Having said that, I've been thinking of family a lot lately. I always do this time of year. My first regret: I wish I still had a child's unwavering faith and belief in the people she loves. My second: I wish my naivete had left me sooner and with a bit of gentleness. I suspect each one of us have shades of both of those wishes in our lives. Sometimes, it just sucks to be an adult.
My curiosity about my own personal history sent me to Ancestry.com for a free trial. NOT as easy as it looks in the commercials! It might be for you, but I'm a bit challenged around this sort of thing, so I was more than a little confused at times. I look forward to further conversations with relatives (who HAVE a clue!) at some point in the near future :-) Even so, I was able to solve a mystery or two, and it was kind of fun. At some point when I'm a bit more solvent I will try the paid service (which is the same, btw, just of longer duration. The free trial is a good one that gives all the same access!). I learned that literally speaking, my 'tribe' is the Sihasapa branch of the Lakota Sioux. I always thought I was Blackfoot and Sioux, but as it turns out the Sihasapa are called "Blackfoot Sioux". It makes a lot of things I heard as a child make a LOT more sense. But that's only a small piece, and not really the point.
I have long struggled with the pervasive feeling of not belonging anywhere. I know that part of it is having had to make most of my housing choices based on financial means and the whims of others, and not on personal desire. I wasn't brought up to not want anything and to have no expectations of my life. Maybe that's why I keep fighting as hard as I do. What many people don't want to believe is that sometimes the only difference between 'poor' and 'doing well' is advantage and opportunity (or lack thereof) and/or a child. It shouldn't be that way, it isn't fair, but that's the way she rolls. It is NOT a level playing field out there. Poverty is not statement at all about the value of a person as a human being; about their usefulness, reliability or intelligence. To think it is is to delude yourself. Some folks thrive on comforting delusions though, so who am I to judge? Anyhoo, I haven't been anywhere I've wanted to be in a really long time. Most of my focus has been on getting there. It's a tough row to hoe solo (see what I did there?). But it's like there's a broken piece inside me that I can't fix until I can find 'my place', if that makes sense. Until I do though, I have 'my' people. The good people in my life have been the reason I've been able to heal at all. I've learned that family isn't necessarily blood, but shared experience, mutual respect and love, and no small measure of support. My gratitude is so big sometimes I have difficulty expressing it. I thank God for it every day.
But love isn't enough. I've learned that too. I've learned that you can love someone with your whole heart, respect and believe in them with everything you are, but if it isn't mutual, it's pointless to keep throwing energy there. As a non-confrontational person who lives in a world where 'loud and confrontational' often wins by default, it can be even more complicated. There are lots of us out there. We're not weak, we're not passive and we're certainly not stupid. We just understand that bullying someone into silence doesn't mean that you are right or that you win, it just means that you're an unpleasant, belligerent a**hole. We usually find another way around the situation that doesn't involve trampling on other people. And hey, if you're going to work me over so badly that it changes the entire trajectory of my life and has me in therapy for years, I won't be shutting up about it. I have every right in the world to talk about how I feel. Hell, I can can even shout about it, or sing about it (though you may want to cover your ears. I can carry a tune, but I'll never make it on Broadway). I can even dance a little jig and sing about it. I can talk about it in a book, or on TV, or maybe even in a movie (well, by proxy. I personally have no business on the big screen). I learned a long time ago that it makes no sense at all to tiptoe around the feelings of people who never even give mine the slightest consideration.
My tribe. My tribe are the folks who really know me and love me in spite of myself. Some of them are blood, most of them are not. They don't look down at me like I'm a pariah or some kind of second-class citizen because they know me well enough to know better. They're the folks who are gently honest with me when I'm making a mistake, they are the first to congratulate my successes. They've been through the tough stuff and the joys. They've laughed with me and cried with me. They've been there with a hug and a kind word at those moments when I had lost everything. They've been there with open arms and hearts when I was at my lowest moments, and without judgement. They're the familiar faces I've known and loved for years, they're the new friends I meet at book signings (which terrify me more than a bit!). They are all the people who's love and support continue to buoy me through the ups and downs. They mean everything to me. Sometimes my tribal memberships are fluid and flexible, but most of the members have been around for a loooong time. There is always room for more in my tribe, of course. The only requirement? Mutual respect and understanding :-)
Here's a song that some of my most valuable tribal members know well: