Good Golly Miss Molly… can you smell the change in the air: that summer-to-fall slight earthiness edging out the sweeter scent of summer?? My supersmell usually picks that up to the day, reinforced by a chillier now-I-need-a-sweater evening. The air changed August 20th FYI; I mentioned it to my parents in a phone call that day and could hear the way-post-term-pregnant pause and unspoken “huh?”, followed predictably by: “oh, uh, okay… your Aunt phoned….”. A clear example of tribal lines. I asked about my Aunt: I’m long past trying to get my parents to relate to some of my traits for which they simply have no first-hand experience; and sincerely appreciate the occasions when they may explore me with me more.
Prior to my little summer hiatus, my last post entertained exactly this concept of going outside of your family-of-origin to seek your “tribe”: your support system. It provoked more than a few comments* from readers- ranging from relief to guilt, that family members may not be your best tribesmen as per the unofficial rule book of life.
You’ve asked me to elaborate on my alluded to “misfit” in my family tribe. I am more than happy to do so: I offer mentorship for the pure and simple reason that so many people have been able to learn and grow from my story and its muddy tributaries. Sure, I’ve had some “fun” and unexpected elements to my tale, however, what proves to offer the most value is my out-and-out “normalcy”. The perception that a challenging life comes with a history dominating in dysfunction still prevails: bad parents, no money, disabilities, abuse, no role models, few opportunities; or, if blessed with a few decent elements, you must be the freak, the geek, or – oh my – the one with the deviant gene. The contradiction of my having challenges in life even with a “textbook-perfect” upbringing is unsettling to people (and has made more than a few folks in my life very, very uncomfortable). Even though we clearly know as adults “well of course, nobody’s life is perfect”, people want to be able to have a place to attribute (…excuse… blame – pick a verb) their problems; and they want the reciprocal and comfortable justification that others “have it all” because of their golden roots and obvious advantages. If that were NOT the case then………omg.
Well, I had somewhat golden roots. But guess what: as even a bush-league gardener can tell you, any roots being nurtured in the wrong soil will struggle to thrive – or survive. From the stereotypical image of a family misfit, I in no way fit the mold – in fact quite the opposite. I looked like my family and peers, had friends, good grades, was outgoing; no rebellious army fatigues or mohawks- -and never has black lipstick touched these lips! I looked normal. I was normal. My normal. Just terribly uninspired as I went through my “Stepford” bootcamp. Pre-conceived ideals suck the living souls out of us – and in my case, it took 20 years to get it back.
What I think has been most valuable to realize- and hammer into others, is that no life path follows the clear pattern of any other; and that the definition of success is yours and yours alone. While there are some societal foundations to facilitate order and cohesion, the rest of your life is a blank slate and you manage all the tools with which to write upon it… or draw upon it, or dance upon it, or turn it into a cake, a rocket ship, a sports playbook, a Tibetan prayer mat….
Maybe your tools are common and familiar to others; maybe they are one-of-a-kind and/or history-making. There are no shoulds: just can’s, do’s, be’s. Act from intuition, desire, joy, curiosity – not from expectation or others’ definitions of living.
Our greatest enemy is conditioning without the understanding that life is yours to change and mold as you need or want. Conditioning happens quite naturally, and for the most part with no calculated agenda; and it can form a very solid, secure jumping-off point to a healthy life. The key, however, is knowing without question that you have free will and permission – if not outright support, to realign your thoughts, beliefs, actions, environments or tribe to foster your authenticity. In my experience, this has not been a standard ideal: and it must be. Challenging the popular book, all we really need to know was not learned in kindergarten.
So… wanna hear more of my story, eh? Well, here we go with…
What are the odds that of the 7,256,508,556 people in the world (as per to-the-second clock on worldometers; oh look, now it’s: 7,256,508,842 ! lol), that the five others in my family are going to fit the criteria for my personal acceptance/ support/ inspiration team?? Well, actually, a lot closer than the now 7,256,509,002 others, science might say – and logic too, given that my siblings and I have come from essentially the same nature/nurture pool. Not really though, and with the rapid advances in the fields of neurology and epigenetics¹, my family and I get further and further apart.
See Quotes on… family!