Single On Saturday

Tribeless On Saturday

It’s Saturday, and I’ve never felt more single in my life. Not romantically; like a stranger in my own country. I feel tribe-less.

I have friends marching in Washington the day after other friends attended inauguration balls. Still others share red- or blue-tinted outrage on social media, and I feel tribe-less. I’m not outraged by much these days; resentment is a luxury I can’t afford, and I have too much for which to be grateful.

A few days ago a good friend, who would attend Saturday’s rally in D.C., asked those of us staying home if we’d like our names added on the back of her poster so she could carry us with her. I thought it was a lovely sentiment and was moved by the idea, but I didn’t respond. I didn’t think I belonged there, on the back of my friend’s beautifully crafted piece of art (created by another mutual friend who was homebound with the flu).

I could have gone in person. It was my ex’s weekend with the kids. My fella is out of town on business. I know plenty of people going, so I wouldn’t be by myself with 500,000 strangers. But I don’t belong there.

I won’t go into details about why I don’t believe I belong there. For the record, I wouldn’t have belonged there on Inauguration Day, either.

Never have I felt so separated from my fellow countrymen. I hesitate even using that word “countrymen” because a good portion of the people I love would say it’s a misogynistic, non-inclusive word.

I’m a writer, and I’m afraid of using the word I want to use. Let that sink in.

Ok, maybe I get a little resentful sometimes.

In 2010 I attended a march at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, on those very same steps. I thought I had found my tribe then, a couple hundred thousand of them, but I was wrong. Many of them have since been distorted by fear and resentment. Winning became more important than principles.

My mom and dad were there with me, and they are still in my tribe. We don’t always see things eye to eye but I trust beyond the shadow of a doubt their unconditional love. I have that trust with my children, and my brother. Do I have that level of trust with anyone else?

I feel like a pariah in my own country. If my conservative friends knew what I believed, I’m afraid they would disown me, or worse, lecture me. If my liberal friends knew what I believed, they, too, would give me labels I know aren’t accurate. This is why I’ve been so solitary my whole life, I remind myself.

It goes beyond politics. I see division in my church, too. Theological differences. Hatred of my Catholic faith communicated in snide comments or outright insults. Some of my favorite people call themselves “recovering Catholics,” and when they use that term to describe themselves, they unknowingly insult a large part of my identity. In those moments, I feel like I don’t belong. I’m not looking to convert or re-convert anyone. I made that mistake before, and I learned better.

In the midst of all the marching and chanting and celebrity ranting on TV, I sit at home doing very real battle with my deepest fear – that the people I love unconditionally are not capable of loving me back unconditionally. That your tolerance extends to some but not all. I am not angry at the hypocrisy so much as saddened by the rejection. You draw battle lines not realizing I’m on the other side.

I’m the independent voter stuck in no man’s land (can I use that term, “no man’s land?”) with thousands of other voiceless, tribe-less people seeking a spiritual solution while the rest of our country lines up on the left and the right demanding political solutions that are doomed to failure.

This Saturday, I found a few in my tribe. A motley crew of people who couldn’t be more different from each other. A long-haired, metal-head biker recovering addict. A mom of a special needs child who leans right, and a recently ordained deacon who leans left. A millionaire real estate broker, and a bank teller who moonlights as a rock music critic. A high school classmate who homeschools her four kids, and friend of a friend whom I’ve met only on Facebook, living as the only liberal in his conservative Texas town. I know who they are because they have the courage to be themselves unapologetically. I have so much to learn from you.

14 years ago when I was awaiting my first child’s birth, I was a member of an online support group of other moms with the same due date. One of them was a Catholic, conservative, vegan yoga instructor in northern Virginia whose online name was “Pixiepunk.” I said at the time, “It must be neat to live inside your head!” I know nothing else about her except that she has a daughter my son’s age. If you’re out there, Pixie, I’m pretty sure you’re in my tribe, too.

When I was a teenager, I got into an argument at Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house, about caring for the homeless. I had to leave the table in tears, but 25 years later, I still still have a heart for the homeless and I still share thanksgiving with them, and we have learned to talk about other things and respect each other’s differences. Maybe they are in my tribe, too.

My biker friend posted on Facebook, “Some people will only like you if you fit inside their box. Don’t be afraid to shove that box up their ass.”

One of my mom friends said the only answer is prayer.

Still another posted a selfie of he and his wife holding a handmade sign reading, “What happens next is up to us.”

These are the anthems of my disconnected, leaderless tribe of misfits who don’t fit into anyone’s box. Who might not be welcome at a woman’s march because of their pro-life stance. Who might not be welcome at a church because they are ok with monogamous committed relationships between two people of the same gender being acknowledged as a legal marriage. Who dare to disagree with some of their respective political party platforms. Who just want the shouting to stop, and the listening to finally begin.

It’s Saturday and I’m listening. And I’m longing to be heard, and loved anyway.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” These words from the Gospel of John remind me that I’m not a tribe-less member of a leaderless tribe. I have a leader who loves me even more unconditionally than even my parents, and his love is all that matters. His power is the only power that is real. Righteous indignation is his alone; it is too toxic for me. Far too toxic. May I practice his unconditional kindness and strive to find unity in Him alone.

All the Zero Days, Tending the Temple

Thoughts On Hiking

This past weekend I went on a 10 mile hike in the Shenandoah mountains with a group of seasoned hikers. The weather was perfect, and the majority of the journey was under a beautiful, shady canopy of trees. There was a lovely waterfall, an old 1930s cemetery, an abandoned homestead, sweet mountain laurel in bloom, and a cozy cabin for thru hikers on the Appalachian trail, infused with the smell of hickory smoke from the previous night’s fire.

Unfortunately, as an amateur attempting to go at the pace of a seasoned hiker, I lagged behind a lot and was more focused on catching up than seeing the sights around me. Heck, most of the time just breathing was a challenge! But, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and got to see just how much I could push myself, which is something I would not have done on my own, without the guidance and “peer pressure” of the folks who were more experienced than I.

One of my good friends says, “Stick with the winners.” Meaning, surround myself with people who have already achieved the goals I wish to accomplish, and be frugal with the time I spend with folks who may have good intentions or are really fun, but are mired in their present circumstances. Fortunately, I have several “winners” as companions on my spiritual journey. While the pace they set may leave me panting and aching, it’s worth the effort to keep up, sometimes.

And sometimes, it’s not.

I’ve found that spiritual journeys are a lot like hiking journeys. What makes the hike “good?” Certainly the scenery is a factor, and the weather. I love being able to linger and take pictures and immerse myself in the moment. When I go at my own pace, I get to have a relationship with my own journey, and ultimately with myself. But on my own, my progress is slower (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Another facet of a good hike is physical exertion. It makes me stronger, and healthier. There’s the rush of adrenaline. There’s the pride of accomplishment, of knowing I stretched myself and have grown. If it were not for the leadership and guidance of a community (of hikers, or seekers of God), I’d probably miss out on the growth opportunities inherent in any activity involving more than just myself.

A balanced life is one which I have a little of both. Sticking only with the winners can be exhausting, especially mentally. It’s only human to get caught in the trap of “better than/less than,” and being only with those who’ve “made it” (or appear to have “made it” a bit more consistently than I) can be inspiring one minute and demoralizing the next, depending on how my attitude is doing.

The times I’ve journeyed alone are often when I’m able to internalize and “own” the lessons those winners have mastered. Maybe it’s a few days of sitting with my feelings and journaling about a painful incident in my past, instead of spilling my guts to anyone who will listen. Maybe it’s getting to know new people at a Meetup group, instead of stewing at home wishing one of my comfortable, “broken in” friends wasn’t busy with kid stuff or husband stuff or house stuff. Maybe it’s riding a motorcycle for the first time, or climbing a tree like when I was ten, or learning to trust that God will always, always lead me to places that are good for me, even if that’s away from the seasoned winners for a spell. They got seasoned because they, too, had time alone with themselves exploring new landscapes and revisiting old haunts with new eyes.

It used to be when I was “hiking” my spiritual journey on my own, it was a self-imposed isolation filled with self-pity because “no one understands me.” Others were either too controlling, too smothering, too boring, or just couldn’t keep up. What an arrogant piece of work I was! And if loneliness got the better of me and I “hiked” with a group, I was critical, judgmental, resentful of having to accelerate or slow my pace. And needy. And afraid of abandonment. And insecure. Really insecure.

Today I crave being with people so that I can grow. I crave walking the road less travelled on my own so I can heal and recharge. Some hikes are healing hikes, some hikes are growing hikes. Today I get to choose.