List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, etc .
When I was younger, I read an article in Mothering Magazine about cultivating my own tribe. I took this article to heart and set about forming one with other young mothers sharing my values. The idea was that we would clean our houses together, cook meals, and tackle the mundane while our children played happily. I learned how to bake wholemeal bread, with fresh yeast, from a mom I met at Le Leche League. We exchanged recipes for making baby food- no way would we use jars! Everything was new, and we were determined to do it right.
It seemed important to me, back then, to be validated. I needed to seek the company of like minded people who understood my decisions to have water births at home, to breastfeed my babies beyond their first year, to use cloth diapers. I grew long dreadlocks, wore flowing skirts I bought at French and English markets during my European travels. I went through a phase of piercing ears, belly, nose. I volunteered on organic farms in Ireland, which is how I first landed in my husband’s hometown.
My travels brought me into contact with other seekers, artists, and people wanting to live a life less ordinary. Today many of them are still part of my tribe.
I was only 22 years old during my first pregnancy, very much a baby myself. Entering the tribe of motherhood was profound. Some of my strongest bonds are within this community. I have come to love my friends’ children, and experience such joy watching them grow beside my own.
The demands of mothering have eased now that my children are older. Sleepless nights are a distant memory of the past. Now I have energy to pursue other interests. I’ve recovered my love of dance, my love of writing.
I continued to read voraciously through every move across the Atlantic, each birth, and even while my marriage broke down. I have always belonged to the tribe of books.
Lately, I feel the pull of this literary tribe more strongly than ever. The writers I’ve met through workshops, blogs and other social media have inspired me; in their company I feel understood. Last summer a friend and fellow writer shared an insight. She was attending a workshop on writing novels, and the facilitator pointed out that most writers grew up feeling like they didn’t belong. Really?
It makes sense. Writers have an uncanny ability to step outside a situation- even when they are inside of it. The skill of observation is ever present. Writers often intuit what others are thinking and feeling, possessing the ability to “read” people like books. Being in a room full of writers is terribly disconcerting for me! I have discovered myself being observed, while I observe others... There’s no way to hide in a situation like that!
I love this tribe though: the tribe of dreamers, visionaries, and those brave enough to walk off beat. I imagine the great Dr. Martin Luther King in this group, with his radical ideas about a world where we could all be equal, no matter what our connections, beliefs, or physical appearance might be.
I imagine Jane Austen in this group too; a woman whose satire and wit still make people laugh two hundred years later. Her social commentary and literary achievements are nothing to scoff at. I often wonder how I would have fit into her society, had I been a woman living during that period.
The tribe of free thinkers has never found life easy. But I couldn’t live life any other way.
* I'm participating in Scintilla, a fortnight of storytelling, with other writers mining the material of their lives. There's still time to sign up for daily prompts if you'd like to join us!