I woke up in a mood. Feeling heavy and hopeless. Keenly aware I needed to move through it, at least to a place where I could show up and teach my morning yoga class without being the face of doom and despair. I can put on a happy face, leave my own stuff at the door. I used to be a trial lawyer, after all. My poker face is practiced and unfailing and has served me well. But I no longer want to fake it. I strive to be real, not always portray an inauthentic Instagram image of peace, perfection, and pretty poses. Today I was spent, overextended, feeling pulled in too many directions between work, home, marriage, managing my daughters’ schedules, not enough sleep, and so on. “Problems of abundance,” I scoffed to myself, all too conscious that I was not yet in a place to spin this moment, to get grateful.
This mood flew in the face of my usual cup half full, isn’t life beautiful attitude. But here it was. Undeniably sitting in the passenger seat of my car. My doom and I finished my strong cup of coffee and set out on our day.
Once I dropped my girls, 10 and 13, at their respective schools, I gave the tears that were gathering in a tight wad at the base of my throat permission to make their appearance. A mother’s learned skill, holding them in for a private moment. I considered blasting one of the saddest songs I could find, so that as I rolled down the 405 in morning traffic, I could primally cry and get it out. I have learned the lesson too many times that ignoring the feelings, putting on a happy face, and pulling up the bullshit bootstraps is a set up to make myself miserable or explode in the most inopportune moments, coming out sideways.
But then I remembered.
And then I did what I have learned, a life saving skill. I looked at my list of favorites on my phone and dialed Kendall, one of my lifelong best friends who lives several states away, the person with whom there is always a deep, soul connection whether we speak every day for weeks at a time or if we let long lapses of time go without connecting. She and I still hold out hope that one day, even as old ladies, we will live together happily ever after. She is one of my people. One of my tribe.
She didn’t pick up. Fuck.
I persevered and called Bonnie. A soul sister about whom I could regale on and on for hundreds of pages. I know with all of my fibers that she is my person more than any man could ever be. My coach. Through births, my first broken heart, and countless escapades. A best friend with whom I traveled around the world, before email, social media, connected by the few mixed tapes we took turns with in our backpacks, hiking up and down the Himalayas and squatting on countless white sandy beaches. We have trudged too many roads to name. Bonnie. A woman who can build and create and fix things in a way at which I marvel. Just the sound of her voice calms me and puts a smile on my face.
She didn’t pick up. Fuck. Fuck.
But I charged on. Contrary action. A lifesaving skill I learned in recovery, knowing that if my mind is telling me to isolate and mire in my solitude then I MUST reach out until I find someone to hear me and reflect back what I need to see. I am acutely aware that by all outward appearances, I seem to have my shit together- fairly successful at what I set my mind to, careers, the marriage, the kids, the home. But today my heart was heavy and hopeless and I had to let it out to someone who would hold that space for me, not try to fix it, but empathize just enough and then remind me what I already knew, to get into action after wiping the tears.
So I called Laura. Equal parts spunk, smarts, soul. A tribemate nearly fifteen years my junior who has nudged, crawled and enveloped her shiny self so deeply into my heart, to the point where I am astounded we have only known each other four years. Side by side we both discovered our path, dharma, as yoga teachers. She has challenged me to learn that our greatest teachers can come in any form, any age, from any life experience. But of course she didn’t pick up her phone. She was teaching. I knew this as I often tried to call her on my jaunts down the 405, always reminding me of our overlapping teaching schedules. Laura. My partner on this path. The little sister I never had. Yet now, I do.
Determined, I called Amy. The one I’ve known the longest. The one with whom I first got drunk (then years later, sober), hatched plans to meet up with boys and then dragged along with me from junior high school in the Bay Area to boarding school in Santa Barbara. A true sister. She had an equal a hand in raising me from little girl, to brazen young woman, to who I am today.
She picked up! Hallelujah!
I cried and I told her all the things I was afraid of, the feelings that make me so human and scared and proud and terrified and beautiful at the same time.
And she listened. She listened and peppered in just enough “I feel yous” so that I felt heard and understood. And she held space for me, from her kitchen three thousand miles away, not fixing it, not even trying to. Amy. A woman with more self-awareness, savvy, and willingness to trudge through the mud than anyone I have ever known. Man, does she live her own skin. I love that.
I am all things- beautiful, wise, despairing, confused, bold, bull headed, insecure, brave, terrified, confident. And my people know this. My tribe.
When I hung up with Amy, I marveled. I marveled at how on my list of favorites alone, I have at least five women who get me. Who love me. Who challenge me. Who call me on my shit and raise my game. The ones who were there for the broken hearts, the huge successes, the birth of children and all of the moments in between.
Especially the moments in between.
My tribe. I have gathered, collected and nurtured these relationships over the course of my forty-five years, like beautiful, flawed, imperfectly perfect gems in a treasure box. I have been their safe place, the loving ear on the other end of the line when they wake up in the space I was in today. They are what make me a wealthy woman. They are what give my soul a deep sigh of relief. And, I know, beyond my children, they are my greatest accomplishment, what will have me drawing my last breath knowing I have loved.
My tribe. I glanced over at my passenger seat. Somewhere along that fifteen minute drive down the 405, doom had vacated her spot next to me, and I was left with a full heart. Puffy red eyes, but a full heart.