falling in love + my tribe
As a single adult woman, I’m not sure there is any less encouraging phrase in the English language to hear than this:
“Oh don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll meet someone.”
It has all the intention and wording of encouragement, yet none of the zing or warmth. Instead, what is usually (hopefully) meant to be a kind word of confidence has always sounded unbearably patronizing and left me feeling rather deflated and retroactively pathetic. The defensive part of me wants to shout, “I’m not worried! Seriously! And maybe I will meet someone. And maybe I won’t. But I’m fine! Really! I’M NOT WORRIED. WHY DO YOU THINK I’M SO WORRIED?” Since this is perhaps a slight overreaction, I’ve decided on a better, less verbally aggressive course of action.
I’ve decided the next time some dear, well-meaning person says that to me, I have a simple response.
“Oh I have met someone. Several someones, actually. Mostly women.”
(Cue blank stares and looks of confusion.)
No, I have not reevaluated my sexuality or my stance on polygamy. I haven’t thrown all hope of being romanced by a man to the winds and joined a convent or some kind of progressive lady commune.
But I’ve realized how much I’ve rather fallen in love with my tribe.
“Your tribe?” you ask. “What is a tribe?”
Well, thank you for asking. And I’d love to tell you.
My tribe is simply a term to describe the community of people who I live life alongside every day; the people who so often hold me up; whose texts are never a nuisance and whose requests for prayers or advice are enough of a reason to stop what I’m doing and pray or advise. For me, these are the women who never tire of encouraging me time and time again, as I encounter what seem like the same stumbling blocks on this long, long road; whose affirmations, Postagrams, cards, letters, emails, texts, time, and silly links on Facebook remind me that I am never forgotten, never alone, never “without”, never “the other”. They are those who insist on champagne to celebrate new jobs and new years; those who tell you if that dress actually isn’t flattering on you; those who trespass with you into a park so you can sled down giant hills while holding sparklers in the air; those who let you tell your stories over and over again and you know that they are still listening and caring.
These are women who have sustained great loss but whose spirits glow with the hope and experience of grace, and grace, and grace again. Some are single, some are married, some are divorced or widowed or currently sorting through new relationships that scare and provoke. Some are here and some are there; some are seeing and serving the world, going back to school, learning to build a home, learning to survive a job, learning to be a wife or a mother or alone. Some I have known for years, others I have known for only months.
These women are fighters, wild and fearsome in their love for this tribe; they are wonderfully tender and equally strong; endlessly forgiving, and often the first to cry when I cry (and sometimes when I can’t). They are my truth-tellers and challengers and guardians. We toast one another with fancy, overpriced martinis and pick each other up when our cars break down. We don red lipstick for pure confidence, winking at the guys walking past us from the bar next door as we can’t stop laughing (mostly because we secretly believe no one else is nearly as hilarious as we are). We speak to one another in unfailing honesty, no matter what it costs; honesty of ourselves, of each other, and of the God many of us have collectively chosen to love and serve. We aren’t sugar-coaters or bullshitters, but we speak to one another in love, even when that love requires giving or receiving difficult words.
But most of all, we are are protectors of each others’ stories.
Because it is a sacred and holy thing to trust another person with your story. Not only with your past, but with your present, with your future. We hold that privilege closely, guarding it ferociously like we were mother lions stalking in front of our dens. These stories are gifts we earned; gifts we listened for, cried for, laughed for, road tripped for, walked through months and years of friendship for, and we treat them as such. We hold in reverence that this story we are living together is now a part of everyone’s stories and, most wholly, part of the Great Story. We are ultimately for each other without doubt and it is that that weaves a common thread through the stories of us all; that binds us together, that writes the names of each of these women on my arms and on my heart and I on theirs.
And this tribe is why my loneliness that once felt like a vibrating loudspeaker now seems more like an occasional soft hum. It is why being single no longer feels like being alone. These women are why there is a part of me that isn’t sure I want to meet a man at all, because I can’t imagine giving up time with these amazing people for anyone else. (Though I grant you, if a man extraordinary enough comes along, I would consider it. But oh sister, would he have to be worth it.) These women are why if I do meet a fellow some day, I’m not so worried anymore that my eternal optimism and questionable tendency to believe the best in everyone won’t handicap my ability to judge wisely.
Because they will be there alongside me. Because what I once had to do falteringly and mostly on my own is now something that others have a stake in, for better or worse. Because when I said “yes” to life with these women, I said “yes” to them stepping into my story, to them having a right and a responsibility to speak truth into my relationships and decisions and problems.
So yes, I have met someone.
And they’re absolutely amazing.
(P.S. As a note to all my wonderful, amazing, supportive, and truly loved male friends, I’m sorry if the gender pronouns in this post left you out. Be assured; you are important and necessary and precious to me. I’ve just been feeling a particular surge of lady love for the women in my life recently and wanted to express it.)