“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
I picked up “Tribes” yesterday at the library; Julia picked up a Star Wars graphic novel. Reading through the first pages, a light bulb went off. I want a tribe. I want the tribe that is lacking in my life. If it doesn’t exist, or I haven’t found it yet, I want to create it.
Right here. I’d follow that by ‘right now’ but shyness overcomes me for the moment.
I’ve been a tribe member in many, sometimes overlapping tribes for most of my adult life. I was a performing artist who belonged to a union and a few theater groups and overlapping tribes of friends and colleagues. I was a lawyer who belonged to a state bar, a women in law committee, a federal court family, a courthouse historical association, a court garden club. Apart from work, I was half of a couple who joined couple friendly tribes, a mother of a baby who grew into play groups, grammar school, high school and college-related parent tribes. I was a supporting ‘member’ of my older daughter’s tribes as I picked up and dropped off, and entertained her tribes.
When I moved to Wisconsin for my husband’s new position, I stopped working. Our younger daughter needed a full time parent and advocate for her challenges. I was not willing to abandon the possibility of finding my tribes and dove head first into the PTO tribe. We joined a UU Society and found a large, like minded tribe, although for the first few years, coffee hour was intimidating for this wanna-be tribe member. I didn’t notice my reduced tribe time because my daughter took up my time when she was not in school and some of my time when she was—I could handle tantrums and melt downs better than her teachers the first few years.
When her diagnoses came in, I was more interested in figuring out what to do for her and much less interested in joining any autism, ADHD, RAD-parent related tribe. And what I see now as not at all unusual, therapies and related activities for her took over our waking hours. I know that there exists parent support groups online and in person for parents of kids on the spectrum but caring for, learning about and educating myself about what was best for my daughter left little time or energy to seek support for myself. During these years of relearning parenting, I became a single parent, a widow with a minor child, and any foray into support for myself meant the scheduling of childcare providers, which even in the best of times is not easy.
Four years post-death and a year post-intensive autism therapy, I began to hunger for a few tribes. I found some at my church and among friends for which I am much more grateful than I was previously. During this time, my daughter and I developed a morning meditation practice and I became serious about my own practice which included a new tribe or two centered around meditation and mindfulness. But there was still a lack that pulled on my heart.
Mindful Circle began as this heart pull. My original impulse was to find the person or group doing mindfulness for and with families, parents and caregivers of kids on the spectrum and to help this person or group. When I couldn’t find the tribe I was looking for, I took on the task of devising a workshop, teaching the workshops, putting up a website, making rather feeble attempts at spreading the word and speaking at a few small public events. The work, still embryonic in form, made my heart light and happy. I wanted to do more, learn more, do it better.
And in picking up this book called Tribes, I had one of those a-ha moments, the kind that had been sitting in front of me for a long time. I want to nurture a tribe of families, parents and children, professional caregivers and therapists. It has been easiest for me to create something for parents of kids on the autism spectrum because I know those challenges best and I know what a mindfulness practice has given to my family. However, there is a larger community of people with challenges and those who care for them and I think we are a tribe waiting to be claimed and cared for. There is support and community in coming together, especially in coming together around mindfulness practices.
I have wondered what to write on this blog. I feel shy about putting this heart-felt work out into the world but in the world is where it belongs. If you are reading this and feel some tug of inspiration, comment or get in touch. If you want to add to the vision, let me know. Announce your presence, come to a workshop, use the resources part of this website to get started, start writing for this blog. And help me figure out how to make us a tribe. Please.