Here’s the next post in my “Art as Therapy” series . . .
Myth #4: I’m Better off by Myself (my rendition)
“I’m better off by myself” was a common refrain as a child. It was my defense when my siblings excluded me. But I’ve come to see that it is not only untrue, it is unhealthy if taken to an extreme. Don’t get me wrong: It’s very important to know how to enjoy oneself alone, but belonging is what happens in community.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn,
‘The Night Watch’
“You’re in a crowd of hundreds… looking at the picture of a crowd of people. But there’s a difference. Your crowd is anonymous… Ideally, you’d like to be alone, while in the picture, their comradeship is bringing a glow to a dark, rainy [day].
The Night Watch – which is perhaps the most revered picture in [Holland]– speaks [to] the appeal of joining in; they are going to do something that is hardly appealing in itself –patrolling the streets on a foul [night] – but how readily we would join them if we could. Companionship is so much more important than ease and comfort.
It is a…poignant message: for here we are in this room, in a crowd, yet without a collective purpose. They in the picture are what we should be, and what, in times of honesty, we wish we could be; a band of brothers [and sisters], a true team, people who will bring out the best in one another.
Strange though it might sound, this picture is about loneliness, for it tells us what we are missing when we feel lonely. And getting to know what our loneliness is about is the first step to lessening its pangs.”
I suspect we all suffer from loneliness at times. It’s an aching feeling, like an empty stomach, prompting downcast eyes, or the biting of a lip. Yet, loneliness is how we discover our need for others.
The loneliness I felt as a child drove my desire for community as an adult. In my twenties, I joined a therapy group and found additional community as a teacher in a school and on an agricultural/environmental organization. In my thirties and forties I made friends among the parent communities of my sons’ schools. In the last decade I worked with my siblings to move through our differences and regrets from the past. This led to even more meaningful gatherings with friends. While I still make time for myself every day, to write, read or walk and talk with a friend, I no longer need to feel alone in a crowd. Belonging to myself is the first step to belonging anywhere.
What kind of community, (or communities) do you belong to?
What does “belonging” mean to you?