I went to an event tonight with a beautiful, trusted friend; and for about 45 minutes I felt like I didn't belong.
In a church (where I belong; I'm a Christian).
In a group of women (I am one).
In my neighborhood (pretty much; it's a familiar area).
In the company of friends (out of 650 people there, I knew at least 20).
In comfortable shoes (that matters).
In a recognizable context (Bible. Worship. Scripture. Prayer.)
Stack all that up, and consider this: I still felt out of place.
Sometimes I feel like the wrong kind of woman.
It was a gathering for women, and so they opened with a panel discussion about "girl" things, and one of the questions was, "What kind of accessories do you have the most of? Jewelry? Shoes? Purses?"
There commenced some discussion of jewelry, shoes and nail polish that - while probably quite authentic - felt so weird to me. So predictable. Such a stereotype.
So much of what I am NOT.
If you asked me that question (and you won't, so I will ask myself):
I have a lot of socks.
I have twelve pair of shoes that I don't like because I really don't like wearing shoes.
I have some earrings and necklaces, mostly gifts that other people have given me, and that's why I like them.
I like purses a lot but I carry the same brown one everywhere. All the time. It's from Target and it's about eight years old and the lining is torn.
But I love my socks. And it looked like everybody else in the room was into the jewelry/shoes/purse deal. I felt alone, as a sock-lover.
In all the light conversation - the giveaways, and the "who came the farthest?" and all that, I just sat there thinking I don't belong here.
Ironically, I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. In fact, I know I'm not; I leaned over and whispered, "I feel like I don't belong here" to my friend, and she said, "Me, too."
I warmed up when the girl with the air-filled voice wrapped a beautiful melody in the air, singing of striving to be something we're not.
And when the tall blonde woman who reminds me of myself strode to the front and begin to exhort and encourage and exclaim, I sat up straight.
I did leave once, but only because I had to pee so badly I couldn't stand it. I came back, though, and I listened and I heard every word and each one resonated deep within me. She moved to the end of a powerful story, drilling deeply into the notion that our stories have a beginning and an end, and in the middle we have to cling to where we believe the end will take us, because it so often does not appear that we are anywhere near where we want to/wish to/ought to/hope to be. We often find ourselves in a pit; waiting; broken; abandoned.
And yet, the story plays out, and in the end we can see clearly the powerful vision, the high value call, the imperishable, irrevocable desire that is born in us.
The girl we were in seventh grade.
The dreams we remember from adolescent summers.
The word that might reside on our tombstone, should we fully grasp and realize this yearning, this important and worthy sense of our selves.
She led us to a moment of meditation, to consider what that high value call might be. What word might define it. What thread of potential has been winding through our lives, from as far back as we can remember?
A card and a Sharpie, and instructions to write the word and leave the card on the chair when we left.
And then it made perfect sense. I'm the right kind of woman, just in need of some patience. I heard what I needed to hear; I just had to endure and accept that the melting pot is huge, indeed, and that we are all in need of coaxing along.
I had my word, and I wrote it down, and it had nothing to do with accessories.
It had everything to do with me.
Who I was created to be. Who I have been in every context, every environment, every aspect of my life. For all my life.
It is a high value call, and it is mine.