Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
List the “tribes,” the communities to which you belong that feel unfailingly emotionally safe, supportive, and fun. It’s not fair to list the names of groups that SHOULD be supportive if they don’t, in fact, support you. How long is your list? Until a few weeks ago, my list was nearly empty. My “tribes” were tiny groupings of friends.
Why would a white woman want to identify as a black person? (You’ll note that Rachel Dolezal rose to prominence she had not achieved before when she presented as Black.) Why are some people drawn to religious sects that border on cults, sects that dictate restrictive behaviors or beliefs hopefuls must embrace to join and maintain membership? Why are the social media so powerful and addicting?
We need communities that stand in for the close, loving families we imagine existed in the past. The psychologist Maslow reminds us that we have a strong need to belong. Like animals that need a herd, a pack, a flock, we need a “tribe.” But in today’s segmented world where people can sit side-by-side day after day on the subway, in cubicles, in classes, on street benches without ever really interacting as human beings, many people feel alone. Suicide soars to epidemic proportions. Depression is rampant. We’re alone and we’re afraid.
We forget that in a world crowded with human beings, we cannot be utterly odd. No matter what our personal quirks or histories might be, there have to be other people experiencing many of the same circumstances. How do we find them?
Some truly attractive communities—such as the centenarian “grandmothers” on Okinawa or the commune-style housing developments in Denmark—aren’t open to just anyone. You can’t will yourself to be an ancient Japanese grandmother or a young Danish family. Until Rachel Dolezal, a white woman lost in an uncaring society couldn’t opt for the Black sisterhood.
Sometimes you have to create a community. Dr. Christiane Northrup of PBS fame created a swelling community of “ageless goddesses”—women who have stopped defining themselves by years or wrinkles or aches, women who seize upon healthy foods, fun physical activity, and personal permission to be whomever we wish to be–to fashion a sisterhood not tied to any ethnic, racial, or religious doctrine. It is to this international community that I come for support just now. And I receive it.
The “goddesses” refuse to concentrate on the negative voices that are always shouting messages of fear and hopelessness. Many of us come from backgrounds that were not kind or gentle. We do our best to hold one another up. In a society that often turns away, believing women past their “productive” (meaning re-productive) years should be—as they say about children “seen and not heard”—we refuse to “go gently into that good night.” Often, we were silenced as individual personalities long before our first wrinkles appeared.
Men (we like to call them “ageless titans”) can have many of the same issues as they grow older. Like the “goddesses,” they deserve to be released from the bonds of insecurity and sameness. Our message to people of any age is it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to have fun. Growing older at 60 is what it was at 20; it’s still growing older. Disease or disability can happen at any age. Those who reject you are expressing weaknesses of their own. They’re terrified of their own mortality. Happiness is, indeed, the best revenge. As the song says, live until you die.