How it feels to find your Tribe

Seven and a half months ago, I attended a professional conference.  The subject material appealed to a small-but-growing niche of forward-thinking visionaries, and the energy in the ballroom had been mounting gradually throughout the day.  Finally, with glee, one of the presenters exclaimed, “I feel like I’ve found my tribe!”

Little did I know that less than seven weeks later, I would stumble upon a discovery that would lead to me toward a tribe of my own.

I had, up until that point, led a life of relative loneliness.  When the evidence of my spot on the autism spectrum first began to grow, I felt even lonelier.  Of course, I was also relieved and set free; I now had a valid reason behind all of my miscellaneous quirks, needs, and emotional responses.

No longer was I simply “different” or “quirky”; it was Real.

The invisible wall that had always cordoned me off from the rest of the world revealed itself.

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It also revealed this vast new terrain that I had to navigate, largely on my own at the time.

I sought firsthand accounts of adult Asperger’s/autism, and I found them.  Countless others had written words I could’ve written myself.

I felt supported, validated, vindicated, comforted…almost loved.

A desire to contribute and return the favors fueled the birth of this blog.  I receive no compensation.  I don’t use my name, so there’s no personal notoriety.  I’m not looking for kudos, a pat on the back, or even an “attagirl”.  My motives are pure; I only want to help.  I want to give others what others had unknowingly given me.  I write this blog for both my own personal catharsis and for those for whom this might provide a similar source of peace and comfort.

A desire to boost the signal volume fueled me to build a profile for the blog on Twitter.

That’s where the magic happened.

I absolutely did come across several people with whom to interact and exchange blog post Likes and Comments on WordPress itself, and I am forever grateful that those people are in my life.

Twitter only amplified that community, magnified it, brought it home.  Almost immediately, connections linked up and friendships formed.

It doesn’t matter that we might not know each others’ names.  It doesn’t matter that we may not know what each other looks like.  It doesn’t matter that we may live in different parts of the world.  It doesn’t matter what our socioeconomic status, other disability status, or other demographics might be.  It doesn’t matter what any of us do for a living, or whether we’re employed at all.  It usually doesn’t even matter who we voted for.

The fact is, we’ve formed–and continue to form–a growing and evolving “tribe” of our own.

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My life now includes other people Just. Like. Me.  We may not have the same interests or top priorities.  We may be of different religious or spiritual persuasions, if any at all.  None of that matters, either.

What does matter is that we “get” each other.  We can enter into a discussion (omg–the dreaded “written word”, in which so much is “lost”, including voice inflection/tone or body language) and someone might say something that may have offended “the rest of the world”, but we instantly understand.  We “get” what the other person was trying to say, where they were coming from, and how they meant it.

This has changed the entire ballgame for me.  I now wake up and reach for my phone, pull up my email account, see the notifications that have come in overnight, and smile.  “So-and-so started following your blog”….”so-and-so sent you a direct message”….”so-and-so replied to your comment”….”16 people retweeted your tweet!”….”so-and-so likes your post”….and it goes on.

Alone on the staircase outside, a smile spreads across my face.  I’m not doing it for show; no one else is there to see it.  I do it because I feel it that strongly and vividly inside.  There’s a “mind-family” of people across the world, in different time zones, in different cultures, who understand me better than some members of my own blood-family.  They “get” me and I “get” them, because we have a similar core.

My life has a different meaning now.  I strive to keep up with dozens of other blogs and several hundred other people, all of whom I’ve just met within the last five to six months, and the lion’s share of whom I’ve only met in the past two and a half.  The time interval has been short; it still feels like we’ve known each other forever, like we’re long-lost friends or family from the distant past that are just now reuniting and reconnecting with each other.  It makes my heart bloom, so wide that if it were indeed a flower, the outer petals would fall off.

It paints my life in vivid color, when I hadn’t realized before that it had only been black-and-white.

Words fail to completely express it, but with any luck, some of us have some kind of unconscious telepathic ability, and you probably “get” it anyway. 🙂

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22 Comments

      1. Just found the lyrics to that song , translated:

        “You do not owe me your freedom.
        I cannot give it to you.
        Your freedom is not mine to give.
        It belongs to you and you alone.
        If you want it back, you must take it for yourselves.
        Each and every one of you.”

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I’d never thought that about not using your name as being to keep things humble. I like that idea! (Although I haven’t done it myself!)
    I love finding out all the different reasons people have for the choices they make and the way they choose to describe themselves, especially when they are different from my own.
    … And back to the point: this is a lovely post. I am glad to have connected with ‘the tribe’ and with you in particular! Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you luv! You’re probably going to chuckle; I finally matched your blog with your social media ID about a week ago lol 😊. I’m honored to be reblogged by you and to have your friendship – thank you so much! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh, exactly this! Beautifully said. I can feel, through your words, all that you feel. I understand the intensity and raw honesty of your excitement at finding our tribe. I do get it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you. This meant a lot to me.

    You know, several years ago when I was diagnosed, I reserved a domain name and planned a neurodiversity blog. And I haven’t written anything on it… in part because I’m afraid. I am already so battered down and alone feeling that I don’t feel like I can handle some of the hate I feel on some autism advocacy blogs if you say the wrong thing, approach a taboo topic or angle in your own words (I have been banned from several autism self-advocacy sites just because I dare to question vaccine safety, for example, even though I am NOT an “anti vaxxer” even and do not believe vaccines “cause” autism… my perspective is a LOT more complex). As an autism mom I am also shouted down on autism parenting sites by people who think they have autistic interests in mind (their kids), but often are not willing to listen to autistic adults’ perspectives which may conflict with their set beliefs.

    I find that the intersectionality of being autistic AND an autism parent is something that there’s no space really for in any tribe. At least I have not found it so far. Then add to that multiple chronic conditions, single parenting, and some of the other issues that are unique in my life and I really do feel like a zebra parenting a baby zebra in the middle of the Arctic or something. Just completely disconnected, and afraid that anything I say will be misconstrued by people who haven’t walked at all in my shoes.

    If I were feeling stronger, I could handle it. But these days I am so sensitive to triggers and being attacked when I try to help others, sincerely express a view point or open a discussion rationally, or just share my own experience from my heart… is the worst. I realized I could not handle being a controversial figure now, even if I change my name and go under cover. I will have to maybe start small, share simple things everyone can agree on, and wait to share the big stuff later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I can only imagine that being an autistic mom with an autistic child can be very lonely. My heart goes out to you ❤

      I can imagine that the loudmouths on the autism parenting websites try to eclipse the parents who are also actually autistic. It appears (to me) to be yet one more example of the marginalization that many of us have faced throughout our lives. Although I don't have children myself, I can empathize with that marginalization; I know the feeling well, and it stinks. I'm really sorry that you're going through that.

      Nevertheless, I believe that there may be a rainbow in the dark clouds. :). Yes, I think you can cultivate a tribe, too. I'm not sure if you are familiar with what I perceive as a "master list" of sorts of autistic blogs, but I think you'll probably find a lot of excellent company here:

      https://anautismobserver.wordpress.com
      What the blog author has done is compile a list of all of the autistic blogs they could find, and they've categorized these blogs beautifully! There are male, female, parent, non-parent, cis-gender, trans-gender, same- and opposite-sexual orientations, the whole works. It's a truly amazing list. You can find (plenty of) exactly what you're looking for. I think you'll find that you're not as alone as you might feel right now 🙂 ❤

      I definitely offer my encouragement, for whatever it might be worth, to spread your wings and add your voice. Sure, "start small", however you're comfortable. Stay inside your comfort zone as long as you like. Dip your toes into the blog water and test the temperature. If you speak from your own perspective, nobody can argue with that–it's your own experience, after all! If you dig back into my archives, you'll see that I did the same thing :). I was new to the whole spectrum world, and I didn't know much at all. Even now, 7 months later, I only know my own perspective. I can't speak for anyone else. But I've come in contact with more people, and I've noticed things as I've learned and gained more experience. It's a learning process and a work in progress, too. Whenever you're comfortable, spread those wings and if and when you start your blog, feel free to post the link here or anywhere in the comments section. You already have a guaranteed follower! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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