I can’t seem to find my tribe. I keep casting lines out, and they either come back empty or are cut beneath the water. I’m fishing for a deep connection — I’m not interested in pop culture, material pursuits, or gossip. I’m questing for real soul talk. One of my favorite quotes is by Jack Kerouac:
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk — real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.
I don’t think my experience is singular. I think this country is a lonely place. No one needs anyone anymore. We’re all self-sufficient consumers and workers. We’ve lost our sense of community, and with it went the oneness and connection that human beings psychologically need. I’ve never had a religion, but I see now why people belong to churches: it’s a place of community in a world where that’s hard to find.
Since I’m not interested in organized religion (other than yoga; I don’t want anyone telling me how to feel or what to believe, and in yoga I can tailor my practice to be my very own), I’ve been putting myself out there in different situations. In the past two weeks, I’ve had four failed attempts at connecting with people. It hurts. I know I shouldn’t take it personally. After all, to ask someone to be interested in and give their time to a stranger is a lot to ask. Everyone is fighting a hard battle and they have their own paths to walk, but I think I could be a good friend if I could find someone receptive to me.
I’ve been oversharing and blatantly honest lately as an exercise in satya (truth). It seems to turn people off, but I feel like it’s still the right course of action, because if someone is turned off by my honest, authentic perspective, philosophies, and feelings, then they aren’t the connection I’m looking for, anyway.
This is all to say, I’m lonely. My partner and housemate is deeply depressed and not available emotionally. My family is great, but they are an hour away and not the best to confide in, because they can’t help but make judgments and give advice. That is exactly what I don’t want. I don’t want to be critiqued, rebutted, or advised, I want to be witnessed. Parker Palmer lucidly expressed this idea:
Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.
I do have one good friend whom I can speak to openly. Who never judges me. When I talk to him, I feel heard. The conversation has a life of it’s own. It evolves between us and holds a mirror up to each of us. We talk about science, and books, and soul stuff. These are the kinds of deep interactions I cherish and that are far too few in my life. The poet John O’Donohue posed this question, which describes my longing and confusion perfectly.
When is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture? But when had you last a great conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you onto a different plane, and then, fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards?
Unfortunately, this one true friend is not only an hour away, but is in a relationship with a jealous partner, and we don’t get the opportunity to talk very often. I think he feels the importance of our connection, too, because he’s been making phone calls lately. It’s something new in our friendship (before we’d only text), and it’s helping me a lot despite the physical distance and the relational barrier.
Being cut off from my closest friend is difficult, which is why I’ve been casting lines to try and find my tribe. I thought the music scene would be a place to meet like-minded people, but at the shows I’ve attended so far, I’ve only felt like an outsider. My conviction that I do not have to dress a certain way to fit in has made me… well, not fit in. Therefore, I imagine I seem unapproachable. Furthermore, people at shows are often drunk. I’ve made many friends in bars, but they don’t last and when they do, you usually end up making friends with people who habitually abuse alcohol or are full-fledged alcoholics. Been there, done that, over it.
Next, I tried my yoga studio. I absolutely love yoga. It’s more than exercise, it’s my spiritual practice. I meditate for 10-30 minutes every day and practice at least one side stretch, cat/cow, one twist, down dog and four half surya namaskar. Before I step off my mat I try to foster some kind of warm fuzzy feeling to take me through the day. [This morning I just felt wind blowing through my heart chakra. It’s there, it’s open, but I just feel so drained.] My morning practice has made me want to connect with other people who have a similar understanding of themselves; people who introspect. It hasn’t worked out though.
I’ve met two friendly women I’d like to strike up friendships with, but one is very social, very busy, and I’d feel like I was imposing. The other became a yoga instructor. I’m happy for her and I still like her, but I think yoga instructors are discouraged from friendships with students? That’s the vibe I get when there’s more than one instructor in the room, anyway. They clique together and I’m left on the outside looking wistfully in. The other students I practice with don’t seem receptive to me at all. In fact, last night I got the impression they disliked me. I chalk it up to their own emotional baggage. It likely has nothing to do with me. How could it? They don’t know me. Probably they have expectations for their own practice they aren’t meeting and are taking it out on someone who is meeting their expectations. I’m not a mind-reader, but in our society, women are taught to compare, contrast, and measure themselves against each other. This has been so detrimental to female friendships.
I have three female friends. My longest friendship of the three is pregnant with her second child. I’m happy for her, but that means she’s moving out of my life. It’s been slow and gradual, but sure. I’m losing her to her new family. I love her and wish her all the best, but there’s a hole in my heart where she used to be. The second longest of the three friendships is someone I met during the house party years of my life. When I moved to Indianapolis from my hometown, she reached out to me, and we struck up a friendship. I’m very grateful to her for being my first friend in a new city. I don’t get the deep connection I need out of this friendship, though. It’s no fault of hers. She’s a giver to the extreme and fills her time with volunteering and social get-togethers. She has a strong relationship with her family as well as with her husband’s family. She’s introduced me to her tribe, but they don’t vibe on my wavelength. Besides, they’re her tribe, not mine. To make my point clear, this friend number two is empathetic and giving, but also prone to over scheduling herself and experiencing anxiety. Furthermore, after a conversation with her, I just don’t have that feeling of being heard. To be honest, she does most of the talking. Friend number three is a new friend, and I hope we grow close. It’s too soon to tell, really. We’ve had at least one very real conversation, and I hope those continue and grow deeper.
I met friend number three at an event organized by our neighborhood’s garden club. I will definitely attend neighborhood events in the future, but they’re few and far (about 2 months) between. Often the events are family friendly, which turns me off because kids are sticky. Just kidding. (Not really.) I have a four-year-old nephew I absolutely adore, but I’m intentionally childfree and loving it. I know it’s not a popular opinion to go sans babies, but it’s my decision that I’ve made deliberately for several reasons. Maybe I’ll talk more about that in a later entry. The point here is, I’d like to connect with other childfree people when possible.
I’m going to keep casting lines out in search of my tribe, but for right now, I’m going to lay low. I feel very vulnerable and energetically “thin” if you get my meaning, and I don’t want to stress myself with another rejection or feeling othered. If you have suggestions for where I can find open-minded, open-hearted people, I’d love to hear it as long as it doesn’t involve adopting religious doctrine I’m not drawn to or starting a family.
This was a long, emotional post and mostly therapeutic. I do feel better. Thanks to those who read and relate. If you are one of the people in my life that was described, I hope you can accept my perspective and I haven’t bruised your ego.
- Kerouac, J. (2011). On the road. New York, N.Y: Penguin.
- Palmer, P.J. (2016, April 27). The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice. On Being with Krista Tippett.
- O’Donohue, J. Tippett, K. (2017, Aug 2017). The Inner Landscape of Beauty. On Being with Krista Tippett.