My Tribal Language

We were discussing the use of the word 'tribe" in my writing group the other day. What is a tribe in today's world? Do you have a tribe? 

This set me off on a bit of research because I was curious. The definition according to  Merriam -Webster:


1
a :  a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers
b :  a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome
2
:  a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

It seems pretty apparent that in today's word, we think of a tribe as those in a social group who are brought together by common interests and beliefs, people who think like we do. But how do we know what people really think?
I don't really feel like people always say what they are thinking which led me to get interested in challenging myself to meet people to talk about important stuff because as I age, I find I feel a bit distressed about addressing important stuff. If not now, when? If not me, who? So there I go. The 11 discussion points within The Red Boot Coalition movement spoke loudly to me.
So I started two meetings and as we worked the first step, WE MATTER, I was struck by people's bravery. These people are my tribe, I kept thinking. They are willing to be open and honest and just let their words settle into those who are present. And then in my second group I thought, WOW, this conversation is completely different from the other groups and it proves that perspectives are SO essential. We don't think alike even if we think we think alike and then, more often than not, we have the SAME fears but they their outsides look different.  My kid is failing so I must be a failure, people don't know me for anything than what I do, I don't have a job so who am I now? How can I matter if I don't treat myself like I matter? All of these statements or versions of them came up from wildly different places and underneath it all is the whisper that everyone from everywhere wants to believe deeply that their very existence is important to someone in some way.
Wow.
I have been trying to carry that with me in the last two weeks. How do I show myself I matter? how do I show others I matter? how do I show my family they matter? how do I move in a way every single day that speaks I matter,You matter, We all matter.
It's hard but simple. It's real and the most important thing to me now.
My daughter is having some tough times. We sought some help and when the door closed on a most recent doctor's visit, I fell apart. The doctor asked, "Why do you have tears?"
She asked my daughter, "Why do you have tears?"
Do you ever think about the place from where your tears come? It was hard to get real, but we did. We spoke and she helped us see that in the end it boiled down to how much these troubles MATTER to each of us in different ways. Same team, I was thinking. We are on the same team, in the same tribe, and we have to go through it together showing each other and ourselves that we matter.
So here is the truth, my truth.
I am mostly an open book and I can't think of any other way to be than to say what I think. Not everyone is and for a long time, I felt impatient with those who just can't do it...can't get to the real, can't dig in and just say what they feel. But if I am going to walk my talk, I have to be open with those who seem closed. A closed person matters just as much as I do. I have to meet them where they are and accept their offerings and metaphorically hold their hand in the same way I held my daughter's. We are on this journey of life. Let us take it together. I will accept what you can give.
Not everyone in my meetings has practiced their life as an open book. These people in the Red Boot tribe are offering wild and bold bravery. They are scared and compassionate and willing and that is enough and so much more than I could have hoped.
I don't know where it will all go. I don't know what will happen. I do know it's expanding my definition of tribe from people who think like I do to people who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone a bit, and offer a little piece of themselves. 
When I imagine a world FULL of people doing just this, I start to see a kinder, gentler, more robust way of making lasting differences in our world. It is that lofty vision that I will hold when my the numbers are small and my enthusiasm wanes.
And then I will think of my daughter and our tearful exchange and blatant honesty and wonder if these differences I am seeking might already be at work.
P.S. GO start a meeting. ANYONE ANYWHERE CAN DO it! HERE are the discussion steps. HERE is the manual





Wiser though I don't feel older

Did you see this?  You really are as old as you feel which is great because I don't feel all that old. Truthfully, I try not to think too much about numbers and when I read this this by Elizabeth Gilbert, I decided another good way to keep feeling good is to think of my future self a bit more. God knows I have spent too much time dwelling on the past. My meditation practice is helping me with now. But this idea provides a more positive spin on things like cleaning and exercise. I am sure I must have considered it before, but sometimes things just hit you and you finally get it. 

A case in point was my birthday. I used to spend a lot of time hating my birthday because it falls three days after Christmas. Most times I was travelling or I was ill because it never failed that I would get sick over holiday break as a teacher. But finally, I am getting the hang of it. I start planning in November. I make reservations and set the ball in motion. I asked for what I want and I get it. Some don't understand the big appeal to birthdays, but I just really believe that there is only one day ever that is about you and so I like to make the most of it. Best of all, I wrote a letter to myself. I got down and dirty with all things me- and I focused heavily on the good. It was hard, but I did it and I like having physical proof of a difficult year that I handled well. The bottom line is planner Lisa really made Birthday Girl Lisa's day.  I want to take this wisdom into other areas to see how that feels.

I feel pretty fired up about my new year. 

I have set the dates for my Red Boot Coalition meetings. I am nervous, but I really believe in this process. As I have talked with Molly, the founder, what she is finding is that people are hungry for conversation about things that matter and to do so in a place that has no agenda. It seems weird on the outset- gather some people and talk about important stuff. But I also believe that if we were to get to the heart of important things with our work mates or people we might not normally chat with we might act a bit differently in our work place and within our communities. At least that is what I am hoping and I am choosing at this time to trust in the process. Too often we opt out of difficult conversations. We don't want to "go there" or "get into it", but what if we did? What if we just said what was in our hearts and more importantly, we listened to others? I think the simplicity of this endeavor has the potential to be a game-changer in our world. I can't miss being a part of it. Anybody anywhere can start a meeting or join one. Check here for more details OR leave a comment at the end of my blog with your email address. I would be happy to talk with you about this.

I am setting my intentions regarding a retreat I am co-facilitating with two wonderful women in March. Every time we gather to plan, we talk over each other in excitement. I could not have predicted doing this with these women one year ago. Quite frankly, I was miserable one year ago. I was full of fear and sadness and disappointment and uncertainty. And from that and a lifetime of other experiences, these women believe I have wisdom to offer and help others? Old Lisa would make a snarky comment here, but they are right. I have learned a lot and I would like to share it. 

My work with The Great River Shakespeare Festival at times feels out of my comfort zone. But then I pop into a local business and someone smiles and I know as hard as it feels for me to ask for something, business owners are happy the festival is here. The volunteer I work with signed up at the same time I took the job and he has been invaluable. Truthfully, he needs to be the one getting paid, but I am really soaking in his wisdom and appreciative of his kindness and generosity. I am a connector at heart and that skill is certainly paying off.

So all of this is to say I have been writing (I have two pieces that should appear in our local paper soon) and carting children and cooking and barely keeping up with laundry and frankly, avoiding the great outdoors because as bright and sunny as it is, it just feels cruel.

But my heart is full and warm and I am preparing for my future self because she needs a little love too. Cold days are great for plotting. Your future self with thank you!



I lit a few candles yesterday. Reading the gruesome report of the events in Peshawar had me rattled. Two days prior I was hanging little ornaments on my tree in memory of each person killed in Newtown, MA and now 148 lives were gone at the hands of the Taliban. Children and teachers were shamelessly killed.

My daughter walked out to a dim kitchen and she knew right away.

“Pakistan mom?” I nodded as she sat down to join me and we stared at the candles hoping the light was strong enough.

My son had a different response.“Candles mom?  How will that help?” He had questions, lots of questions, and so finally I pulled up a recent news article and we read it together and my candles did nothing for him.

His eyes filled with tears. “I’m scared, mom. School should not be scary.”

I did not correct him.

“Things like that don’t happen here” would have been my response a few years back. Maybe we don’t have the Taliban and the US remains largely a much safer place to be educated than in many places around the world yet uncertainty has now crept into our haven as well.

For once I did not know how to comfort him.

After a bit I reminded him of one of our favorite books The Three Questions based on a Tolstoy fable. In the book a panda named Stillwater is trying to teach a friend how to determine who the most important person is, what time is the best, and what actions are the right ones to take. Through some experience he learns the most important time is now, the most important person is the one you are with, and the most important action is the kindest one.

And so that is what I tried to tell him.

“So Bug, right now I am feeling helpless. I can light this candle and send my thoughts towards people far away. I can show you I care by listening to your concerns even though I have no answers."


He wasn't completely satisfied, but his gaze drifted toward the candle. He took my hand and we sat there lost in our unsettled thoughts together.