We gather once a week. We circle up, each sharing the latest news, anecdotes about work, life, and kids. At one point, Cindy nicknamed our group The Tribe and it’s sort of stuck. If you’re part of a church you may know them by a different name, like life groups, small groups, or community groups. At first we were strangers but as we gather weekly, our stories become threads that weave into each other’s lives. These strangers are now my people. My truth tellers, my warriors, my problem solvers and middle of the night callers. This is my built in family.
This is the tribe that built me.
When I first met this group of women, I was a cynic. Past relationships with women were filled with land mines and battle scars but my life had become dry and barren. As a working mom I would have days that would go on for a life time.
I never made it out the door with matched socks and the kids were always late. It didn’t help my case when my kids would tell their teachers they were late because of my “drinking problem.” My problem is that I don’t function before at least three cups of coffee in the mornings. Try explaining that to your children’s teachers while wearing visibly mis-matched socks. I tell them, it’s still a thing.
And there’s only so much talking I could do with my kids and husband. The guy loves me but not when I try to use up all 40,000 words of things I need to say. Some of he doesn’t get. And really who can blame the guy when I want to talk about the magnitude of choosing the right paint color to create a warm home. And the kids? They didn’t understand the pressure to pick the right shade of green but rather they told me to pick the color of grass green and move on.
So when I was invited to join this group of women, I imagined tortuous moments of stale tiny sandwiches and dissecting the book of Judges which would likely put me to sleep.
But what I found was a group of women all new to each other and the conversations became battering ram revelations that began to take down the fortress around my life. We talked about love and hope, parenting and marriage, redemption and miracles.
The expectations I had about friendships began to change as I came face to face with the real kind. It turns about behind the idea of real community are real life women willing to link arms and do life together if you let them. But that’s the thing, the secret to having a friend is being a friend. The secret to being accepted is acceptance and the secret to getting past someone’s defenses is taking down your own.
This, for me, has been the challenge: to boldly welcome others into the mess that is me. The chance to find real community is to be the real me.
Why don’t we believe that? We insist to our kids they can be loved by being their beautiful selves; but then why do we tell our grown up selves in order to be liked and loved, we have to be the most interesting, the most successful, or the most beautiful? Maybe the surest way to build friendships is to take a deep breath and plunge into the mess.
These days, my tribe and I do life together, we pick each other up when life throws curve balls like the sex talk in fourth grade, when a spouse announces divorce, or when we lament at $500 bill because we hit the trash can backing out of the drive way or we’ve been so busy doing and being and living that we have no clue what it’s like to be our real selves, so we rally for a girls night out.
But that’s a risk right? It’s to risk sharing life, being real. It’s vulnerability. It’s brave.
Heather Riggleman is a child of the Mid-West and a coffee addict without a recovery plan. She is a full-time mother of three, author, and journalist. She is learning to accept the mess after chasing perfect for too many years.