I very much resist when people try to put me in a box…label me…tell me what I can or can’t or should or shouldn’t be. It brings the rage monster out in me. (Unless, of course, it’s my Husband…and it’s related to our D/s relationship…but that’s a whole different subject, entirely.)
And it doesn’t need to be direct. It can be an indirect implication set by society or a group or an individual.
You’re a ________, so you should be like this.
This is how you should ________.
Be friends with these people…but not these ones.
Eat this…don’t eat that.
Like this. Don’t like this.
Censor yourself to fit what we find to be acceptable…or else.
The endless list of outside expectations being imposed on us…all of us…is ridiculous and unnecessary.
And let’s face it, writing about sex (especially blabbing about our personal sex lives) isn’t on the list of highly acceptable past-times in general society.
And people have a lot to say about it. About how we do it. About why we do it. And what “obligations” we have to others because we do it. I’ve flat out been told I have an obligation to publicly stand up for certain things or that it is my “responsibility” to give voice to the voiceless, and that if I do not I am somehow a traitor to them.
That’s just not what I’m here to do. My blog is not a platform. My sex life is not a vehicle for someone else’s agenda.
It’s just my story. And it’s valid as such, without any other bells and whistles.
And so is yours. No apologies.
Control the Chatter
Some people are better at shutting out the noise than others. And even if we do, it can be exhausting. I’m still learning, but I’m getting better at it every day.
Recently, I wrote about controlling social media for my own mental health. I also control news media for the same reason and in similar ways. I don’t read magazines, though I’ll read an article online, here and there. I don’t get a newspaper, though I follow a few online and pull from them, sporadically. I don’t get cable. I don’t watch the news at night. When I need to research a topic, issue, or event, I have my trusted sources, and I pull from multiple venues and mediums to satisfy my curiosity and assure a broad view. It keeps me sane…and informed enough.
I refuse to allow myself to be pulled in by the chatter. I do not “cancel” things I don’t like. I study brutal history and accept it as the learning tool that it is. I don’t try to force others to believe as I do or call them names when they do not.
A lot of times, I walk away. I don’t get involved.
And I let people say what they will about it.
Because what they think doesn’t matter to me.
And I’m a grown-up.
This is about avoidance, or backing away from “the good fight,” or refusing to stand up for basic human decency (because I know someone is screaming “burn the witch, she’s one of them” right now — convenient, and unimaginative). It’s about refusing to do it just because someone tells me to…in their way…for their reasons.
“To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” – Marcus Aurelius.
In order to live peacefully in a world that can’t shut up about itself, I’ve learned to split myself into various selves.
In my real-world vanilla life, I walk in one set of shoes and abide by the rules of work and what the community requires me to be in that position. For the most part, I do that without push back, but I have been known to rise up and speak out when it really matters. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut and smile and nod and get paid. And I focus my energy on the stuff I care about – the people I work with directly, the things I can control, and the parts of the work that fulfill me.
With most real life friends and family, I keep “this” part of who I am secret. The part that many of you know deeply. I don’t do that because I’m afraid, or I’m scared to show my true colors. I do it to protect them…and myself. Sometimes, it’s unnecessary to share everything with everyone. Good rule of thumb. And it allows me to be myself here. I don’t have to censor things because I’m afraid I’ll upset someone I know or somehow shame them. This isn’t about them, anyway, and what they don’t know won’t hurt them.
In my writing life, I have a bit more freedom than I do in my work life, because I’m not getting paid and I’m not related to any of you. But there is still an expectation, even here, that I do certain things and be certain things and believe certain things.
As such, it makes it quite apparent that there are places I do and do not fit.
The difference Between Fitting In and Belonging
Which brings me to the main point (sorry it took me so long): the difference between fitting in and belonging.
I was never popular in school. I spent a lot of time trying to “fit in,” because that’s what kids do. And I spent a lot of time crying because I didn’t. But I got involved in the groups that mattered to me, and I held leadership positions to ensure my voice was heard. Over time, I found the places I belonged. I found friends who got me and groups that needed what I had to offer. And even now, in work, and in my writing life, it is the same.
I’ve spent a few years trying to “fit in,” once again worrying and fretting over popularity, bending myself this way and that, trying on identities, going through the same necessary growing pains of youth. And now I am finding where I belong.
Even in my sex life…I’m doing that.
Belonging is a powerful and deep-seated human drive. We are social beings (even those of us who’d rather hang out with a book and a cat most of the time) who need to feel part of a “tribe.” When we belong, we experience love, meaning, connection, and purpose.
This drive to belong is what pushes some people to mask their true selves to “fit in.” But there’s a big difference between true belonging and just fitting in.
The things we do to fit in are often inauthentic to our true selves. We hide things or pretend things in the hope that others will accept us because we are like them. But belonging involves showing up and letting ourselves be seen for who we really are.
According to Brené Brown:
Many of us suffer from the split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted…. But we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.
It’s easy to confuse acceptance from others as belonging, but acceptance is very often achieved through the act of “fitting in.” We learn what is acceptable to others and we behave accordingly, sometimes without even thinking about it. Similar to Pavlov’s dogs, we do something that garners a particular response that makes us feel good, so we keep doing that behavior. But when we compromise our identity in exchange for approval from an outside force that we cannot control, we eventually find ourselves feeling stressed, depleted, depressed, or worse.
The main difference between fitting in and belonging is that you don’t need anyone or anything else to give you a sense of belonging. It’s internal…and you control it. Fitting in is external – outside forces determine what you must do or be to “fit.”
Finding My Place (and My People)
I’m beginning to really find where I belong here…in this space online. I’m squishing in and settling myself, just as I am, making room for myself. And those who read and respond and support me have, indeed, naturally formed my “tribe.”
I continue to hover just outside of popular, and that affords me a bit more freedom than “the popular kids,” which I’m okay with.
Fitting in has deep costs, both social and emotional…costs I’m not willing to pay. Living on the fringe is cheaper, freer, and less stressful.
Far better to belong. Belong in my own skin….belong in my home…belong in my work…and belong in this little world I have created for myself.
And I expend my remaining energy on those who belong with me. Nothing else…and no one else…really matters to me.
Of course, given my life (and I’m sure this is true for most people), I still have to separate things. For the good of all involved, including myself, I do not let my writing persona mingle with other parts of my life, like work and family. But, within each part of my life, I’m as authentic as I can be. You can be sure, if you are reading this blog, you are getting the real me. Not all of me. But the part you see is real.
If you are being held captive by other’s ideas about what you have to do to be acceptable…see it for what it is: a cage.
And burn that motherfucker down.
On a lighter, sexier note…my post-shower boobs, just because you stuck around this long.