Check out the latest Chamber Chat Blog post from member Monisha Mitchell LCSW LLC.
One of my son’s favorite bedtime stories begins with “my mommy hung the moon she tied it with a string, my mommy is good at everything.” Well naturally as a mother I love this story.
Growing up in the 1970s, my mommy and my daddy not only hung the moon, they were stars! My handsome brown, South Asian Father and my smart and savvy, native Hoosier Mother really were good at everything. Daddy was a professor and Dean at the local university. Mommy was a college administrator. I loved to go to work with my parents and watch them shine! Watching my folks in their element made me feel like I might shine a bit too one day. My Father had an office in the basement of the student center.
Picture it…the 70s, afro puffs and bell bottoms and little me there in the midst of those hip young adults. There were people from every race and country I could imagine, speaking mysterious languages. That diversity extended to my home as well. Not only was my father an immigrant but I was adopted at birth. Biologically I’m mixed black and white. Since there was no mixed-ish in the 70s, I was black. So my home was multi-racial, multi-lingual and different religious traditions. I was basically raised in a beautifully diverse rainbow.
Most people leave a small, insulary world to go out into the BIG world. Yet I left a big world of possibilities and diversity to go out into a world that was actually smaller than the four walls I grew up in. Most people are raised with a degree of homogeneity. You likely have your parent’s eyes or smile, your grandfather’s nose or your grandmother’s hands. I did not. I was different from my parents in every external, superficial way that mattered to the world. Yet I was the same as them in all the ways that mattered most to me. But the world doesn’t operate in rainbows. I had to check a box. Are you black or white? My existence reduced to four small lines. I didn’t fit into that small box. So for a very long time, I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere.
And that was my life for a long time. Stuffed into a box but never fitting. From the age of about 8 until really a few years ago, I operated in a world that included me but where I never belonged. I was never black enough for the black girls and never white enough for the white girls. I found hollow inclusion but not genuine belonging. Here is the thing about inclusion, it gives the sense of being graciously welcomed in, in spite of all the ways you are different. In spite of isn’t really inclusive now is it? The notion of inclusion says “You are welcome in the door” and that’s great but now what happens once I’m here? Because I am still different. I am still me. There is still the pesky matter that I am different that we never really addressed. So I was allowed in the door only to stand (metaphorically of course) in the entry way for thirty plus years. I had a family and a career and friends in the entry way of my life, not fully inside. Not fully present. Not fully me.
The breaking point-because you can never live authentically and wholeheartedly in the entry way. No one shines in the entry way. Inclusion isn’t belonging. And you can’t exist in the absence belonging without a crisis of conscious. The breaking point involved grief, loss, heartbreak (literal heart break) and of course the dumpster fire that was 2020. There were hills but far too many valleys. What I found in that pain was freedom. I stopped trying to morph to fit every situation. I began to show up in my own life. I started to follow God’s path even when I didn’t know His plan. I realized HE is the source of light so I started to shine.
AND HE NEVER ASKED ME TO CHECK A BOX
We are diverse
Diversity isn’t a training, a box or an annoyance to be managed
Diversity is humanity
Inclusion is the tolerance that has enable humans to live here without annihilating one another
Neither one requires much effort but BELONGING
Belonging requires us to show up
Not the you that you want to be or others to think you are…you
because real belonging is messy BUT SO WORTH IT! Real belonging isn’t allowing you to enter but rejoicing that you are here!
Born into a shining rainbow of diversity.
Once living in hollow inclusion.
And today experiencing a deep sense of belonging, when my little guys reads that passage to me “My Mommy hung the moon, she tied it with a string, my mommy is good at everything.”
I feel it. I’m hanging moons and doing all of the things, not good at everything, but trying and showing up-as me! So not only am I shining, I am teaching him to shine as well.