On Tribes…


The word “Tribe” has gained popularity among women over the past decade. Here in Oklahoma, we mainly think of a tribe in the indigenous people sense of the word and I find it a little curious that in a time where athletics teams have had to change their mascots in the name of political correctness and sensitivity, scores of blonde-haired, blued-eyed women go unopposed on social media.

The word “tribe” is meant to indicate a special group of supportive friends. All over social media, young influencers tout the awesomeness of their tribe members. They give shout outs to this one who is killing her side hustle, or that one who is growing her business while raising toddlers, or the other one who is rocking some serious lashes and nails sitting in carpool while making real estate deals. There’s the ride or die, showing up on her YouTube Channel making vegan cupcakes and collecting donations for the animal shelter.

I don’t have a tribe, I think what I have is more of a circle, and I promise you it doesn’t look like that.

I have had many different and changing circles throughout my 50+ years. The current circle is comprised of women and a few men (some family, some not) who are simply doing the best they can. That’s it. They are dragging themselves out of bed every morning and going to a job that pays their bills. They are waking up kids, making sure they are fed and drying tears before opening the door and telling them to try and have a good day. They are going through issues with their spouses, or they wish they had a spouse to go through issues with. They are taking parents to doctor appointments, or visiting them in the nursing home, or the cemetery. Their backs hurt, their fronts hurt, they can’t sleep at night, but can’t stay awake during the day. They haven’t called me in a month or more because life, you know. These are my people, this is my circle.

Me with my first Circle – Kevin and Piglet

Influencers talk about how they can always count on their Tribe to “show up” for them every day. They show up in life, show up for parties and girls retreats. They not only show up, they show up perfectly coifed in a great mood with a pocketful of dark chocolate, a bottle of wine and a just the right words of encouragement.

That’s not my circle. My circle is basically a disorganized mess of imperfect people. There are some who will show up to a lunch invite with 45 minutes notice, maybe wearing lipstick. While others will bail out on me 45 minutes before they were supposed to show up at an event they’ve known about for a month at which they are the guest of honor. Some of my circle is always reliable, others are sometimes reliable and some are only reliable in that they are never reliable. They are a hodgepodge of messy organic humanity.

Part of what gives them admission into my circle is that they’ve granted me admission into theirs. It is not that they never fail to have my back and I can always count on them, because I can’t any more than they can count on me all the time. It is not that they are constantly positive and uplifting, and always say the exact right thing. That is not possible for humans. It is not because they never hurt or insult me and always make me feel good about myself. Because that this not true of most of them. While none are intentionally mean (“intentionally” being the operative word), a good number of them will call me on my bullshit, disappoint the hell out of me, and make me want to strangle them once in a while. What makes them a member of my circle is that they love me, unconditionally, even on my worst days, no matter what. This circle of misfits would take a bullet for me, knock me out of the way of a speeding car, and come rescue me in the middle of the night. They might complain about it afterward, and tell me what a screw up I am, but they’d still do it.

That is my circle. We love each other always. This is the tricky part, because I can love someone and not like them very much (or at all). I can love someone and not trust them. I can love someone and realize they are not good for me, they make my life sad, or hard, or confusing. In my circle, even when we don’t like each other’s behavior, we can separate the behavior from the person we love, like and trust. In my circle the “love” gets you in, but it is the like and the trust that keeps you there.

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