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Welcome to the first of my newsletters! I'm planning to write at least one, if not two, newsletters a month, which will land in your inboxes on Fridays. Given time, I hope this will become more frequent, but to begin with I don't want to make too many promises.

The newsletters will mostly cover topics that have sparked my attention over the month - this may be anything from activism and sustainable living, to creativity, writing, and philosophical questions. Those of you who read my blog know that I tend not to limit myself to a niche, but inclusion, compassion, and asking questions are important to me.

I'll also keep you up to date with my writing, including book release dates and promotions, call-outs for review copies, and articles I've written. Plus I'm currently training to become an editor, so you might be reading a bit about what that means and what I've been learning (and if my services are something you have need of). I hope to demystify what it means to be a writer, multipotentialite and freelancer in the twenty-first century!

 

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This first newsletter is a meditation on belonging. What does it mean to you? The definition of belonging is 'an affinity for a place or situation', but we often use the word in popular culture and within identity to mean that we 'belong with' a group, culture or person.


Some aspects of our identity mean that we belong to a group - either by choice, or without choice. A lot of the time, we are 'sorted' into groups by other people, influenced by social prejudices, judgement, or cultural norms and values. This can often be an involuntary human response, where we can can challenge ourselves to think differently (eg. by educating and listening to people different to ourselves). There is a push-pull to belonging. For example, you might find that some people rebel against belonging to a particular place, culture, or even family.

Over the years, I've written extensively on deaf identity, belonging, and finding a place within the world. Belonging often has a different meaning to each of us.

A friend recently said that most of us can choose some aspects of our identity. We can choose how we present ourselves to the world - by what we wear, how we behave, and what interests we have. Our experiences become part of how we see the world.


She also made the point that deaf people don't choose to be deaf. We are born deaf or we become deaf, and have to learn to navigate the world around us through that lens of experience. We have this complicated history and identity handed to us, and sometimes it's hard to know what to do with it. People ascribe identity to us when we tell them we are deaf, assume things about our experiences or ways of communicating. 

Because I grew up deaf with a deaf sister, we did at least have someone else to understand the unique complications and frustrations of growing up in a hearing world. I used to feel like belonging meant being part of a group, something we seek and find externally. And to some extent, maybe it is. In my book of essays, Fragments, belonging is one of the threads I picked at, seeking some elusive answer.

One of my answers was, and still is, that we belong to ourselves. That trying to solve loneliness and alienation with other people's love and acceptance, sometimes misses the point. Sometimes loneliness means we are in dire need of time with and connection to ourselves, and sometimes it means we need human (or non-human!) contact. But we can't find ourselves in, or be completed by, other people. No matter how romantic it was in Jerry Maguire, 'you complete me' doesn't actually translate to real life relationships.


A person is a whole person, a self contained universe of their own. We join other people as witnesses, in love and friendship, in community. We have responsibilities as adults in relation to other people. But the only person who can complete you is yourself. Belonging comes from working on getting to know yourself well enough to understand what fills you up, heals the struggles you have been through, and allows you to be compassionate and accept yourself.

In 'The Gifts of Imperfection', Brené Brown defines true belonging as:

'...the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.'


It has taken me a long time to understand this. It's a hard thing, because it means we have to put in the work to understand ourselves better. To work with what we've got, and to not rely on other people to make us happy, at least not in the long-term. Community and friendship is a powerful and necessary thing, to keep us grounded and empathetic, and especially when you are part of a group in society that experiences barriers, discrimination, and isolation.

And in Brené Brown's most recent book, 'Braving the Wilderness', she further explores and updates the concept of belonging and how true belonging is sometimes having the courage to stand alone:

'Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone--to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough. We seem to have forgotten that even when we're utterly alone, we're connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology--that we're connected by love and the human spirit.'


Keeping in touch with other people does make us happier, overall, and keeps our brains sharp. Having family, or making your own family (with friends or partners), means we feel safer, that we are seen. That we can extend ourselves beyond our own inner world, our own concerns. But knowing yourself well means that you are also not asking other people to be everything for you.

The phrase 'you are enough', to me, means that I have what I need, I just have to recognise that, and not ask other people to fill in the gaps. Our world makes us feel inadequate - that we have to be everything, do everything, and do it now. When what we really need is to slow down and let go of some of those heavy things we're carrying around.

Going back to the definition of belonging - don't you think we should feel an affinity within ourselves? Affinity means 'a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something'. What if belonging is coming home to ourselves, liking who we are, or working towards acceptance and understanding of ourselves?

In theory, when we belong to, and find affinity for ourselves, we will be more likely to empathise with and try to understand other people better. It might be easier to see the places we need to improve on (I'm all about lifelong learning), but equally to cut ourselves some slack - we're only human, doing our best and taking it day by day.

By extending kindness to ourselves, letting yourself just be, exist, without any kind of qualifier, we are more able to find that belonging we crave from our own sense of integrity.

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I hope you enjoyed this first newsletter, and if you have any thoughts or want to add to the conversation - feel free to hit reply or chat to me on Twitter or Instagram!

What I've been reading...

Non-fiction

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley.

Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker.

Fiction

Deathless by Catherynn M. Valente.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

Articles

Why Minimalist Fashion Has A Privilege Problem - Refinery29.

How British Sign Language Developed Its Own Dialects - The Conversation.

We Need to Stop Striving for Work-Live Balance. Here's Why - The Fast Company.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Liz xoxo

Twitter: @destinyischoice
Instagram: @destinyischoice
Blog: Cats and Chocolate

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