I’m on my way home to the midwest from the American southwest with a few members of my tribe; my grandpa, grandma and cousin. We’ve spent the last few weeks driving from the flat land prairies to the mountainous desert to be a part of some life changing events for our family members who prefer living in the desert heat. We’ve driven 5,000 miles, outrun tornadoes, and stayed in a different state every night. I’m now master of transforming the camper kitchen table into a bed nook. I’ve survived public showers with geckos, snakes and other 8-legged creatures.
What I learned most is how to have a healthy relationship with my family, my tribe. And let me tell you, being within 5-feet of each other for two weeks will make you question how much you really love your blood line at times. It can trick you into thinking you need space more than you need each other. But the open road is magic and it led me to a few gems about family that I haven’t extracted from holiday parties, birthday dinners or reunions:
Leave some wiggle room.
You can spend your whole life seeking the ideal people to surround yourself with or you can appreciate the ones right in front of you. I prefer the latter, soft spots and weird quirks included. Leave wiggle room in your expectation of what others should be so you can enjoy them exactly as they are. Not only are you giving them space to feel comfortable in their skin but your openness will allow you to be comfortable in your own. We’re all just messy humans who want to be loved here.
Set your boundaries.
Leaving wiggle room is not an invite to be trampled on, however, no matter how tight the living quarters. It may take a kind yet firm “I disagree” or “No” to make it clear that your beliefs, opinions or personality has changed since that screaming toddler in diapers (was that just me?) that your family may remember you as. It’s natural to grow up, just give them grace as you catch them up to speed. It’s also possible people close to you won’t want to see your growth as a positive change. No need to defend but no need to sit in their darkness out of politeness either. The one’s who accept you are your tribe. The one’s who don’t are lovely people you see once in awhile.
Celebrate their victories.
We always want other people to celebrate our victories, don’t we? I’m usually looking for an excuse to celebrate in the name of, well, me, but this road trip taught me that everyone has their own perspective on what is successful, exciting, transformative, etc. Try using the time you usually spend sending out witty invites and envisioning your perfect party dress to observe what light’s up the members of your tribe. Maybe they’re rocking that perfect party dress but can’t see how beautiful they are. Tell them. Maybe you can’t stand the lyrics “Why do you build me up, Buttercup baby / Just to let me down and mess me around” but they’re belting it out like they’re on center stage. Let them have center stage. Let someone else be victorious and see how your heart expands.
Old as time, people need people. Whether your tribe is blood, friends who feel like family or a mix of both, maintaining a healthy relationship is what helps you grow through your own personal journey, to support others in theirs, and to revel in the realization that we’re all driving aimlessly together. We’re just tacking on the miles, putting our lessons and loved ones in our backpacks for the trip of our lives.
Travel on, you. Your tribe is anxiously awaiting your arrival.
Photos by Arielle Estoria