Finding Your Tribe

8 Oct

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/7984337

Have you ever heard the quote, “When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘Me, too!’ be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.”? I love this because I spent most of my life feeling like I don’t belong and wondering what was wrong with me. As a child, I was bright but couldn’t finish my work. I wasn’t a model student, although I got good grades. Unlike most of the “smart kids” my desk was a mess instead of neat and tidy because organization eluded me. I was an athletic girl who loved to climb trees when it was not “ladylike” to do so. My Barbie dolls were usually single and had exciting careers instead of being mommies and having babies. I raced bikes. I played softball. I got dirty and the day girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school instead of a dress or skirt was one of the best of my life since. Almost every friend I ever had was more “girly” than I was and the ones that were not didn’t seem to care much about school.

In junior high, it got more pointed. There were fewer and fewer of my sports teammates in my classes. Fortunately, I made one friend who, although we were very different seemed to be the one person who understood who I was and even liked me. We were in six and a half of seven classes together in our ninth grade year and I call it six and a half because the one class we didn’t have together was health, but for a good part of the class we talked about human sexuality in a day and age when boys and girls did not take that class together. We always said we had to become the best of friends or the worst of enemies, and I think we’re both glad we chose friends since we are still the best of friends many decades later.

High school was a strange time for me. I continued to play sports. I continued to do well in school, and I continued to have a small group of friends with a large circle of acquaintances. I had fun, and I worked hard, but I didn’t fit in with the jocks because I was a nerd and I didn’t fit in with the nerds because I was an athlete. The male athletes dated cheerleaders and members of the drill team. The male nerds weren’t attracted to someone who could quote football and baseball stats. At least I had my small group of friends, or so I thought. Toward the end of our senior year we got something called a memory book. Because our yearbooks wouldn’t come until the following September when we were long gone from school, we could use the memory book to write notes to one another like we had done in previous years in our yearbooks. They all looked exactly the same so sometimes they got mixed up, which is what happened to me. I didn’t know that when I opened the book and found a note inside. I wasn’t aware that the note with no name on the front was meant for others to read but not me. When I opened the note, although it wasn’t for me, I found out it was about me. It was a cruel note about how all of my supposed friends hated me. It had twelve names at the bottom, all of whom I thought were my friends, and the one that hurt the most was my best friend’s name. I was devastated, but I got up and handed the book back to its rightful owner. I looked at her and told her I had read the note. Instead of apologizing or saying that she didn’t write it, she scolded me for reading something not addressed to me. I knew she was the author and the person behind the note. I was angry and heartbroken and told her that since the note wasn’t addressed to anyone and I thought the book was mine I did think the note was to me, and in a way it was. I stormed out of the classroom with my best friend, not the author of the note, hurrying to catch me. When she did, she knew something was wrong and asked what it was. I shot her a horrible, angry look and said, “Like you don’t know”. She swore she didn’t, and I told her to talk with our other friend to find out. Apparently she did because when I saw her later in the day, she told me she didn’t know anything about the note and would certainly never have signed it if she had. I wasn’t sure whether to believe her, but since we had been friends for nearly a quarter of my life by then and she had never lied to me before, I accepted. My tribe of twelve was down to two, and I was grateful that graduation was right around the corner. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

When I left for college, I thought things would be different. I thought people would be more enlightened and accepting. I thought I would find my tribe for life, but life doesn’t work that way. I found friends, some I still communicate with, but I still struggled to fit in. For the first time, I was exploring my creative side. I majored in English and Mass Communication but I still couldn’t find my tribe. I was too soft to be a journalist. I wasn’t edgy enough to be a writer. I wanted to belong so badly, but I didn’t. I did find a small group of friends. We had great fun together until I was a senior, and no, they didn’t turn on me. They graduated. All my close friends were a year ahead of me, so I spent my senior year mostly alone, concentrating on my work and missing those I cared about most.

I was married briefly in my twenties and that is a story for another day, but anyone who has been married and divorced knows however big or small the tribe, it fractures when people get divorced and even those you thought were your friends occasionally support your ex instead of you. It’s enlightening and painful, but it happens. Once again, my best friend was caught in a difficult situation. You see, we were married to high school best buddies. Leaving meant I might not be friends with her anymore, but to my ex’s credit, neither one of us ever tried to make them choose between us, and they are friends with both of us twenty plus years later. Then came the love of my life. I wasn’t looking and neither was he but a mutual friend thought we would be a cute couple and set us up. She asked us both to go out to dinner and left us there after driving me and then asking him to drive me back to my car; sneaky woman. It worked, though. We talked for hours and connected quickly. About seven months later we moved in together, were married a year later and started our family a year after that. I knew then that I had truly found my tribe.

Nothing could have prepared me for motherhood. I loved my husband with a depth I had never known, but when my children were born, I instantly knew what fierce love was. Each time one of my children came into the world, I knew I was meant to be their mother. I connected with them like I had never connected with anyone before. They were a part of my soul, and I knew I was meant to be a mother. Words fail me to describe the feeling, and for someone who writes for a living, that’s saying something. Ironically, as the years go by, I have had to learn to love both my husband and my children differently. I still love them deeply and fiercely, but with my husband, we made space for the love of our children in our lives. We put many of our wants aside to attend to the business of parenting. Perhaps that’s what being the leader of the tribe is about. We didn’t stop caring for each other but my husband understood the enormous amount of energy it took each day to parent our boys and lead them in the direction of their best lives. He was patient and kind and understanding. He still is, but it created a different bond between us. It created a conscious bond of support. We became a united front and considering how differently we had been raised, that was a huge accomplishment. Do we get it right all the time? Of course not, but I think we’ve done pretty well so far. In the case of my children, love has been about letting go. I had mama’s boys. They were extremely attached to me, mostly because I was their world for the first few years, but I seem to struggle differently than many. By the time it’s my youngest child’s turn to do something, I am ready; preschool, kindergarten, junior high, high school, I was ready. It’s my oldest child that rocks my world. It was the first time I took him to preschool and he was so happy to be there that I had to ask for a hug before I left. It was the first day of kindergarten as we released him to the teacher with a quick wave of his hand as he confidently walked in the building without a backward glance. It was driving away from his college drop off knowing life would never be the same. Those are the moments that get me. By the time the third one comes around, I am seasoned and ready. Nine years of a full time baby and/or toddler had me ready for preschool. Having three children on different schedules had me ready for kindergarten. Junior high and high school are logical progressions, and although I still have one at home, I hope I’ll be ready for him to launch to college as well. I still love them so much, but letting go and letting them live the life we’ve raised them to live has certainly been challenging at times.

As my children have grown, I realize they may not live near me, and I may need another tribe. I still struggle with that because I feel so different. Maybe that’s why I love the internet so much. You see, most people who know me are aware of the challenges I had getting my home in order. I found a tribe online who understands. It started big and got small and private, but those women mean the world to me even though I’ve only met a few of them. One week ago today, I met another tribe online. It is a tribe of creative women who do everything from writing to painting to drawing to fiber arts and singing. It is a tribe of encouragement and joy and my creativity has gone mad. I wrote a poem, which I haven’t done in years. I began taking pictures, which I’ve always been intimidated by because I have so many talented photographers in my family. I am writing and editing a new book and because I promised last week, I am sharing that the book is about preparing for the holidays. Yikes! Now that I’ve put it out there, it seems very real. Because I’m mostly in the editing stage, I am hoping to have the book ready to launch by the first week in November since US Thanksgiving is on November 26th. It’s scary but since I’ve done it already, I know I can do it again and hopefully with more grace and less fear because I have done it once, I know I can do it again. I have my new tribe to thank for that and my other ones too, and maybe the greatest gift of all for me is realizing I can have more than one tribe. Perhaps it wasn’t that I didn’t have a tribe before but that I have multiple tribes and they are exactly what I want and need in my life. In any case, if you have a tribe, appreciate them for every way they help you. If you need a tribe, find one. With the internet, there’s no excuse not to. To my family tribe, my Cuppa tribe and my new creativity tribe, I thank you all so much for how you enrich my life. I am truly a happy weirdo. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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3 Responses to “Finding Your Tribe”

  1. Shalagh Hogan (Say Shay-la) October 9, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    A lovely gift we give ourselves is the companionship of like souls. I never realized how much I desperately needed my tribe until I’d begun to connect to them in the communities where I found them. Glad you are in the Bootcamp!
    Love,
    Shalagh

    • karenbemmes October 9, 2015 at 11:10 am #

      You too Shalagh. It has been an avalanche of creative joy.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Finding Your Tribe | karenbemmes aka Better Living Daily - October 11, 2015

    […] Source: Finding Your Tribe […]

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