Tribes

Bienvenidos to another Wednesday!  Aside from my saucy Spanish today, it’s also Sluiter Nation Recruit Day!  Need a refresher on what a Recruit is or who has been one in the past?  Well, Ok!  Start here.

Today I bring you someone I met through a comment section of another blog (who actually no longer takes comments.  huh).    And then I noticed she also commented over at this blog that I love very much.  And so I followed her home to her blog one day and there I found Squashed Bologna.

I have adored Varda for quite some time.  She is the mom of twin boys–one who is on the autism spectrum and the other with ADD.  She is the kind of blogger I tend to stalk without words for that little comment box.

But she is also kind and lovely and generous and wonderful with words.

I am excited to share her with you today.

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I am of an age. Older than many other mothers of nine-year-old boys.

I have belonged to many tribes in my 51 years of life on this planet.

In the beginning, obviously, there were the tribes I was born into, happenstance of ancestry and geography: Jews, native New Yorkers.

Then other, subtler tribes, born of the choices my parents made: the tribe of only (sometimes lonely) children, the tribe of Bohemian artists, which I must say was much larger when we lived in Manhattan, shrank to the miniscule when my family moved to the flatlands of Long Island.

Then there are tribes of circumstance and identity that coalesce among school-age children. Mine were of the bookish variety, including the Educated Apes & Pigs – the name the “regular” kids coined for those of us in the Enriched & Accelerated Program, or EAP classes in my elementary school.

We didn’t care what they called us. A group of too-smart-for-their-own-good kids together? Is a very good thing. For two years we with our own, exclusively, and could relax for once. It was glorious.

Then through the tumbled, tumultuous years of adolescence and teenagery, like so many others, I stepped into and out of tribes, trying on and shedding groups and identities; seeking the true and the comfortable, shedding old and too tight skins.

Choir nerd / theater nerd / tech squad / artist / vegetarian / hippie / feminist / punk

Then more of the same in college. But fine tuning it, getting closer to the core, to ones that stuck around for a while:

For a long time I was a radical lesbian-feminist, a member very insular and exclusive group. There was a tremendous sense of identity there, a fierce belonging, a complete subculture and I was one of the tribe, lavender-dipped down to my skin.

And then?

I changed.

It was hard to leave such a tight, interconnected tribe, to step out into the world as just me.

But the inside was evolving and no longer matched the outside. Another skin to shed.

Moving back to New York in my mid-twenties in the mid-eighties, the world was wide. I spun through single gal – married woman – divorcee – married again.

For a while I was in the tribe of the infertile. That one was hard. Rock and a hard place hard.

And then, most transformatively of all, I joyfully, and with many tears, joined the Mom tribe, frequently anointed in pee and poo and leaky breastmilk.

My life, before, ever expanding, contracted for a time into that fiercely insular world of infant parenting: a few blocks bounded by the parks, the nearby stores that sell diapers, teething toys and baby tylenol, the pediatrician’s office, the kid friendly cafes.

I left my square mile infrequently. But within were many other members of my weary tribes: older new mothers and mothers of twins.

In the past few years I have, unfortunately been inducted into tribes not of my own choosing. Although I have embraced it whole-heartedly and learned of its gifts, joining the tribe of Autism Mothers was quite a shock. Unwelcome at first, to say the least.

And then there’s the Dead Dads Club whose membership card comes, eventually, to all who enter the tribal cave of the elder-care-givers. Once again this was thrust upon me. But it is a weight I bear with love, my 89-year-young mother still my charge.

Which brings me to this, the tribe I find myself among today: the tribe of bloggers, we of the writing kind.

I did not know I had not yet found my people. I sat in the middle of so many belongings, I felt so connected. How could I have suspected there was more?

But then one day I transformed my words into little packets of ones and zeroes and pinned them on a virtual page I called my own.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I just needed to shout into the wilderness, to hear my own voice amidst the cacophony of special needs children and dying parents.

I wrote and wrote.

And then I began to read.

And then I joined a blogging community. Or two. A group blog. A conference.

And one day I realized: my ghostly, virtual friends were as real and important as my flesh and blood friends.

And that I was Blogger.

That this was my true tribe.

And that it took me fifty years, but I had found my people, oversharers all, and come home.

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Want more Varda?  Try these posts on for size…

One about her Autistic son…Twinkle Twinkle Little Poopyhead

One about her ADD son…The Conversationalist

And this one about her mother kills me (caution: you may  need a tissue)…Groundhog Day

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One a side note, today is an important day for Postpartum Progress, the site and blogger who helped save my marriage, family, and life when I was struggling with postpartum depression.  Katherine has been running the site without any outside funding.

Here is what Katherine has to say:

I’m very proud of what Postpartum Progress accomplished over the last 7 years without any funding, but despite all that work, it is still the case that only 15% of all women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders ever receive professional treatment.  This means that each year another 850,000 women and their children may suffer from the negative effects of untreated PPD and related illnesses for the rest of their lives because they never got the help they needed.  And that’s just in the United States.  We are ready to do more, but we can’t do it without funding.

If you believe in the work Katherine is doing (and you KNOW I do!), please consider giving so she can continue to grow and do more to help the 85% of women who need help by clicking the button below.


DonateNow

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a high school English teacher, college adjunct instructor, freelance writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Wow I love this and am going to stalk er find her right now. Just love this completely..

  2. Wow, what a great post about having to struggle through so many identities before finding the one we are meant to have.

  3. Varda:

    Amazingly, I have shared many of these identities with you — just more Upstate New York and then down to New Orleans. But I have been the little Jewish girl, that crazy dancer, gymnast, theater nerd, artist, victim, survivor, radical-feminist (which helped kill a dying relationship), teacher, I somehow ended up married, living in suburbia with a child, teaching once again. And over-sharing.

    What a wonderful post.

    I’m right behind you, feeling like I’m finally figuring things out. 😉

  4. Katie:
    Thanks you so much for having me here. It’s an honor. And I’m in such great company. Can we have a gathering of the Nation sometime? Because that’s one party I would LOVE to attend!

  5. a radical lesbian feminist .. i wish i had given that one a try – i feel so whitebread and suburban now 😉
    Love your blog, love that i had five minutes with you at Blogher … and this, this is a glorious post!

  6. I love this idea of belonging to tribes! So glad I clicked on your post from Twitter. Making me think about where I belong:)

  7. Hi Varda…I’ve missed your words..must come over and get an email subscription !!! You are a light in the blog world..a big bright light that I am so happy to see shine. Of all the tribes you are part of (this was written so beautifully) the one I am most happy about is u putting fingers to keyboard…because I got to meet you!

  8. I don’t think Varda has any idea who I am but I’m already an admirer of hers. (I too was hooked by her comments at Pretty All True – among other places – and followed her home to be dazzled by her words there.)

    I love this post; love the concept of tribes – some of our choosing, some to which we gain admission without our permission.

    And I suppose when we stand back and assess our lives, we see “the belonging” that perhaps we miss when we’re in the thick of it.

    Fabulous writing, Varda.
    And a powerful recruit for the Sluiter tribe, Katie.

  9. Varda,

    You won’t find a more down to earth, truer in the moment woman than Varda.

    To know her is to always have a person in your corner.

    Always, no matter what.

    I love this woman.

  10. Varda is a neat lady. Talented, too.

    =)