30 December 2007

Tribe Talk 2

Spent some time yesterday browsing antique and thrift shops with J. Could be my imagination but it seems like there's less and less difference between cost of things in MS and cost of things in CA. Maybe the prices are the shop owners' attempts to stay afloat post-Katrina. In any case, I resisted spending my dwindling dollars on high-priced antiques and settled for spending $5 on a couple of new skirts and one sweater at American Thrift.

We stopped in Ocean Springs at a little restaurant/bar called Government Cheese Grocery (or something like that). A comfy spot--i.e., not crowded, no blasting AC, only one TV on low volume; prompt, friendly service--to drink Irish coffee (alcohol is becoming a cheap substitute for prescription pain killer) and talk on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

It might have been the greyness of the day or the marked social isolation I've experienced during "the holidays." In any event, the conversation turned to relationship. I said that nearly all of my social relationships require a high degree of self denial and compromise and she wondered, that being the case, why I long for "tribe." It was a great question.

We discovered that while she finds relationship in and to groups a great challenge, I find relationship to individuals most challenging. In most cases, it's just a matter of time, I said, before I espouse an opinion or turn a phrase or choose an activity or something that causes the other person to burst into flames or otherwise abandon the relationship. And all the compromise and self betrayal/denial comes to naught.

For J, one-to-one interactions are a process of collecting data: enough data is collected eventually to justify choosing to move forward into deeper connection with the person; choosing, in a sense, to care what they think, to care enough to be hurt if the relationship breaks.

Listening to her, I realized my approach was different. For me, with a few wild exceptions, every encounter holds the possibility--if not outright potential--to become a relationship of deep caring. When it doesn't work out, I'm usually shattered.

I told her that I enter every relationship willingly showing more and more of my hand; but looking back on the conversation today, I see that in actuality I am ambivalent with people: simultaneously insecure--hiding parts of myself to avoid their disapproval--and....yes, hopeful--dragging out all my toys to share with someone I "hope" will become a friend, a tribe member.

What a shock! After years of trotting out my standard spiel about "not doing hope," to discover that I DO "do hope" all the time, one to one socially.


In my tribe

  • we are committed to becoming good people and we support each other's work toward that end
  • we recognize and believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings--so when conflict arises discourse does not disintegrate into personal attack; or does so only momentarily until one or the other party reiterates our mutual belief and recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of all beings
  • we each take responsibility for our feelings--so when conflict arises discourse does not disintegrate into "you make me feel so....!!"; or does so only momentarily until one or the other party reiterates our mutual commitment to take responsibility for our own feelings
  • we care for each other, celebrating accomplishments and victories and commiserating in times of disappointment or grief
  • we are able to apologize and equally capable of accepting apology, i.e., letting "it" go once an apology is tendered
  • we start from a place of acceptance and curiosity in our interactions with each other
  • we believe that everybody is an expert on something and nobody is an expert on everything
  • we strive to never act with an intention to hurt--and admit it and apologize when we fail at this
  • honesty, unselfishness and respect are our watchwords and the development of these traits our communal mission
  • we sincerely celebrate diversity as unique external ornamentations of the core Oneness that all of Life expresses
  • we embrace Ruiz's Four Agreements: Be impeccable with our word. Always do our best. Make no assumptions. Take nothing personally.
  • Most of us live in close proximity to each other, perhaps even on the same piece of land
And none of this is window dressing; we sincerely, actively, diligently, consistently and consciously embrace these principles in our lives together. Not like the mission statements and creeds that non-profit organizations and churches espouse--where the words exist on paper or in some oath pronounced aloud in unison at each gathering and all but disappear in the real-life, day-to-day interactions of the members. In the Tribe, there are observable indicators present in social interactions all the time.

And there's probably more to add to the list. I'll let you know.

I love this: gaining clarity as a new year begins.


  1. Re relationship exploration:

    What a thrilling post! Full with self-discovery, self-Seeing- opens wide possibilities for expanded, growing relating-

    "And all the compromise and self betrayal/denial comes to naught."

    That reminds of the Adrienne Rich and the Cohen piece: we can never, after all, find true intimacy if we're not authentically present our own selves, in Truth.... nor can we very well expect it from others, or even identify it when we see it, clouded as it is through our own Self-denying lenses.

    Also brings to mind the old story, Sufi I think, of the visitor to a new town, who asks a resident what kind of people live there; the resident asks in turn "well, what were they like where you came from?" The visitor replies that "they were mean; no one was friendly, no one understood me, etc". To which the resident replies "well, you'll probably find the same sort of people here, I'm afraid."
    Another visitor comes through, asks the same question, and is met with the same question, to which the second visitor replies "They were interesting, friendly, compassionate, etc" and the resident replies "Well, you'll probably find the same sort of people right here."

    You also said: "I see that in actuality I am ambivalent with people: simultaneously insecure--hiding parts of myself to avoid their disapproval"....... interesting that we, so many of us, operate under the impression that we can actually know in advance what someone else might disapprove of; it limits our relating to a stereotyped view of the other, assigning them "disapprovals" that might not even exist. Reminds me of the "normal" post, too.
    Also interesting that the others' perceived disapproval is a STOPPING point in the relationship rather than a jumping off point for further exploration of differences of selves and relating..... do you think disapproval HAS to be a deal-breaker?
    Certainly, "disapproval" is a value judgement- in Rosenberg's non-violent communication teaching, the conversants would avoid judgement of the other or the other's feelings or actions, but would stick with their OWN feelings & actions- ie, rather than disapproval, the other might say "I feel this and that, because I need this or that, and when you do this or that, my need isn't met.... would you be willing to this or that?" It's a very scary practice, going beyond its gestalt and wisdom teaching roots- we have to KNOW what we need & want, KNOW what we feel- disapproval is NOT a feeling,fr example, but frustration & sorrow certainly are-and be ready to actually EXPOSE our true feelings & needs to the other- much more difficult than marking the person "disapproved" or "disapproving", for example. AND a prerequisite for intimacy, for lasting relaitonship.

    I know disapproval's been an issue between you & I, for example- you've perceived me to be disapproving, have said you felt depressed and hurt by my questions and perceived disapproval, and imputed- what? I don't know- to me; In turn, I thought you'd disapproved of me & my questions- and in that case, YOU moved on, not me!

  2. I love the list of things/behaviors of your tribe - I absolutely love and appreciate that on a couple you allow for the times when we deviate momentarily from how we want to be

    "we recognize and believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings--so when conflict arises discourse does not disintegrate into personal attack; or does so only momentarily until one or the other party reiterates our mutual belief and recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of all beings"

    that's beautiful - it speaks to the truth that we fail sometimes - it acknowledges and creates the opportunity for us (one or the other) to bring us back to where we want to be

    I haven't noticed that in other creeds, and I like that it puts it there - we mess up, one of us brings us back to where we need to be, and we move on together

    fantabulous, mon cher!

    I hope the new year sees you and your bloggers well!

    peace, love and growth,

  3. Thinking more about tribe.... in my own life, I've used the concept to describe feelings of kinship with others, usually around some trait or activity, like Sister Quilter, or someone who loves discourse.... i'd say we're from the same tribe or family.
    For me also the feeling of kinship- aside from with close friends- is usually around a project we're participating in- the only projects I really participate in are my own, so right there we know there's a common interest.... and if we're still working together after the initial working, also means we've worked through some issues of vision, practicality- in-the-world-Making- as well as personal idiosyncroncies, styles of relating- in these circumstances, we look back (or forward!) and admire our work, congratulate each other on getting ANY of it done...
    maybe these are more communities, even temporary communities; I don't look for complete all-encompassing intimacy, mutual full Self disclosure; I take the joy I can get!
    Also I have strong bonds in the geopraphic community here- I mean the block I live on- which I've cultivated since Katrina; seeing the huge class differences there and reflecting on the same sort of class division here, then wondering if we'd even RECOGNIZE each other here- much less HELP each other in an emergency- it seems crucial to me to connect with the actual people around us. assuming some of yr tribal language: respect for differences- that all have something to contribute- and room for mistakes, misunderstandings, to be cleared. Much easier said than done- reading and rereading yr tribal fundamentals, I feel almost NOSTALGIC for that, although I've never experienced that fullness in any group I've been part of. Again, thankyou for yr reflection- and initiating my own reflections- Hurray for clarity!


What do you feel about what you just read?