Happiness is a Tribe

So Friday was a nightmare, five guys and a truck and house full of stuff to go through. I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, followed by an allergy attack, followed by no sleep, and the the truck came . . .

But before the truck got there, Krissie was there, and then Mollie came, and then Jamie was there, and put chairs out in front and made me sit there with them, and we laughed a lot and I just sat there amazed: people were taking care of me. My best friend, my daughter, my therapist, all showed up to surround me and make me feel secure and loved in spite of what a mess I am.

I think a lot of us just take care of people, it’s what we do, so when the world flips around, we get dizzy with emotional vertigo, and we have to let others step up, and it can be terrifying. Unless you have a tribe. Then you just laugh and eat breakfast at noon and hug each other. That was the other thing: They all like each other a lot, they all have friendships and respect for each other, and I’d be lost without them.

So this is to thank Mollie and Krissie and Jamie for being the best of all possible tribes and for getting me through Friday. You are the best, and I’m the luckiest damn woman I know. And this is also to ask a comment request: If you have a tribe, who’s in it? How do you support each other? What makes you laugh together and hold onto each other and show up for each other?

And finally, how did you find happiness this week, with a tribe or solo?

35 thoughts on “Happiness is a Tribe

  1. My best friend from school, and one of my closest friends from uni. Two of us have returned to our home city, and the other is still in London. We have a WhatsApp group. Five years ago we turned 45, the group chat we created to plan our party was called Party Girls and had a photo of us when we were 21. It’s still the same. We share jokes and photos, and things that interest us. Punday Monday, Pieday Friday, how Margot from The Good Life is the style icon we didn’t know we needed. We’re aunties and godmothers. Two of us and a revolving cast of regulars get together on Tuesdays for boardgames. When my dad died, Ailish drove 6 hours to be at the funeral. I turn up at her house, walk in, turn the kettle on, and ask who wants tea. She keeps peppermint teabags just for me.

    And then there is the best friend I made as an adult, who I message with almost every day; life and politics, and all the things. And once a year we get a group together and run a half marathon through the vineyards. They had a trophy made for me after 10 years, to say ‘congratulations on ten years running’. Because celebrate the wins, right?

    And my mum is the best, my partner is pretty great, and I was raised with aunties and uncles and cousins and one day I am hoping my kids grow up to be part of my tribe too, the signs (and 13 at 15) are positive.

    And local friends, people I meet for coffees and drinks and walks and chats.

    And if I called any of these people and said ‘help I’m drowning’ any one of them would show up, lifeboat, snacks, hugs. I am overcome with gratitude.

    1. PS I’m sorry Friday was a nightmare, and hooray for the people who have your back.

  2. I’m happy. My cats arrived (Australia to Scotland, poor babies) three days ago and two days ago my co-cat carer finished that same trip. Now my chosen family is finally all in the same city again. Not yet all in the new house which needs flooring before furniture or letting the cats out of the kitchen. But same city! So good.
    I painted the kitchen floor for water proofing barely in time but the cats switched right over to the new litter box with no accidents. I’m pretty happy about that too.

    Maybe I can say this here. My mother died. I am sorry for way her life ended but I am not really sad. Maybe it’ll sneak up on me? But I want to stay here and be happy with people that love me. I don’t want to fly 9-14 hours to attend on people who, as a (fairly large) group, have contacted me twice perhaps three times in the last eight years. That’s the last time I visited them. None have visited me, ever, in all the great tourist spots I’ve lived in in the last twenty years. Even when they were in the same city. I might be more angry with my extended family than I am sad about my mother’s death. And angry about that, too.
    Huh. Thank for “listening” I kind of hadn’t noticed the angry part until I started writing it here.
    Happy with hidden anger. Probably should work on that, that one does not spoil the other.

    1. It’s ok to be angry and not really sad, if that’s where you are. So many people seem to cling to the idea of ‘families are wonderful.’ But, really, so many of them are not. I think- celebrate your chosen tribe, who actually loves you, and let the others go as much as you are able.

      I’ve been there. Sending hugs.

    2. You’re choosing to take care of Clancy during this time, instead of taking care of people that you don’t know particularly well and by whom you don’t feel loved. Sometimes for me, I get clear that I don’t want to do something, that doing it wouldn’t actually put much good–if ANY–into the world, but I still feel guilty because I’m going against what I was taught about being polite and nice to people. So I get angry, because while I can’t seem to make a rational, logical decision to take care of myself when I need it, I can make an angry decision to do that. It seems pretty clear that taking care of Clancy will actually do some good and forcing yourself to spend time with people with whom you don’t have any real connection won’t. If “hidden anger” is supporting you in that position for now, no wonder you’re happy with it. Good for you.

    3. My mother died during peak covid (not OF covid, thank goodness, just during it, from a sudden aneurysm), and funerals/gatherings were prohibited (although they had a small memorial gathering at the assisted living place where she lived) and it was such a relief I didn’t have to go and pretend to be sad. I mean, she was ready to go, had been for a while, and it was sudden and painless, so a “good” death. And we’d been estranged for a long time (nothing terrible, just drove each other crazy, so it was best to stay apart).

      Anyway, just saying I totally understand. I wondered at the time if I might regret not being part of a memorial service or going to be with the brother who lived closest to her (and was emotionally the closest to her), but I really didn’t, and it’s been two years now, so I doubt the regrets will happen at this late date.

    4. Don’t go.
      I understand completely. Every time Mother’s Day rolls around, I’m glad I don’t have to send a card. Every now and then, a thought floats up that I should call my mother, and I remember she’s long gone and I’m glad. Your feelings are not up for evaluation by anybody, and some mothers, while we wouldn’t have wished them dead, are much easier to deal with when they’re gone.
      Do not feel guilty.

      1. I agree, Jenny. Some mothers just don’t quite hit the mark. I, too, am glad that the obligation to act in a loving way toward someone whose love was very conditional is over. Enjoy the now, and let the past go.

    5. They can stream funeral services now. If you want to be there for the ceremony, you could stay home with people who love you and still be present in that way.

      I’ve had relatives die where all I’ve felt was relief, and some anger and grief that things hadn’t been better. I’m sorry your family’s been like that, it’s difficult.

  3. This is making me realize that there have been “help I’m drowning” level people in my life who are gone, but two who appeared over the last 15 years. It is very centering to realize a new such person can always be on their way into your life.

    Good friends are the best. That is why “Bet Me” is my favorite of Jenny’s books – two great tribes merge into one, and they are going to be having fun and supporting each other forever.

    And also worth celebrating are the small relationships; the lady at the deli who knows why I buy 2/3 of a container of chicken salad, the woman and her daughter who I always see in the grocery, the neighbor I only see if we are out walking at the same time who wants to show me the picture she painted. A different kind of tribe.

  4. You may find yourself grieving for your mom, or for the relationship you wish you could have had with her. Or for the relationship you wish you had with the rest of your family. It doesn’t seem like any of that would be easier or better if you go to the funeral. So I willl remind you of Miss Manners’ advice and just tell them you can’t go—it’s simply impossible—and don’t give them a specific reason.

    I’m so sorry your birth family is so uncaring. That’s really hard. I have a good relationship with my brother and had one with my dad, which makes it easier to deal with my mom and sisters, but it’s never easy.

    1. I’ve used that Miss Manners nugget a lot in my own life and have suggested its employment often over the years to a friend who has a truly poisonous family.

  5. I have a small tribe, but they really came through for me when I had my heart surgery. One lives far away and announced that she was cancelling all her plans for the month after the surgery and flying here to take care of me at home, and her husband was encouraging her to go. (I didn’t actually need that level of help, and it wouldn’t have worked logistically, so I declined, but what mattered to me was the genuine offer, not having to ask for help, and it was already in motion!)

    Another set of friends took me in to her handicapped-accessible house (not allowed to do stairs for a while after surgery, not even the very few at my house), so I didn’t have to go to a nursing home between the hospital and coming home. And a third set of friends (next-door neighbors) kept my cats fed and my car running (couldn’t drive for a month) and even washed it, inside and out! Oh, and a fourth set (my tenants!) deposited their rent at the bank for me, since I was in the hospital when it was due, and took out my trash for the two months when I wasn’t allowed to lift that much weight.

    It wasn’t exactly a happy time in my life, recovering from open-heart surgery, but my tribe made it so much better than it could have been!

  6. So you may have noticed that there are two Happiness Posts this week. That was a mistake. But since I didn’t discover it until now, I’m just leaving them.

    Sorry about that. It’s been a week from hell.

    1. Jenny, it seems like you have had a LOT of weeks from hell, lately. I hope that diminishes once you get moved and things settle down for you. Sending you healing, soothing energy!

  7. My tribe of lovely women are a mix of childhood friend and cousin/sister and my best ever friends I met in my early 30s. The people I met, with which, I had an immediate connection. My dearest next door neighbours of over 40 years. We’ve travelled together and know we have each other’s back. My dearest spiritual sister friends, of whom I can tell anything and they have been a great strength. H is pretty good at all things but sometimes just doesn’t get it. He had a difficult childhood, father left, mother working, so thankfully he had a wonderful aunt and uncle with whom he lived with on a farm. His best memories of family. Suffice to say aside from the two crazy sisters, one long dead and what a relief sad to say, the other rarely have contact, I have a wonderful rest of the family, friends and delightful granddaughters. I’m good.

  8. Congratulations on getting the big removal day over with.

    I hope the move goes smoothly and that you will be happily settled soon.

    I’m looking at moving next year and a huge reason is to be near old friends again. I’m hoping to have that feeling of community again.

    I find it a lot less stressful to be the helper rather than the person needing help, but I’m guessing most people feel that way.

  9. A combination of my natural personality traits and the way my parents modeled friendship and family during my youth means I have a small and scattered tribe. Over the years, I’ve made at least one good friend in each workplace – but after the job ends, I typically don’t see that person again. Some of them I’m still in contact with (thanks, FB); most not. The pandemic definitely affected that, because when your best option for seeing someone in person is a lunch or post-work cocktail, and then all the restaurants close, and even after they’re open you don’t find the risk reasonable, virtual contact is what’s left. And that simply doesn’t work for some people. I don’t take it personally.

    I have one good girlfriend who would drop everything for me, and I try to be that supportive for her too. My sister flew across the country to be on hand when I had my hysterectomy 8 years ago. She is *much* better at the tribe thing than I am and has a big network in their small town, to which DH and I expect to move within the next couple years. Fingers crossed we can integrate with at least some segments of that tribe.

  10. Well, I’m a CherryBomb, and yes we are still in each others lives. We are sadly fewer in number than when we started, but it’s an amazing group of wise and wonderful people. Anything you want to know, someone will have the answer, cheer you on, lend you a shovel, and give you advice whether you want it or not.

    They aren’t my only friends, I’m blessed to have many. But having them in my life all these years has been an amazing source of strength, comfort and knowledge .

    Thank you Jenny and Bob for the gift of this tribe.

  11. I have a tribe and only one —my brother —is a blood relative (beside my kids). But my DH is one—he was amazing when I had a medical crisis in the middle of an important meeting and my doctor said I wasn’t safe to drive home, then a month of intensive pain and testing followed by a hysterectomy—three weeks into when he started a new job.

    And when I had a miscarriage right after we moved to a new town where we knew no one and my doctor said I shouldn’t be alone overnight and needed a d and c in the morning and DH was in Brazil and it would take him a day to get back, and I had no one to care for my 4 year old and my mom refused to come because she had to teach, my friend Lynn just packed up her 6 m old and drove 3 hours to be with me.

    I have other local tribe members too, —probably 10-12 people who would just be there if I needed them . I’m very lucky .

    We are their tribe too. When a couple of our friends were out hiking and their 14 y o suddenly needed to get to the hospital and they couldn’t get back fast enough, DH pretended to be her father and took her and my maybe 8 year old went along and insisted on bringing her a pillow.

    My mom on the other hand is the anti tribe. Once when I needed surgery she told me she couldn’t come help (I didn’t ask her to) because she had to drive my brother to the hospital for his planned knee surgery. Which would make sense except she then called him to offer to drive him and he of course didn’t want her and said no.

    It also helps that we have lived in one place for 27 years. We have had time to build roots.

  12. I’m envious of people with tribes. I have family, scattered and nearby, but when I moved, I lost my tribes from volunteering and from a group I was part of, and I haven’t really found one again. I thought I had, in a pagan group, but the majority of the people are gamers, and I am not. There are a few closer to my age, but no-one has clicked. Being an introvert doesn’t help. So cherish your tribes!

  13. I’m still working on this post-divorce. My sons are teens, my sisters live far away, my friends are not single and busy with their lives. I need an app to make friends in your fifties, lol.

    1. I found a friend using the ‘friends’ part of Bumble, I was going to use the app for dating, but got sidetracked 😀

  14. In a different, but still important way, I actually feel like I’ve found my tribe with you all. 🙂

  15. I have always had a tribe. Many people I grew up with are still part of my life. We used to write letters, long typed letters, to keep in touch. Email made that easier and some of us group text now, which is how one of us heard two others texting about a third one having a medical crisis and was able to say “I’m less than a mile away. I’ll go.” I don’t understand why people are nostalgic about the good old days of limited communication.

  16. I’m glad your long hard day is behind you, Jenny, although I’m sorry it was so tough. But very happy your tribe was with you.

    My coven and the woman in it are definitely my tribe. We’ve been friends and family-by-choice since 2004. I have a few long-term friends–not many, but the ones I have are gold. The Betties, for those of you who know who they are (they started from Lani’s blog, long ago, and many of us hung together after than all blew up); some of them are closer to me than others, but if I ever need to vent, they’re there. And Argh, you people are my tribe too. Bless you all.

    1. I’m glad to know that some Betties are still in touch and sending on their “fairy godmother vibes”. I often lurked on a Year and Change, and occasionally participated under a different handle, though I never gave myself a Betty name.

  17. My tribe is mainly people from the festival I help organise. It got a bit battered by the pandemic because the community split into anti and pro vax, but we’re slowly healing from that. And this year I’ve reconnected with some old friends I lost because they couldn’t cope with my ex. That’s been great. We used to be people who’d drop everything for each other and I’m hoping we’ll get back to that.

  18. I’ve got a few tribes, with some overlap, so I am very fortunate. And my besties are beyond wonderful. When I went through (phrasing chosen carefully) a divorce, my besties set up a call with me every day at 7:00 am so I could cry. They would just listen, make soothing noises, and then I would get on with my day.

  19. My tribe is small but mighty. Two or three “in person” people really, and I am so grateful for them.

    Like Jenny said, we get used to caring for other people and when the roles flip, I feel weird. It’s good, but unusual. A lot of my familial relationships feel very one sided, something that I have been thinking about lately. It’s important to hold on to the people who really care about you and make sure that you don’t favor the more demanding ones and hurt the healthy relationships…

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