Finding Your Tribe

Finding Your Tribe

I love the internet.

I know there is a seedy underbelly, but on the whole, I don’t venture in those parts. Instead, I worship at the altars of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia.

As an extrovert, one of the hardest things about being a SAHM is the isolation. It’s not so much that I need to be surrounded by people and constantly in networking/party mode. (In true fact, I HATE those modes. Nothing is worse to me than the same vapid conversation over and over again and my face hurting from plastering a friendly smile on my face when I have zero actual desire to smile. I digress.)

I think I just don’t like being alone. What I love is the comfort of someone else being around me – but not talking to them or interacting with them unless I have something to share (which is more often than not). Once I have the security of guaranteed company, I am more than glad to ignore them.

As a result, even though I choose to be with my children all day, I crave and desire company. Unfortunately, it is not enough.

It’s not as bad as it used to be when Cookie Monster was first born. I didn’t leave my house for four months and it took me nine months before I finally sucked it up and ventured out to meet other first time mothers. I am grateful for that first playgroup – it gave me structure and I committed to going every week. But even though I enjoyed their company, it wasn’t the type of deep, soul-connection I was longing for.

I was still lonely.

Fast forward six years and I am flush with kindred spirits. I have finally found my tribe. (Well, tribes, really.) And it is all due to the internet.

I love you, Internet.

So, what do I mean by “finding your tribe”?

I mean, you have found where you belong. Your Cheers bar where everyone knows your name. Your home. Your people. Your soul mates.

You have found a people who are like you in the ways that matter to you – be it your passions, your hobbies, your interests, your humors, your loves, or your hates. Although, I would avoid the hates because I think that’s a sad and empty way to model your life. On second thought, commonalities in the stuff you dislike has its uses. But ultimately, a better way would be to find people who love the things you love, and might love it in similar enough ways.

So what happened? How did I get from being super lonely to happily belonging to several tribes?

I did mention that I love the internet, right?

I want to say the turning point came when one fortuitous day, I saw a post in our local Asian American Parenting Meetup Group about a Mandarin Playdate at an old elementary school friend’s home. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Until that moment, I had spent the first 15 months of Cookie Monster’s life just muddling through, wanting to find Chinese preschools and teachers but not knowing where to go or who to trust or ask.

All I did was speak to him in Chinese all the time (and that was really weird). I risked feeling uncomfortable in public, at English speaking playgroups, at the park, etc. It was very lonely and I was starting to panic. I only had a vague sense of what I wanted to do – but no real plans other than some vague “speak Chinese a lot” and “send to Chinese school.”

I was so lonely.

But because of that playdate, I reconnected with Irish Twins and met Tiger WooNot Another DB MBA, and Fleur. I felt an instant chemistry and for a blissful few years, we were nearly inseparable. Our husbands would complain that we were always hanging out with each other and never at home.

Because of these women, I found two amazing Chinese preschool teachers who have taught (or will teach) all three of my children. We have all chosen widely varying paths to Chinese fluency for our kids, (to varying degrees of success), and they have enriched both my life in general, as well as eased the lonely marathon of teaching my kids Chinese.

And thanks to my iPhone, even when we are not all together in person, it feels as if we are because we are constantly texting. We text so much that it is almost like we’re living in that commune we so desperately wish we lived in together. One day, I will have Varsity Jackets made with The Boba Ramen Crew embroidered on them and give them to each of us. We can wear them while trolling people we hate, sipping on boba, going to Korean scrubs, and slurping up ramen.

A girl can dream.

Also through pursuing Chinese fluency for my kids, I met one of my new besties, GuavaRama, through the Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese & English Facebook group. I basically am her biggest fan. In fact, I think The Boba Ramen Crew members are all her fangirls and eager acolytes.

Somehow, I’ve conned her into wanting to be my friend and now we have an art co-op for our kids at my house and we go on “Working” Mom’s Night Outs where we blog, plan curriculum, and discuss Chinese books and Mandarin immersion and language nerd stuff until 1am when they kick us out of a local Hong Kong cafe.

Plus, I have given her all of my money to support my drug addiction of choice: Chinese books. Seriously, if GuavaRama didn’t have her own blog already, I’d call her The Dealer because she is such an enabler.

Also, through friends of friends and constant commenting on each other’s posts and about my blog, I have met a few other women with whom we’ve all formed a loose sort of community based around our shared mediocrity. We have a lot of laughs over keeping each other accountable and on task for the things we have to do during the day. It also helps that we’re on board this Chinese immersion train.

And now?

Now, I stay out until 1:00am talking with old friends about books. I remember driving home in the middle of the night energized, a ridiculously goofy grin on my face. I could have geeked out all night.

We were there for a book club that I had started because I was sick of the run of the mill book clubs that chose books I was only marginally interested in. Our book club focused on science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels. We’ve only had two meetings in the last 6-7 months, but I am certain it will be one of my favorite outings.

Now, GuavaRama and our mutual friends stay out until 1am talking about Chinese books, our kids learning Chinese, homeschooling curriculum, and Mandarin Immersion. I am always reluctant to end these gatherings and am bitter that the Bay Area doesn’t have more 24 hour options.

Now, I tricked a few of my fellow moms into playing monthly mah jong with me where we stay up until past 2 or 3am and nonstop smack talk in Chinese as I give all my pretend money to the other players. (Incidentally, that would be one of my children’s preschool teachers talking the most shit; she has been very educational).

Now, I have blogger friends that I met at my first Type A Con and have kept in touch through Facebook. This group of kickass women support me and my writing goals and understand my crazy life and choices. Plus, there are also a few who get me and my social justice leanings.

Now, I am finally known and no longer adrift and I am ever so grateful.

So my friends, if you are lonely, if you are feeling isolated and unknown, I encourage you to use the shit out of the internet and find your tribe. The world is much smaller and fuller than you think.

Being Invisible

“So, what do you ladies do?” The hairy, overly tanned middle-aged white man asked.

My friend, Laney, and I had been busy chatting in the hot tub on our last day together when Bob*, with the self-importance only a middle-aged white man can project, interjected and proceeded to monologue for the next 45 minutes wherein our sole purpose was to murmur sweet, appreciative assents while we seethed yet somehow were trapped in societal expectations and did not extricate ourselves. After all, we were there first! Why should we be forced to move? And yet, who was the big loser in this encounter? Us.

I am still pissed about this.

Anyhow, Bob had now moved on from what he thought about himself and was now, however briefly, willing to share the spotlight with one of us.

“What do you do?” he asked again as Laney and I hesitated. Do we engage more? Do we reply in a way to seem interesting? Or do we reply in such a way as to shut down conversation?

I knew what I would do.

“I’m a stay at home mom,” I said.

I watched as the interest in his eyes died before I even finished speaking the words. He turned immediately to Laney

I was uncertain whether I was relieved or furious that he did exactly as I had ensured. Hadn’t I answered in this way so that he would dismiss me and my life? So that I could deflect and not have to endure him any more than I had to?

And yet. And yet.

Every now and then when I think about my life, I think how it is the perfect NOC (non-official cover for those of you not in the know) for spies, cons, and surveillance personnel. After all, there is nothing more nondescript than a mother with her children. No one expects them to be anything but what they are – which is innocuous background noise (at least, until one of those kids has a very public meltdown).

We blend. We are scenery. We disappear.

Today, I walked into a cafe without my usual coterie of babies and for a brief second, I made eye contact with a man sitting at the counter. My mind wandered to where it normally wanders in a split second. I wondered, what would I be like now if I were single? Would I still be attractive? Desirable?

When I meet men now, do they even see me? Or do they only see my SAHM uniform of sweats, unwashed face and hair, long sleeve tee, thick ugly socks, and double-wrapped scarf?

And why does it matter?

Every time I ask Hapa Papa if he is ever worried I will have an affair, he always laughs. Not unkindly, mind you. But still. He laughs.

Nothing is as flattering as your husband laughing at the idea of you having an affair because who would want to have an illicit affair with someone encumbered with three small, young children?

Hapa Papa sure knows how to make a woman feel desirable. Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.

Incidentally, this is not a post to elicit reassurances from my lovely and dear friends.

Lately, I wonder if I ever felt as if I were visible or if it is solely a consequence of my current identity. Did I ever feel as if I owned a place? Secure with my place in the world? My role? My identity?

Or is this merely another manifestation of feeling as if amazing and I are mutually exclusive states of being?

Whatever the reason, I’m done. 2016, you’ve been warned. And you’ll see me coming.

 

*Not his real name. Or it could be. I have no idea. I’m still pissed off about it but I forgot his name in its entirety.

A Good, Swift Kick in the Ass

After my last post whining about not having my shit together, I had complained about the same stuff to Dr. T wherein she promptly tore me a new one (albeit, nicely).

She basically said that I had a vicious cycle of having high standards, being extreme and either doing everything at once or doing nothing at all.  Of course, I would get overwhelmed and do nothing and then get more depressed.

She reiterated wanting me to consider medication because I have such a difficulty overcoming inertia that she wonders if it has something to do with my serotonin levels. Either that or exercise. I had to try not to laugh in her face at that suggestion.

However, since I didn’t want to do either, I got my ass in gear.

Nothing motivates me, it seems, like the threat of medication.*

So, I cleared out my laundry room. It doesn’t sound like a big deal except for the fact that it was so crammed full of stuff that we could barely squeeze in to do laundry. Basically, every time we had a party or had to clear the kitchen table, we shoved all the stuff into a huge bag and then shoved that into the laundry room.

Going through all the artwork and mail and bags and bags of stuff was literally like going through a time capsule of our last year. I know because the last time I cleared the laundry room was a year ago.

Bye bye, labors of love from my darling children! My entire recycling can is full of art. Whoooo!

I did remember to take pictures of them, though. I also took pictures of the art we had on the walls and took lots of the older pieces down to replace with their newer pieces. Very exciting. Cookie Monster was less thrilled and exclaimed, “No fair!” Not sure what was so unfair but hey, he’s not six yet so who knows if he even knows what that means!

Here is my glorious laundry room:

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Of course, this took ALL day (thanks, Hapa Papa for taking the kids out) and it lasted all of five minutes because I still need some place to put this:

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Not to mention my breadmaker that I bought at least a year ago that I should really move back out to the garage.

Likely I will just shove into one of my cabinets. I have to clear those out, too.

And because I wanted to procrastinate cleaning the laundry room, I also did some homeschooling (on a Sunday, too!) and began to rearrange the contents of my homeschooling bookshelves. I reluctantly moved all my nonfiction books into the bookshelf in my office/guest room closet. Is it wrong that the main reason I was reluctant to do so is because now, when people come over and browse my books, they won’t see my “intellectual” books?

I’m such a poseur.

Now I just have to move piecemeal through the rest of my house (going from biggest pain point to the next). Of course, all this means is that I will have to end up cleaning my laundry room again because I will have moved and dumped all the stuff from the other rooms there.

FML.

*A/N: To clarify: I think medication is great, useful, and lifesaving. (Whether the garden variety of antibiotics and vaccines, or the serotonin regulators, etc. for depression et. al.) I, personally, do not feel it is what I want at the moment. I may change my mind if I need to in the future.