How to Really Connect (A Story of Un-othering)

 

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*This post is part of the Synchroblog happening at SheLoves Magazine entitled “We are the Other”. So excited to be joining in! Check it out here!

Her name was Annie and she wasn’t the prettiest girl in class. I saw her alone, and I understood. We both knew what it was like to stand in a corner with our shadows for company, recess after recess. Excluded, different, apart, clashing. We’d both been “othered”. I don’t remember how I ended up at her house that day. “I’ll help you pick out better outfits” I offered. Back then I still believed that if a girl could better her outward appearance, she’d get what she really wanted deep down inside: acceptance.  “I’ll teach you how to put on make-up” I promised. I didn’t understand it then. That making yourself up into something you’re not won’t ever get you accepted for who you really are.

The truth is I kept wanting to change who I was because I didn’t really believe that I had enough value just as I was. I carried that into motherhood and eventually burned out trying to live life with a super cape and a threadbare heart. My real, aching heart proved more vital than my imaginary cape. And, while losing the cape made me feel a little lighter, my heart-soul-body-mind condition pushed me back into the fringes of being “othered” all over again.

Burn-out meant that I couldn’t keep up with the other moms. I was exhausted and out of breath. I was eating their dust and choking on their busy pace of life. It was a season of scarcity. Energy, strength, peace, motivation were all in low supply.

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I was like a ghost, one friend teased. Ghosts are rarely seen and I guess she didn’t realize it then but I really did feel invisible. It took everything I had just to show up as a mother and wife everyday. Ghost mothers trying to exist and survive can be the most unnoticed of all.

I want you to know I was that mother who stopped coming to play group, who struggled to get out of bed everyday, who stopped cleaning her house because the mess always won out. I was that mother who shrank back, who turned you down not because she didn’t want your friendship but because she was out of energy, out of confidence, out of hope. I was her. Until.

Until along came a group of extraordinary, ordinary women . When they invited me to their home study group, I was still afraid to walk out my door. We were different. Still, my “otherness” didn’t push them away. Instead, they leaned in close when I spoke and listened intently to my stories. They kept inviting me but never pressuring me. They showed me that you can undo the feeling of being “othered” by creating a safe space to untangle your story and let your journey unfold and unite into a greater story of acceptance, friendship and love. I was still different in so many ways, but no longer separate. They took my broken life and grafted me into theirs.

The thing is, to receive a graft, a vine has to be wounded. To be grafted in, you have to be cut open.

And, here’s the deal. If you want to be connected to others, you’ve got to allow yourself to be cut open by their pain. You’ve got to share wounds so that you can grow together.

A vine has a limited lifespan unless it gets grafted. It’s true we can’t survive long on our own. We need each other. I was the “other” mother, suffering unnoticed, the ghost mother, invisible because of my pain. Until a group of women decided to open themselves up to me and my story, un-othering me by sharing my pain and leaning into my ache. Beautiful, life-giving friendships were born.

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We have so much un-othering to do. It’s a holy work. A work that Jesus, the true Vine, modeled when he was wounded for us so that we could be joined to the Father. This grafting, this joining together in our discomfort and pain is the only way to really live the life God gave us and to give that life away. There are “others” all around us. We just have to be willing to notice them and lean in.

Have you experienced being “othered”? How have you “un-othered” those who have experienced rejection or separation from a group of people? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Photo Credits:
Closet: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/349331010/”>jamelah</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Exhausted: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978/”>jazbeck</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Shoe heart: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwaysbecool/2871346522/”>@ifatma.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
  • http://www.mariehause.com/ Marie Hause

    I love the image of the wounded Vine as a model of grafting the self to the other through the work of “un-othering.” Beautiful and profound.

    • http://www.julieannemauno.com Julie-Anne Mauno

      Thanks so much for your comment Marie. It sort of felt like a revelation as I was working through my story. So glad you came by! :)

  • http://gayfeather.blogspot.com Bryn Marlow

    Whatever happened to your Annie, I wonder. and to the Annie’s in my life (I knew them, too, only as Carla and Dorothy and Nadine) and to the Annie in me. It is so sinister, this thing we do of othering people, cutting them off from fellowship and kindness and welcome when such actions are precisely what is needed to promote healing. And in the end, i suspect we are actually cutting away parts of ourselves. We point the dagger at the Other only to slice off our own ear.

    You invite me as reader to share my story. In just over a week i come up on the anniversary of the date my conservative church leadership body called me to sit with them in council, hear their offer to send me to a we’ll-turn-you-straight boot camp. Should I refuse, I would be turned over to Satan, my name struck from the church rolls, my soul consigned to hell. They were as good as their word. I’ve come a long ways since then. I regularly reach out to others who know the sting of rejection.

    I wish I could say I am very careful not to brand people as Other. Wish it worked that way. The tendency is strong in me to draw lines, throw up walls, keep church people at arm’s length (or more) to preserve my sanity and sense of well-being. Some of this is healthy, given my history with the evangelical church. Some of it means shooting myself in the foot.

    • http://www.julieannemauno.com Julie-Anne Mauno

      Bryn, thank you for commenting, for being so authentic and for sharing part of your story here. I agree about the tendency to draw lines and throw up walls. I struggle with that too. I’m sorry you were turned out of your church. There is a necessity to have boundaries, to protect yourself from people who are harmful, hurtful, judgemental. It is a true gift to find people who can lean into your story, be united in love in spite of differences. I pray you have people like that in your life, and that you find more who are willing to un-other you! Thanks again for your comment.

      • http://gayfeather.blogspot.com Bryn Marlow

        And this is how it happens—the slow process of opening, grafting, embracing each other and each other’s pain within the context of a supportive community. Thank you for modeling this.