I have a tribe. And whether one of us needs a chuckle, the stone-cold truth, an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on, the tribe is always there. We are 10 women strong, have known each other for more than 30 years, are as diverse as we are similar, and spread out in six states across the country. Our bond runs deep and wide, and if you ask any of us we’ll tell you: our tribe is essential to our well-being and self-care – a women’s collective that knows no bounds, bares its soul, has no judgements and lifts us up.
It’s been a little over a year since Donna’s son, just a sophomore in college, died by suicide. For all of us, it has been utterly heartbreaking, and we have been there as friends always are during times of unbearable loss. We also rallied to raise money to pay for a moving van (she was in the middle of a move when her son passed away) and other expenses. It was a small thing, but the tribe wanted to do whatever we could to ease her pain so she’d have the strength help herself and her three other children through the tragedy.
When Leslie was reclaiming her life after ending an abusive relationship, our tribe was there for late night chats through texts and posts on our private Facebook page. The tribe was there for me when my young daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery to remove it. The care package they sent filled with the sweetest gifts for my then six-year-old was exactly what she, and I, needed.
Not so long ago, Robbie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For her, the tribe has been an amazing soundboard and source of information and encouragement as she navigates this disease. Last summer and fall, we were the cheer section and counsel for Julie when she was laid off from a job she adored and had to look for a new job (she found one!). More recently, we’ve been helping Paula as she grapples with decisions about elder care for her aging mother-in-law.
Of course, we also support each other through dilemmas of the more mundane: How should I ask for a raise? What do you all think about gap years for kids going off to college? Does anyone have a good smoothie recipe? Should I give up on coloring my grays? What’s retirement look like? And how and where in the heck can I get a good-fitting bra?!?
Perhaps our most cherished support is that which we get when we meet up. Our tribe gets together two or three times a year for long weekends. We eat, drink, check out the sights and invariably stay up too late laughing about old times and indulging each other’s hopes and dreams. These unions really are salve for the soul.
I know that my tribe – as singular as it is to me – is not unique. In fact, Hillary Clinton has a tribe, a group of women she’s known since she was a girl. They’ve stuck together through the years, and were together with Clinton on the night of the 2016 election. The group was profiled in an New York Times article, and in it, Clinton is quoted from an article in 1996 that her “friends are from grade school and high school, and they are incredibly honest with me.”
In 2015, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, friends for decades, did a TedTalk on women’s friendships and how important they are. “I don’t even know what I would do without my women friends,” Fonda said in the talk. “I have my friends, therefore I am. I exist because I have my women friends.”
It’s a sentiment that my tribeswoman Julie echoes. “I think you all are a beautiful and crucial part of me, and I wish everyone could have what we do.”