The Work Of Our Lives

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
—Maya Angelou

I've Been Thinking...

Good morning. Good day. Good evening. No matter what time you read this essay, my hope is that you find yourself in a good place to take it in.

I know that’s not an easy ask for most of us, especially now. I know there are so many things that go into feeling “good" or even just "good enough.” I know that for me, it’s hard to feel good if something feels off in my life. It’s especially hard if something is off with someone I love, or if anyone in my family or friend group is upset or struggling. After all, relationships are so important to our overall well-being and to our sense of self, our sense of community, and our sense of belonging. 

But this week, it wasn’t my personal relationships that brought me down or left me feeling off-kilter. It was the images in my news feed. It was the image of the U.S. Capitol police officer's family. It was the image of Alex Toledo, a 13-year-old boy, with his hands up as he was gunned down by Chicago police that left me aghast. It was the scenes in the courtroom and on the streets of Minneapolis. It was a white man aggressively confronting a Black man in his neighborhood, telling him he didn’t belong and to get the hell out. It was the news of eight people gunned down in Indianapolis.

Pain. Outrage. Grief. Despair. Anger. Disbelief. Everywhere I looked, that’s what I saw. And perhaps more importantly, that’s what I felt. It was hard to feel good after seeing all of that. It was hard to center myself and reassure myself that things were going to be okay when so much of what happened felt like the opposite of okay.

Earlier this week, my brother Timothy sent me this Maya Angelou quote (which is also our Sunday Paper quote above): "You only are free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” He sent it to me at just the right moment, and I stared at it for the longest time.

“Wow,” I thought to myself as I sat with the words. “Maybe that’s the wisdom that’s needed to feel okay, regardless of what’s going on in the world." 

If you can actually get to a place where you belong to no one in particular—where you belong to no place in particular—then you can belong everywhere. As Angelou says at the end of the quote, the price is high, but the reward is great.

Where we belong—where we find our sense of connection and trust—is something worth contemplating as we make our way to The Open Field. The institutions many of us grew up with have faltered or are in desperate need of reform (the police being at the top of that list). Relationships are also evolving. People are making up new ways of living and co-existing. They are looking out beyond what they may have been raised with and are trying new ways of being. So many of us are trying to rewrite the rules of our lives because the rules of the past (and even many of those of the present) simply aren't working anymore.

When I was growing up, there was a popular quote from writer Richard Bach that said, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they're yours. If they don’t, they never were." The truth is none of us truly belong to anyone. And as we loosen the grip on friends and family, we will discover who is truly in our circle of belonging. We will discover who wants to be at our table and who doesn’t. We have to learn how to be good with being at our table alone, and we have to get better at opening up our table to those who share different life experiences or hold different opinions. That's how we grow our relationships. That's how we grow our hearts and open our minds.

So as you move forward this week in your relationships, remember that being able to hold your center and find your good is super important, regardless of what the news serves up and regardless of if someone in your life is upset. The key to being able to feel good or “good enough” will be learning how to connect with the love you have within you and then sharing that with others. After all, what all the families that were grieving in the news this week truly need from us is our love and our support. They need to know they are not alone. 

When you lose someone, no matter how you lose them, you feel so alone. You feel like you, too, might die. You feel like you can’t go on or don’t want to go on. So many families feel like this. So many people feel like this. Our relationships are so fragile. May we all work hard to care for one another, hold onto one another, and be brave enough to let those who want to leave us leave. May we be strong enough to know that we can survive those who are taken from us in the most atrocious ways.

We belong to one another and, yet, we belong to no one. Holding that truth is the work of our lives.

See you in The Open Field.



Dear God, please help me tap into my inner goodness and know that while relationships are crucial to my well-being, it’s my relationship with myself that matters most of all. Amen.
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