Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tribes, changing

Well, since the holidays are upon us with the full onslaught of media and decorated cities, towns, and hamlets, it cannot help but bring family to the forefront. Every TV movie I watch or click through is about families, uniting, reuniting, celebrating traditions, overcoming obstacles, redefining themselves only to end up whole.

S'nice work if you can get it.

Most of the families I know, however loving they might be, have some pretty major rips in the familial ozone layer somewhere. That is why we all have friends. And pets. And some of us even build families of our own.

My own family (and if you have been reading my blog for more than a day or so you know that my whole family is dead and that I am divorced without children) anyway, my own family was full of fractures and fissures, yet around the holiday time I look back and selectively pluck a bit from here and a bit from there and an armload from somewhere else, and manage to reconstruct in my imagination a family where every holiday meal was a picture of affection and serenity. Then of course I get to feel bad because that isn't around anymore.

Well, DUH.

We need more than family in our lives. We need a whole tribe. The family carries the history entire, the legacy material, the stories that will be told again and again, the memories of us before we had language, the sense of an "US" moving through time into eternity. Families are the wellspring of immortality.

Then there are friends, who see us outside of that continuum as uniquely ourselves, unbound by familial expectation, defined by our own limitations. Friends, who can hear our worst stories without having to connect them to blame or responsibility. They are the other "US" moving through time, the satellites revolving around each other and others.

Friends and family = tribe. And whenever a part of that goes missing a unique wailing issues forth. A keening for what was lost.

I have felt very self-centered, and have castigated myself for being very unappreciative that I would dare to feel alone when I have so many friends who are so dear and loving. I bless them daily. But their part in the Tribe is different than the role family had.

I can accept my own grief when I see it as grief for a big shift in the overall Tribe. That helps me see more what I need to do, more where the needs are that I want to fill. And I don't feel like I am insulting my friends by feeling that part of me really is alone now.

It has been hard to hear people say "Oh, but you have friends!" as though facing the absence of family is in some way a denigration of the friendships in my life. I might point out that the people who say that have abundant families and would probably not give me one of their children, or give up a parent so I could have one, you know? I am in a unique spot. I'll fumble my way through it, and will do the grief work I need to get to the other side of it, but accepting the legitimacy of my own position is a big start.

Of course, weaving through all of this is the fact that I have had the company of God in this -- who reminds me that although it is not simple, it is a blip on my life's oscilloscope, and that there is abundance here and at the other side of it as well. God, who never lets me forget the world is full, and that any painful fantasy about emptiness is my own doing, and neither His will nor my reality.

And so I plod on with abundant hope through this holiday slog, figuring it out as I go along, me and my Tribe.


Blogger samtzmom said...

We have to own what we feel. It's like when people have told me that "at least Sam has higher functioning autism." Well, yes, he does, but that does not make it suck any less some days. It's still autism. It still tries to rule our lives.

Sending all love and many hugs your way. We'll slog through in our own way and in our own time. Just know you are never really alone.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Good wishes for wellness and spots of courage in your journey. You have this tribe member wildly cheering you on.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

well said, Mata! you really capture the heart of the matter and your expressions of such a strong part of life are compelling.

as you might know, I have a large (cozy & interactive) family. that's my family. I made sure it happened that way and they have kindly exceeded my expectations and hopes.

what is not known is that the family from which I came (in my mind what I call my "first" family as opposed to my family) was a horror show.

how I lived to tell another tale is strictly God's doing...for which I am eternally grateful.

so this is one person walking the good green earth who can see both sides of family: the cozy interactive one AND the blitzkrieg type of blame and responsibility.

and I am always aware that the cozy interactive type did not have to happen for me. this awareness brings forward an appreciation for those who do not have that type of family life and who might equally appreciate having that type of experience all year round as well as during the holidays.

the other side of the coin is that too much family can be totally exhausting and very very messy even as it is cozy and interactive.

some days I wonder what silence sounds like and stillness feels's been so long since I've had any of those moments.

Mata, I hope that the connections you experience this holiday season will be warm and fulfilling and renew your spirit of (perhaps spotty but definitely worthwhile) family remembrances with your beloved parents.

I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to have had a mother who actually would have wanted me to be in the same room with her. you have been fortunate, Mata.

kind regards,

10:01 AM  

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