Not a stranger to myself — responding to a note from someone I used to know.

Don’t be a stranger, she writes.

I find myself thinking
how can I be anything but?
I was somewhat of a stranger to myself when I knew her,
in the midst of a getting-to-know-self dance. Getting closer, but always a
few steps behind.

Now I generally keep up but my
self keeps me on my toes.

On a person-to-person basis,
Not being a stranger implies visits,
intimate and casual conversations
some form of connection
we may or may not have.

It’s always a risk,
but to you, stranger/acquaintance/community sister,
it could be like facing a flame of my past, my past beliefs
or like facing the awkward silences of the I-used-to-know-yous,
and who are you now?

She writes that she hopes to see me soon.

I’m not sure what to say to that.

I am thinking of the dream, a few nights back, of people from that community yelling at me, of the nagging feeling that stayed with me most of the day.  I am thinking of well-meant phrases that came across as antagonistic that day with her in the garden. I am also thinking that this matters, but less and less.

I am thinking of the feeling of wholeness and happiness that lingers with me longer as time goes by. Of standing with myself, of being in partnership, of doing art, of finding ways to sustain my livelihood.

I am thinking of dancing.

Don’t be a stranger, she writes.

Maybe that time — time for not-stranger-ness —  has passed. Perhaps it has not. I feel distant from that-which-was. I am not sure of what will be.

I put the letter down. At face value, the mailing is a year-end letter from a nonprofit organization asking for money. Her note is scrawled across the top, turning the letter into a more personal appeal.

letter fragment

It does appeal to the part of me that wanted — and wants to be part of something. But I remind myself that I am part of something, of some things: my own life, my marriage, my friendships, my Nia communities, large and small.

And I think of what it means to belong, not merely fit in. And how at some points in my life, I felt like I belonged and fit in, but often confused the two. While I’m still at odds with myself sometimes, in feeling “not enough,” I feel more like I belong. I belong, most of all, to myself. I’m not sure I want to fit in, at least not in the way I once did.

I don’t know how much thought she put into writing this short note. Clearly, I have put some thought into how I am reacting and responding to it.


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