, of being alone in the house, happens. And how essential those experiences are in the trajectory of our lives. My earliest memories are feelings of not belonging. And more surprisingly, I think, of not wanting to belong–to this family, to this town–of feeling like a stranger in a strange land. But it seems to be a human need, to belong to something/someone other than ourselves. So on the road I went, trying to find a new house of belonging, and the further away from that initial house the better: New York, theater communities, spiritual communities, academic communities, work communities, picturesque small towns, new cities, a husband, a child. So much heartache and so much love, so much striving. And the sense of belonging is built ever so slowly, one action at a time, in the dance between myself and the world. It’s the only way since who are we kidding? We are alone only in our own minds. We really all belong to each other.

    • Yota Schneider

      I love that image of you slow-dancing with the world, one action, one choice, at a time. You are right, we do belong to each other.

      We are all dancing, after all. Only, we dance at our own music and pace and that’s how it needs to be. Thank you for sharing this bird’s eye view of your journey with us.

      I think you may like this one … I shared it with Elinor this morning too.


      The road seen, then not seen, the hillside hiding
then revealing the way you should take, the road

      dropping away from you as if leaving you to walk

      on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,

      when you thought you would fall, and the way
forward always in the end the way that you followed,

      the way that carried you into your future, that brought

      you to this place, no matter that it sometimes took
your promise from you, no matter that it had to break

      your heart along the way

      excerpt from PILGRIM and DAVID WHYTE: ESSENTIALS

  • Julia Cardoso-Castello

    After reading this for the fourth time and every time a new way penetrated my heart and soul… at first some sadness comes out… then the reality of how transitory, temporary life is and also a journey that is unique for each person. We all know time goes and each day is special, every moment is special and does not come back, nor repeat itself… therefore this poem spoke to me of enjoying the journey, being present, savor each aspect of it! There’s a lot in this poem and I just needed to reflect, meditate and let it be in my soul…
    So yes, as I usually do, I read it again (besides English isn’t my first language and I usually like to read over and over…) This last time the light, the safety, the companionship, the togetherness with myself and others… what came out was a more profound sense of “there is no house like the house of belonging”. Belonging not to this world, or a specific country, culture… planet… Yet belonging in a very connected way to myself and the people I journey and love and choose to belong…❤️

    • Yota Schneider

      I do love this … “There is no house like the house of belonging” … It is comforting to remember that the sense of belonging goes deeper than a location, a country, a culture. Like you said, it is a journey and a choice. It takes time, practice, and the willingness to stay open and vulnerable.
      Thank you, Julia ❤️

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