Dear Sweatpants & Coffee tribe,
I’ve been thinking a lot about how so many of us yearn to find our people. How we want to be seen, to be held and beheld. We long to belong.
When I was a young mother, exhausted and bewildered and breathless with love but profoundly isolated from the world, I craved connection but I didn’t know how to find it. I was sleep deprived, at the beck and call of a 28-pound human who fed off me like an adorable leech, unsure of my role in the world and therefore relieved to lose myself in the sacred and often mind-numbing task of mothering. I joined playgroups and mommy groups and associations where women introduced themselves by first stating the job they’d held in the Pre-Child Era. I joined online forums and Yahoo mailing lists. I went to meetups and Nights Out. I was very social and deeply lonely.
Belonging is more than joining.
When our little family moved to California, I knew the ropes. It takes about 2 years to feel like a place is yours, I discovered. To find your grocery store and your favorite restaurants and the mall you love and the one you hate and to know which intersections to avoid and where the best place is to watch fireworks on the 4th of July and to make enough connections that you have people to meet for coffee or wave to when you go to the Art & Wine Festival. I knew that you had to take classes at the community center and volunteer and pretend to be interested in the weather.
I used to comb the Craigslist ads – the Seeking Activity Partner section. This is where I’d see the other lonely ones posting. Not the people looking for sex, although there were those, but the ones who just wanted to make friends. There were lots of postings from women looking for “Sex and the City” style girlfriends. They didn’t want the glamor and the romance of the show – they wanted the friendship the characters had. I wrote to some of them, met up for coffee or book discussions or wine tastings.
Belonging is more than doing.
While all this seeking and living was going on, I was doing something else: I was growing into myself. I wasn’t friendless, by the way. But I hadn’t found my tribe. And as it turns out, you can’t find your tribe until you know – REALLY know – who you are. You have to claim yourself, in all your wonderful strangeness. You have to figure out what you are most afraid of, where you lack, where you shine, what makes you fall into helpless fits of giggles. Only then can you figure out where you fit and who fits you.
Belonging is claiming.
I think it’s obvious by now that one way my tribe has grown is through Sweatpants & Coffee. But beyond that, it’s been a lifelong quest for connection. For empathy. We need it now more than ever. Because the truth is that we belong to each other. All of us. Even the most unrelatable, infuriating human you know. Gender, religion, political affiliation, country of origin, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, food preference, boxers vs. briefs – those are interesting details but they do not trump our basic humanity. We are the tribe we’ve been looking for. We have to take care of each other.