Life is a massive jigsaw puzzle.

You are constantly trying to find where you belong, the perfect fit: a friend, a teacher, a class, a major, a job, a spouse… the list goes on.

Sometimes the pieces fit. It is perfect and seamless and you know all is right.

Other times you smash the piece in place, where it doesn’t belong, and you fight to make the fit work, even when you know it should be moved.

Sometimes the puzzle ages and you throw it away rather than try to repair it.

Sometimes it is lost.

As a child, I wanted to belong. I’m an extrovert. I wanted people to like me. I found friends in my neighborhood and we fit.

Then one day another girl moved into our neighborhood and altered the puzzle. Suddenly, I didn’t fit anymore.

A few years later I was tossed away, useless, and no other puzzles had room for me.

I did not belong anywhere.

You don’t forget that feeling. Ever. It becomes a part of you, the hurt, the pain, the ache of being less than worthless.

Eventually it made me stronger, but it took time. Four years would pass before I’d find a new puzzle where I was the perfect fit.

I’m the one with the perm on the top left. These were my people, where I belonged in high school (with bonus appearances by by sister (far right) and cousin (lower right). Yes, most of my high school friends were guys, much to my parents’ dismay. I also cannot remember what we were trying to do with our fingers in this photo.

Twenty-five years later, when a friend does something even remotely resembling this situation, where I am not allowed to belong, even for a small event, the hurt comes back.

I know it is not logical.

I know the world does not revolve around me.

I know feeling this way comes off as selfish to those who do not understand.

But the smack of the bat slamming into you, knocking you out of where you thought you belonged, is no less powerful in my imagination than in reality.

My brain cannot tell my gut how to feel.

I will get over it, as the pain fades and logic takes over, because in most cases, the bat is in my thoughts, not in the real world. I have chosen my friends well.

Then I watch my daughter, the child who will befriend another in five seconds at a playground. I see her joy when a child accepts her invite to play.

My daughter befriended the much older daughter of an old friend and she was thrilled. They were intertwined for for the entire visit.

I witness her tears when another says no.

I wonder how I can teach her about shyness or mean girls, without having her go through the pain I did.

Because she is so much like me.

We want to belong.

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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10 Responses to Belonging

  1. Masala Chica says:

    Oh what beautiful imagery. Belonging to a puzzle and losing that fit only to find that you can’t find your way in another puzzle. I think we have all felt it but you captured that sense of being lost perfectly.

    My daughter is going through the same thing. Other girls on the street the exact same age as her. She is the youngest and sometimes they like her, sometimes they find her to be annoying and hide from her. Like, literally. Last time it happened, I walked up to them and said, “why are you hiding?” and they said, “oh we’re just looking for something.” While giggling and wedged behind the wagon in their garage.

    It makes me sad. For the most part, my daughter is tougher than me in some ways, more sensitive in others. I give her a lot of credit though because she tends to keep her cool way better than me.

    Sending hugs.

    • The situation with your daughter is eerily reminiscent of how my friends acted. In fact, they pulled the same juvenile thing on me shortly after they decided my puzzle piece had no business trying to fit. I wrote it about it here.

      I can attest this behavior does make you stronger. You learn to accept people for who they are and to not change yourself for another, because if someone doesn’t like you, nothing you do will change their mind.

      Of course, I am also rather difficult to get along with because it also makes me blunt and unable to play the games so many adults continue to do.

      I fear for my daughter, who right now see the beauty and views someone’s refusal as “they don’t like her”. I know she is strong, but she is so extroverted and sensitive it does not bode well.

      Yet another reason I want to freeze her at this age. That and the hugs/kisses/snuggles that I doubt I’ll get from her tween/teen self.

  2. Beautiful Kelly! So glad to see you post! 🙂

  3. I know – we just can’t keep from worrying when our children start interacting with the world. I love the pic of you from high school – totally looks like my era.

    • My fear began when I learned she was a girl while I was pregnant–my familiarity with “mean girls” strong.

      It is only as school age approaches I have wanted to hide her away. She can charm anyone if in the right mode, it’s quite remarkable. I don’t want to see her light dimmed.

      I can only hope I help her be strong enough to face whatever comes her way.

      Are you familiar with “The Era of Perms” as well? 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Yvonne says:

    This hit very close to home. I’ve felt this way most of my life. I even call myself a “misfit” Like Hermie in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Anyway, one thing that’s helped me, is to keep reminding myself that forcing a piece of puzzle to fit, for the sake of fitting in, is not worth my time or energy. So I redirect my feelings and emotions and put them to work where I am a good fit. Does that make sense?

    • It makes absolute sense.

      I do that as well–life is too short to spend your valuable free time in a puzzle where you don’t fit.

      I have found many puzzles where I fit, and a few where I’m not sure. Sometimes a puzzle is only made of two pieces but

      The internet has allowed me to find many of these when geography could not. I love to write but have found unless a friend is a writer, they give me this *look* when I talk about the stories in my head that I cannot control.

      It’s nice to find a place where your weirdness is welcomed.

      What I find most interesting, is those I’m closest too, suffered something similar growing up. I’m not sure if it’s an instant bond (given I’ve been friends for some for years before I learned of said experience) or that they are puzzle pieces like me and naturally fit because none of us play the game.

      So glad you stopped by and commented.

  5. So beautifully and emotively written – I can relate!

  6. Pingback: Time and the First Day of 1st Grade | Dances with Chaos

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