The first sofa we had was purchased before we were married. We had been dating for well over a year and I helped him pick it out at a “real” furniture store. It was a light khaki colored canvas sofa, loveseat, and ottoman set. Oversized and soft, it enveloped us as we sat on it watching movies and football games, dreaming of our future. It sat in his living room, travelled across the ocean to London, back to Connecticut to the first home we bought, and then to our condo in Chicago. It held us as we held each other as newlyweds and held us through our first two babies. It cradled us when he was at class late at night and I was overwhelmed with a newborn and an eighteen-month-old baby and couldn’t figure out how to get them to both go to sleep at the same time.
When baby number three came, so did a new sofa set, this time a tan microfiber sectional. It fit us better so all five of us could have room on it. We filled it with blankets and throw pillows and everyone has a spot they prefer. It is the place we spend each evening. No matter how hectic the day and short of time we are, we find ourselves on the couch, wrapped up in blankets, cuddled next to each other. My husband will call out as the girls make their way to the living room, “I have two arms open!” and they will race to see who gets what spot. Two on each of his sides and one in my lap. This is where we talk about our day. It’s where we laugh and cry. It’s the place the girls go when their heart is hurting. It’s where we go when we feel stressed. Some families find themselves when they gather round the table. We find ourselves when we are pressed against each other on the couch. This is where we belong.
I project a lot, or at least that’s what I think I’m doing. I have these intense feelings of not fitting in and I look at my kids and worry they will go through the same thing. I remember all the years growing up of feeling painfully alone. We moved around a lot and I was constantly the new girl. I desperately wanted a deep friendship but everyone was taken. I never found my group. I didn’t belong. Even now, I have pangs when I think about lost relationships and what I must have done to not be enough. Brené Brown, in the book Braving the Wilderness, speaks about belonging.
Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
I hear a lot of people talking about their tribe. I don’t have one; my network doesn’t extend that far. It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I listened to Brené Brown speak those words as I was taking a walk and everything changed. In that moment, I knew it was okay to not fit in, because I belong. I have my people. I have friends who have walked through the fire with me, and who put up with me even when I am wrapped up in myself. I have my family, these amazing people who are my entire world and who sit with me each night on our sofa. No one belongs here more than you. This is what I want to seep deep into my children’s souls. This is what I want each person who walks through my front door to know. This is how I want everyone to feel who I see each day, whether it’s my husband or the clerk at the grocery store. I spent my life wanting to fit in, but here, in the warmth of my living room, under a sea of blankets, I finally know what it means to belong, and that changes everything.