finding your tribe…

September 3, 2012

the tribecast girls

A reader and friend Donna writes:

I need people, mainly other moms in person. I need to not have to just take care of myself. I have been doing this all my life as well as emotionally taking care of my childhood family. I am sorely lacking in physical presence community and it feels lonely. Need a tribe. Need community. Not sure why this never seems to happen naturally and I also am not clear on how to make it happen! Ideas are welcome.

I feel you friend…every one needs a feeling of belonging and togetherness (both in the flesh and in their heart). I have had a lifetime of experience with tribes but I find myself still mystified by them every now and then. I was born into a family of four girls, an instant tribe in every way. I also grew up in a faith background that lent itself to groups and community.

Over the years I have formed tribes, called them in powerfully, stumbled into them, killed them totally, some I just quietly walked away from and some still go on today. They are a force of goodness and also, at the same time, can be so hard too as we grow and move through life. I guess this is the human condition, nothing is quite easy but probably worth the work of connecting.

It’s hard to tell someone how to find and join a tribe, it’s kind of like telling a girl to go find a husband. When we strive or long for something hard it all of the sudden takes a much bigger place in our minds and hearts. We lose sight of all the things we hold and all that makes us lovely and instead focus only on our need/quest- which is pretty much what everyone else will see too. It’s okay to have that need, we all do but lasting connection will eventually require that gentle give and take. It is more likely to happen when we are settled in contentment with ourselves. * OR sometimes the universe surprises you and sort of picks you up when you can’t go on- even in all your messy need- THIS is the power of women I believe. 

The best tribes sort of unfold organically…

– 3 moms met at their childbirth ed. class, they shared and bonded over an experience and then wanted to continue sharing their lives with each other.

-a cubicle friend becomes a sister as you both deal with a crappy boss

-roommates in college that still call each other daily

-the unintentional set-up- a friend of a friend introduced you and you two ended up the better friends

BUT if nothing is quite organically unfolding, here are a few things I’ve learned about  tribes over the years:

Some are tips for building tribes that may or may not work and some are just observations. It’s like spaghetti on a wall, you gotta keep throwin’ till something sticks. (or you do)

1. Do what you love! 

The opportunities for making good connections are all over our bliss. If you are doing something you love, there will be someone else that loves that thing too. …and maybe even more than you! This is a really good because it hits both needs- you will feel more connected to yourself and attract bigger connections around you. If you can’t figure out what you love or you are too exhausted- go back to your 8 year old girl self- she’ll tell you. Riding a horse? But it’s been forever since you did that? Perfect timing.

If the gremlin in your head says there is no time or money for such things- tell that gremlin to STFU and then tell yourself if you don’t care for your heart, you will be in much worse shape in 6 more months.

2. Self-care is a journey that requires bravery, don’t wait for the Tribe. 

Lots of folks seeking tribe and connection are in a place of needing care themselves. They are looking to be held and to hold, they want the magic and beauty of both…the best tribes are those where we can learn and grow, teach each other how to love on new levels. The best primer for that is starting with ourselves.  The journey of self care requires bravery and kindness (thanks S for reminding me)…and it’s a long journey- really one that never ends. If you are particularly low, it’s going to take time. One kind act to yourself will require another…and another, one foot in front of the other each day. Don’t wait for the tribe, start now and there will be so many moments in the future when you will know what to do and offer to a tribe member because you stood in that place yourself.

3. Your tribe doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. 

See the beautiful pictures of women holding hands together or drinking tea and lighting candles? (i know, i have taken and staged these pictures) Stories of meals appearing on doorsteps and endless support while you are drowning yourself? It almost seems it has become a WASPy sort of status symbol these days which is crazy because I am sure this was not what the Native Americans had in mind…and I can assure you, killing buffalo wasn’t Pinterest worthy, and you KNOW there was some tribal leader that was bitchy and made everyone pissy and annoyed.

Trust me, not all tribes and friendships are as perfect as they appear, it is just one snap shot of a community. There is conflict, misunderstanding and some times heart break but there is also hope and goodness and truth and mess. Your tribe may not have lavish dinner parties and wine nights…it may be just one friend cracking open a beer at 11:45am while kids dump piles of legos out all over the floor. It may be one friend here, another friend at work, a cousin and all those people together make up “your tribe”.  Those are the people you lean on, the people that sometimes get on your nerves, the people who can hear and love you (all of you), the people you hold dear yourself. There is a spirit in tribe that pulls you together, and at the same time one you intentionally step into, even with the imperfections.

It doesn’t have to fit, you don’t have to be part of gatherings, it just has to fill your heart and be something you can dump your soul into too.

4. Ritual helps.

We are people of schedules, plans and events….or un-plans, whatever calls to you. Walking together to school with neighbors, meeting for coffee in sweats looking slightly like a homeless person, inviting someone into your messy house- all are great tribe builders. Sometimes you have to be the person to call the tribe in, and don’t be afraid to be your authentic self.

Even if you think there are 3 people you are interested in knowing better, or “trying out” for tribe status… Invite them over, ask them to tea, be bold and hold the space for something potentially beautiful to unfold. Some people need agenda, some people need to just hang…figure out what kind of person you are and plan accordingly.

Call it in your way. Not everyone is going to meet their next best friend by talking to the women holding a baby in a sling in the diaper aisle but you may make friends when you see each other at your neighborhood play ground for the 57,000th time. Introverted/Extroverted connecting will look different and may unfold at different speeds of time….but you can do it. Call that tribe in.

5. Be what you need. 

Some of the most beautiful  and powerful tribes I have ever witnessed started with one person offering love to another…and then the recipient passed it on and they found each other through doing, caring, loving together. If you need kindness, be it. If you need love, offer it. Gather women/men/children around you to do something for someone else. We all need to be needed…and we all need to receive love in our most tender moments.

It doesn’t always have to be big either and you don’t have to start it alone. Leave a kind note on a changing table in a public restroom for another tired mother to find- ask one friend to do it with you. Ask a fellow day care mom if she wants to go in with you to take flowers to your kid’s care provider. YOU can drop the meal on the doorstep- you can create the story of how the tribe started.

6. Ask The Universe.

I believe fully in asking the Universe for what we need. Saying the words out loud, lighting little candles to hold the intentions of our hearts. And at times, it’s been sort of a desperate plea and other moments a space to hold my thoughts/burdens so I don’t have to carry them. Think it through…what is it you really need? Is it friends? or even deeper…. To feel loved…to feel connected…to be cared for…to feel part of something…to feel worthy? Sometimes the questions will be answered and needs met in ways we didn’t imagine. Sometimes the tribe may already be around us and we just can’t see it yet. Keep your heart open for the possibility that you may already hold what you are seeking.

I kind of hate this last bit of advice because it frustrates the hell out my personal development self and sometimes makes me feel crappy- like it’s my fault (if I could just get it together then I would be enlightened to see it all!) and then I remind myself that it isn’t my job to fix it- it’s just to be  and I probably wasn’t ready for it then, my heart will show the way at the right time.

I need all those parts of myself to be imperfectly whole, the same way the tribe needs it too. You can be yourself and struggle and give up and find peace in the process.

Tell me in the comments, what do you think of when you hear the word tribe and what would you add to the list? …and we are stokin’ the fire here, come gather round…join us in the tribe.

*That sucks right? I know…learning this lesson right now in other parts of my life.

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12 Responses to “finding your tribe…”

  1. northernchick Says:

    Kind encouraging advice ~ thank you.

    The word tribe reminds me of sports teams which I was never on. I need to reframe my definition and reaction to the word.

    I found this difficult when my kiddies were little and now almost impossible when they are teens.

  2. Martha Says:

    “It may be one friend here, another friend at work, a cousin and all those people together make up “your tribe”. Those are the people you lean on, the people that sometimes get on your nerves, the people who can hear and love you (all of you), the people you hold dear yourself. There is a spirit in tribe that pulls you together, and at the same time one you intentionally step into, even with the imperfections.
    It doesn’t have to fit, you don’t have to be part of gatherings, it just has to fill your heart and be something you can dump your soul into too.”

    To me, these words resonated with me the best today. My “tribe” is all over the place, but it brings me such joy and support — my sister, my daughters, many, many good friends at work whom I connect with on a spiritual and political level (we have a “Sushi Club” that meets on the first Monday of the month and keeps on growing!), my “dog friends” – they just get me and my “dog joy”, my Adoption friends – we share the extreme challenges and triumphs of parenting our adopted kids. It goes on and on – Patience, you are so right, if you do what you love your tribe will surround you!

  3. Nancy King Bernstein Says:

    I love this post. Thanks…. Have way more often been the one left out of tribes and wondering what the secret is than a part of them; but I have my own, too, even though it’s small and scattered all over the place. I’m grateful that I live in the age of the internet, when not only can I connect with far-flung tribe members I love, but when it’s actually pretty easy to connect with new folks I would never in a million years have met in an earlier, less-connected age…. And for all the loneliness and left-out-ness I’ve experienced, I’m grateful for the gifts being left out has given me: especially a real love of solitude (I am SO not afraid of being alone). Still, I’m quick to feel hurt when excluded–even in middle age, many many years after middle school!–and I see the same thing in my younger son…. It’s also really hard not to project my history of hurts onto him when I watch him navigate a difficult social situation, and that makes it hard to be helpful. In any event thanks for a thoughtful, lovely post. I’m glad to have been pointed to THIS tribe….

  4. Annie DeSanti Says:

    ‘Tribe’ scares me just a wee bit. Perhaps because at some level I’m a bit of a loner. However, not exempt from company and groups and camaraderie. Not at all. I’ve found my most comfortable ‘tribal’ gatherings are when volunteering/working with others for a common good. When hiking in a group. When at a concert or meeting with like-minded people. Obviously I must have issues at the purely social level of ‘groups’. I suppose I’m the listener rather than the speaker. The observer as opposed to being the observed. Great post as Nancy King said, Kindnessgirl is a tribe to be grateful for! And Nancy, I love that you have gratitude from what you have gained from a not so happy beginning.

  5. inthecaul Says:

    I love you P..and I love your point of view.

  6. Kati Says:

    P – great job on this one… #2 really hits home for me in such a way that I almost cannot put into words.

    So glad you are in my tribe, even if it is mostly a virtual tribal correspondence via smoke signals on the days I can get the fires lit. 🙂

  7. Amelia Says:

    love this essay, I went to the Ren Faire with my daughter and friend today, and while I enjoy the Faire, a lot of the people coming and dressing up makes me anxious(clearly, I have issues! this is me and not them, for sure)….the one thing I thought that kept me calm and less anxious was, THEY HAVE FOUND THEIR TRIBE (had read the essay before I left). So thanks for that wisdom, as always.


  8. I like how you described a tribe as coming from different places. I sometimes feel pressure because my tribe is so diverse: storytellers, creatives, dancers (salsa, Bhangra, house, trance), couch surfers, a tribe flung worldwide. The issue sometimes comes from being in need and because my tribe is farflung, the “care” arrives in different ways; I need to keep viewing it as care and not get caught up in definitions. Thank you so much for describing the tribe.as a.combination. helpful! Hug!

  9. Brenda Says:

    I love how you say you need to BE the type of person that you need. I love, love, love that! (my mom always used to say if you want a friend, you need to be a friend…or if you want letters to come in the mail to you, you need to send letters…) It’s all so true. While reflecting, I realized that I purposefully distance myself from people so that they won’t get too close and see all of the yuck that I’m feeling…kind of keep them at a “happy distance”…where they only see the happy in my life. But then I read about friends who have this bond…this connection…and I’ve had that before, but right now, I feel too judged to open myself up to that. I want to be that friend…good reminder…we’ll see…


  10. […] but I don’t think we could have said it any better than Patience Salgado did when she wrote Finding Your Tribe.  Patience is a special person to me and to our Tribe.  She’s a special person to a lot of […]

  11. Donna Says:

    Thanks Patience. This took a long time to get to in writing a comment. I deeply appreciate your list and feeling this. It also reminds of the kinds of tribes I do have and some things that I need to try harder at over again. I am a bit worn from it and need to keep reserves for trying.

    Your piece mainly brought together in my mind the kind of tribe I am aching for and have been since I have been here 11 years. I long for people who really know me, deeply, that I know deeply, that are not afraid of the deepness or the darkness of parts of that deep. Minds meeting, hearts meeting, souls storytelling. I miss my tribe members flung around the globe from a city I love that is no longer the city I know.

    I think I want something that feels like “home” in a tribe and although I may have been kind of close to it over the past 11 years, it hurts not to have that in-person. I really wish it didn’t hurt so much. I will wade through this sucky painful part until it doesn’t suck so much. There are some new friends on the horizon, closer connections of heart. I continue to give it energy through pain. I feel a little ashamed at times that it smells of desperation. But I refuse to let shame stand in my way.

    I hope this will be the year that this ache will subside and in it’s place will be an amazing group of women who feel similarly who will be able to open our hearts and minds to each other and hold each other in that “tribal” space. I guess this might also be described as community. I hope that it feel like an organic journey.

    I will give it my best shot to continue to bear my soul so that it comes back to me in the form of other people. Wish me luck!


  12. […] few weeks ago, I read this lovely post on women and connection and support.  It has stuck with me (as so many things I read there do) […]


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