Finding our tribe, vulnerability, and being clear

This is the fourth post in a series: How I got here.

Part of coming to terms with how I’m wired is letting other people in on it, too. It took finding my tribe to realize why I was pushing people away for so long.

honest love

I’m really into connection. It’s high up on my list of values, and there are no areas of my life where this does not apply. It’s why I’ve felt let down by bosses and I have to check my expectations at work. Why I have felt sad at the end of a long night in a crowded room. It’s why I don’t get people who joke all the time, and why empathy comes so easily to me. I guess you can say it’s how I’m wired. And when I came home from my bike trip, there was a chasm between myself and the group I belonged in before I left. Things were fuzzy, and the vulnerability that brings connection felt impossible. No one understands, I lamented over and over again. While there is some validity to that statement, it only got me farther away from human connection. Thank God that He knows me, and He gave me the few who spoke through the, no one understands, by trying to do just that.

I had changed, and this meant things outside of myself changed too. As it’s been happening, it’s taken me awhile to understand. About every 6 months or so, I look back and feel like who I was the season before feels so far away. And that’s a good thing. Who I am, and who you know me to be, isn’t going to become unrecognizable. But I hope to always be growing, learning, and becoming whole. Grace has a funny way of making that possible. It’s pretty incredible.

A lot of my young adulthood was spent wrapped in insecurities. I acted upon them, I was ashamed of them, and I spoke from that place in my heart — about myself and about others. It was highlighted in the fist few years of my twenties, when my circumstances were a bit chaotic. I wanted control but couldn’t get it, and this made me really insecure. I’ve been growing out of that little by little. I feel more sure of who I am, regardless of circumstances, and more sure of how I want to live — of who I want to be. And for once, it’s based less on who I admire and more on who God says I am.

be trueI’ve been finding out that this makes for good relationships. Having confidence in who you are at your core, and being honest about the parts of you that are messy not only makes for a healthy marriage, but friendships and family too. It really is that simple — bring yourself to the table, every day, and honest relationships will blossom.

We started going to Society Church back in May, and I remember telling Marcos to not have our expectations too high, that it might take a long time to feel a part of the community and that we shouldn’t give up too soon. These things were not for him, they were for me. I was so scared. I didn’t want to feel a chasm again. I didn’t want Marcos to feel like he didn’t belong, and I didn’t want any of it to be hard — I was over things being hard. I told Marcos (and myself) all these things so that if it went terribly wrong, I wouldn’t be let down. I would be ready for all the hard stuff. I guess I wasn’t over the whole control thing.

A few awkward conversations later, and meet-and-greets spent sitting in our seats — and we have a tribe. We just kept bringing ourselves to the table. We didn’t get up at meet-and-greet and try to be these outgoing, extroverted people who wanted to strike up conversations with strangers. We didn’t over-volunteer for things just to feel a part of the group. Those are things I would’ve done three years ago. Instead, we just kept showing up and participating in the ways that spoke to us. And then this really beautiful thing started happening — people started showing up for us, too. I don’t want to speak for Marcos, so I’ll just talk about the ladies.

I remember going to the women’s small group on a Wednesday night in the summer, so fearful. But I knew that I had to show up… and keep showing up. And then just six weeks later, about fifteen of us sat around a table outside of Temple Coffee saying things we love about each other. I was nervous, because how could women I hardly knew (remember, I’m all about connection) have things they love about me? They spoke words about me that I hadn’t even said out loud. Words that hit my heart and filled it with so much gratitude and love. They saw me, and for the first time in my life I felt like I could truly own everything they said. It aligned so well with how I’m wired, because I was honest about who I brought to the table — all unfinished and messy. I really was all those things they said. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Wednesday night outside of Temple Coffee.

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I’ve had the privilege of getting to connect deeper with a few of those women and be able to call them friends. As I continue on this journey in vulnerability and honest relationships, I have found myself in the same patterns that stained old friendships. The difference: this time I’m trying to be clear. I’ve recognized the pattern in me, and I say it out loud. I say what I need, and I explain why I acted a certain way. I apologize more often, open myself to vulnerable moments on the regular, and ask for help when I know I am weak. These are all parts of me showing up in ways that I would’ve been too prideful or ashamed to do before. It’s been incredible to see that this isn’t because of my own strength, but because of God’s grace in my life.

These women have been gracious with me, offering their honest selfs too. They’ve accepted apologies and spoken genuine love into my life. They see my mess, shine light on their own, and make me comfortable to be who I am. Insecurities still creep up all the time. Like when we’re all together and they’re all really funny, and I’m not. Or when I hear the voice in my head that says I have nothing to offer, or belittle myself for being too young, too fat, too emotional, etc. You get it. But the honesty and grace in these friendships are louder than any insecurity or shame.

The ideal image of a tribe, community, or whatever you want to call it isn’t anything you can fit into an instagram post or even this blog post. I spent a lot of time wishing for something like that, but I got something different — something crazy beautiful. I think I spent a lot of time distancing myself from people after my bike trip because I didn’t know who I was, and the me they were connecting with didn’t feel completely true anymore. I was changing. The only way back to connection was vulnerability and doing a lot of inner-work.

Bringing myself to the table, showing up for others, and living in grace is the richest life I’ve experienced. I hope you know what that’s like. Living an honest life is hard work — I still work on it every day — but it’s always been worth it.

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