The Women in My Tribe

I had an experience today that I haven’t had in a long time. I met someone I want to induct into my tribe.

My tribe of women is not formal – most of the time the members have no idea that they belong. There’s a longtime playwright friend and mentor – generous, encouraging and talented. There’s a woman I’ve worked for over the last decade – thoughtful, grounded, physically fit and funny. There’s a “mom” friend, starting her own cottage industry, with common sense and a great sense of humor. There is my personal trainer and friend, who is smart and well-read and passionate about issues. There’s my mother-in-law, who has such a lovely temperament despite the fact that hearing loss means she misses out on most conversations (we could probably learn something from that). There’s a dear friend with whom I spend inordinate amounts of time Skyping, because she “gets” me.

Today I met another one of those women – interesting, passionate, intelligent, animated and willing to take responsibility for her worth in the world. I love those amazing moments when you meet someone and things click. Admittedly, I tend to be in awe of powerful women. I love women who know themselves so completely and express a full range of human emotion. They can be emotional and be powerful. They can have flaws, but not bend over backwards apologizing to anyone who crosses their paths. They can take a compliment and not be an arrogant jerk. They can be loud and brassy, and still be sensitive and kind. They can demand their value in the world and still be humble.

I grew up around women where passive-aggression was an art form. You could control people by pursing your lips or giving a backhanded compliment or sighing dramatically and making a “poor me” statement.  You couldn’t just come right out and say what you wanted or felt. That would be selfish. I was raised to be a consummate wallflower, to write bad melodramatic poetry and to stuff every emotion down until I was a seething ball of rage. Don’t bring attention to myself. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t be loud. Don’t ask for too much.

Having a daughter has changed me and not in the maternal, isn’t-she-adorable kind of way. I have written this before, but mothering a girl has forced me to think about and decide what I want to teach her. Leading by example is simply the best way to teach and influence. It is no longer okay for me to be indirect, subtle, and passive-aggressive. It is no longer okay for me to be falsely humble, to deflect compliments (oh, this old thing?) and to devalue my skill set so I don’t appear to be bragging. You can be self-deprecating without being self-defecating.

One of my favorite things about the women in my tribe is that they laugh. Some of them have wonderful, loud, barking laughs – the public kind that, in the past, would have had me sinking down in my chair and pretending that I didn’t know them. Now I know the secret to their joyfulness – they have carved their place in the world.  And most of the time, they’ve got a great tribe of their own. I hope they’ll let me in. No – I DEMAND that they let me in. Please? If you wouldn’t mind. I don’t want to be a bother. I guess I’m just a terrible friend and human being.

I might have to do a little more work, before meeting the membership requirements.

21 Comments on “The Women in My Tribe

  1. It’s wonderful to have a ‘tribe’ as you so wonderfully put it! I grew up with the passive-aggressive mother – I’m not that way any more and it feels great!!

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    • I’m definitely working on changing passive-aggressive to assertive and confident. I have moments of both, but I am lucky to have such great examples of powerful women in my life.

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  2. “Having a lover/friend who regards you as a living growing criatura, being, just as much as the tree from the ground, or a ficus in the house, or a rose garden out in the side yard… having a lover and friends who look at you as a true living breathing entity, one that is human but made of very fine and moist and magical things as well… a lover and friends who support the ciatura in you… these are the people you are looking for. They will be the friends of your soul for life. Mindful choosing of friends and lovers, not to mention teachers, is critical to remaining conscious, remaining intuitive, remaining in charge of the fiery light that sees and knows.”
    — Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

    Have you read this book?

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    • Sorry for the delayed response – this got tagged in the spam file, for some reason. I am so glad you mentioned this book – I read it many years ago and it’s one I recommend to friends! I might need to revisit it, because after seeing Disney’s “Brave”, I was thinking about all these darned female fairytale archetypes. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. What a happy experience. I so admire women who can be themselves without apology or explanation. That capability is in each of us but in some it just seems to be more natural.

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    • There’s so many factors in what makes us who we are – I’d like to believe that some of us just have a longer learning curve. I think it’s a great combination of wisdom and not giving as much of a shit about what other people think. I do admire that – it seems very liberating.

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    • Thanks! I feel a lot of pressure to get this right – to raise her to be resourceful and resilient and confidently individual. It sometimes seems an uphill battle, when you look at our culture. I am always looking for examples of what it really means to successfully navigate it all and come out happy on the other side.

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      • Well, what you said certainly brought some of my own behavior to light. There’s only so much one can remember to change, because the list goes on and on. But this is one thing I hope I can get to the front of my mind and practice everyday.

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        • You’re right – sometimes you just have to start where you are and with one thing at time. I have to remind myself about that and also that not everything has to be perfect or fixed. Part of being a strong woman is showing how you can be human, flawed and yet still accept yourself unconditionally.

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        • Took me more than half a lifetime to figure that one out.

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  4. I have to remind myself about that and also that not everything has to be perfect or fixed”

    It never is! Well, maybe when we’re dead and no longer worried about the size of our butts or how loud we laugh or how many people we (gasp) might have offended with a truthful rendition, however diplomatic, of our feelings. I am lucky enough (maybe?) to have had ballsy/bold role models in my own family, strong, forthright, adventurous women who rollick(ed) through much of their lives. My role model is Auntie Mame: “Life is a banquet and most people are starving.” Grab a fork, baby!

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    • I would love to rollick through life. My daughter danced around the house yesterday singing “My mommy is weird”. She was completely hopped up on sugar, but still, weird is a good start. I think.

      You are simply awesome and inspiring, so you’ve done right by Auntie Mame.

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  5. Great post because it made me think….

    And you are so right….nothing like having a tribe a fabulous women.

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    • I wish I had that talent. I actually purchase subscriptions to canstock.com, so I can use the pictures royalty free. There are definitely some awesome graphics designers that post there. I will take credit for scrolling through pages and pages of illustrations to find something that fits my content!

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