The Cheerleader

Siss Boom Bah, Rah Rah Rah!!!!

Cheerleaders. The mere mention of them often elicits a strong reaction in people. For some of us it conjures thoughts of crisp fall nights spent in the stands of the local football stadium as we watched our home team trample the visiting team. For others it brings back memories of the hierarchical agony that often comes with middle and high school. Still others think about the athleticism that is required of modern cheerleaders. It’s really a mixed bag of reactions. No matter how you may personally feel about cheerleaders, the truth is we all need at least one in our Tribe.

The job of a cheerleader is multi-faceted. They are expected to provide support to their home team and players. They rally the spectators in support of their team. They are called upon to provide encouragement to their team and the fans during tense moments of the game. And in the event of a loss, their job is to ensure the team and fans don’t lose heart or become too discouraged. They often start the process of cheering for the next game on the sidelines immediately following a loss. It’s a lot of work. Even without all the grooming, tanning, schoolwork, etc.

Just like a sports team benefits from having cheerleaders on the sidelines during games, we benefit from having a cheerleader on the sideline of our life. That way we know we always have someone in our corner, supporting and encouraging us. Even in our darkest hour, we’re just one small cheer away from turning the tide in our favor.

I am fortunate to have several cheerleaders in my Tribe. In truth, every member of my Tribe has functioned in this role at some point in our relationship. But for today, I’d like to focus on a recent episode in which I relied upon my Cheerleaders.

All my life I have wanted to write. I’m fairly certain my family got tired of my empty-threatened declaration of, “One day I’m going to put that in my book,” long ago. I have dabbled in the field of writing in the past, even spending a few years writing materials for the children’s ministries at a couple of the churches I have attended.

While I enjoyed that, I knew that I needed to find a different outlet for my desire. To do something more personal that would reach beyond just a few kids on a Sunday morning; something for a more mature audience. But for years, I allowed my fear of failure to keep me from even trying. After all, you can’t fail if you don’t try.

With much encouragement from my biggest cheerleader (my husband) in particular, I finally took my first step towards pursuing my dream when I started this blog a few months ago. I know there are thousands of these things on the internet, but it was still a huge step for me. One that I would never have taken were it not for the cheerleading efforts of Mr. Brown.

Since beginning this new journey, I have come to value the Cheerleaders in my Tribe more than ever. I use a couple of them as editors. A few of them are kind enough to share and retweet my posts. One even gives me a shout out or two from the pulpit every now and again. And still another has cheered me into accepting a new challenge. All with her by my side reminding me that I can do this – that I won’t completely suck at it. Possibly even more importantly, providing me with an opportunity to expand my horizons and tackle another fear.

The amazing thing about the Cheerleaders in my Tribe is that when the game is over, win or lose, they’re right there to celebrate with me, or to cheer me up and remind me that tomorrow is another day and that there’s always another game on the horizon. Always providing encouragement that I may very well be victorious the next time.

So here’s to the Cheerleaders out there:

Hippity Hop, Hippity Hop

Cheerleaders Rock

Hippity Hop, Hippity Hop

Let me see that bootie drop

Hippity Hop, Hippity Hop

Cheerleaders Rock

The Snuggie

I love cold weather. Like REALLY love it. But I hate to be cold. It’s incredibly oxymoronic, I know, but it’s built into the fabric of who I am. Sweaters, coats, and warm pajamas all help me deal with my dueling desires. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without a warm blanket to snuggle into on a cold day.

The world is often cold, harsh and lonely. In certain seasons of life it’s easy to feel as if you’re walking through a winter storm with no end in sight. Whether that feeling lasts for a few moments, or a few years, we all experience it. During my coldest days, I find that I am exceptionally grateful for a particular member of My Tribe – The Snuggie.

When I feel frost bite looming, I need do nothing more than grab my mobile and phone my Snuggie. Armed with her calming presence and willingness to come whenever called, she’s a necessity. Never underestimate the power of good company and hot tea combined with unfettered couch time. It brings warmth to even the coldest of days.

One of the beautiful things about having a Snuggie is that they usually know you well enough that they can cater to whatever need you have. If it’s a shoulder to cry on, they arrive tissue in hand. Mad as hell? She provides some righteous indignation, followed by the rationale to talk you down from even the craziest of plans for vengeance. In need of some words of wisdom? This friend is ready and wiling to lay them on you. Just need someone to sit quietly with? She revels in the sounds of silence and the act of just being. And best of all the Snuggie makes house calls.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the Snuggie role in a Tribe, but it’s an essential one. Thankfully, I have a few in mine and under their tutelage, I am learning to be one myself.

The Bail Holder

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The Bail Holder is that friend that either brings you back from the brink of certain disaster, or stands by as the lifeguard that will pull you out of the deep end when you start to flail. Allowing you to give into some of your baser instincts, without causing any permanent damage – or a trip to the courthouse. In other words, the Bail Holder is the voice of reason in a cacophony of crazy.

It would be fun if the entire Tribe were all crazy at the same time, but that could lead to the demise of everyone. That’s why, while others may consider The Bail Holder friend to be a Buzzkill, in truth, they’re often the glue that holds the whole beautiful mess together.

Many moons ago I worked at a psychiatric hospital. As you can imagine, it was a stressful place to work. To help us all cope with the difficulties we faced every day, the whole crew would go out for happy hour on paydays. We were young and relatively free of responsibility aside from work. Because many of us often walked the line between behaving like a patient or a responsible caregiver (it’s just how psych people roll), we took the precaution to make sure at least one person that agreed to remain in complete control of their faculties. More than just a designated driver, this person agreed to attempt to keep us relatively in check; basically, the Designated Bail Holder (DBH). Yes, she might go to the bar to fetch us darts, but she would also ensure we only threw them at the dart board, not each other. For single members of our crew, the DBH was a wingman or even a creeper deterrent. For the sad among us, the DBH was a counselor. For the over-served, the DBH was the key holder and taxi driver. In other words, the Bail Holder was the adult that let us all feel free and safe to cut loose, with nothing more than a possible hangover to regret in the morning. I learned the value of having a Bail Holder in my Tribe during my Green Oaks days, and have carried that forward into my present stage of life.

Perhaps the most crucial time to have a Bail Holder in your Tribe is when one of you has been wronged. I don’t know about you, but it’s far easier for me to be rational when I’m the injured party; but mess with someone I love and the gloves come off. Seek and destroy is the mission at hand and it’s easy to go off the rails in a situation like that. Thank goodness, in my Tribe at least, one of us usually comes to our senses before we do anything truly dangerous. Or illegal. One of us steps into the role of Bail Holder, sometimes just in the nick of time to avert disaster, but the role never goes unfilled.

I’m the first to admit that in my Tribe it’s rarely me that holds the bail. I’m much more apt to be the instigator, or the second in command of any operation. Although as I’ve matured I have found myself assuming the Bail Holder role with more frequency. I guess it comes with age. But I must confess I don’t ever plan to take on that role permanently, because I don’t intend to ever grow all the way up. Adulting is overrated.

The Jedi and The Padawan

In every well balanced Tribe, there is at least one younger, in either age or experience, individual. To borrow a term from Star Wars, a Padawan. And in every tribe, there is a Jedi that provides the wisdom and balance needed in any number of circumstances.

Many years ago I had a baby girl, and a husband that travelled about 80% of the time. While I was fortunate to be able to be home with my daughter, it was quite challenging to adjust to something akin to single parenthood. After doing it for about a year, I had finally figured out a way to make it work without losing my mind completely before he got home. I got used to the bumps in the night, the feeling of walking around an empty house and the weight of being the only one around should an emergency crop up. About this time, one of my closest friends, whose husband hadn’t travelled since they’d had their son, was suddenly faced with her husband being gone for a few days. Because she knew I was fairly experienced at it, she reached out to me. She found herself in uncharted waters and needed a guide. I packed up, we had a sleepover the first night he was gone and then the next night I went home and she handled the rest on her own. All she really needed was a little encouragement, but in this situation she was a Padawan & I was her Jedi.

Lest you think that my role remained that of Jedi with this Tribe member, let me tell you how our roles reversed. You see, my incredible friend is also an incredible mother. She has a son that is autistic. I have watched her educate herself, seek out services for her son, go into battle on his behalf, and even teach other parents/friends how to interact with those on the autism spectrum. Many, many times I have stood in awe of her and her willingness to go to any length necessary to protect and provide for her child. While I have learned a lot from this friend, one of the things I’m most grateful for is the example she set for me in how to go to battle for your child. Sitting at the feet of a seemingly invincible advocate has paid me dividends more times than I can count. Every time I have had to go to bat for my children, my friend has had my back. She reminds me that my job is to provide for and protect my children, even when the world is trying to do just the opposite. She encourages me to persevere, through administrators, coaches, teachers, physicians; whoever and whatever obstacle stands between my kids and their needs. Because of her courage and the wisdom she has imparted to me over the years, I have often prevailed in my advocacy for my kids. In short, I am a grateful Padawan.

Over the years there have been many lessons learned and taught within my Tribe. Each of us has been a Jedi and each of us has been a Padawan at some point. As tempting as it is to think of yourself as a Jedi all the time, I have learned that in truth, a Jedi Master is one who recognizes their need to be a Padawan too.

The Partner in Crime

There are four basic categories people find themselves in when it comes to the Partner in Crime:

  1. The Want Need/Want One
  2. They Have One
  3. They Are One
  4. They are Both 2 & 3

To the surprise of absolutely no know that knows me, I fall, definitively, into the 4th category. I have the great privilege of not just having Partners in Crime, but of being a Partner in Crime.

Why is the Partner in Crime crucial to any Tribe? Because they bring the fun, the whimsy, the adventure that brings sun to the day to day, often dreary, trial that is human existence.

  • They encourage you to throw caution to the wind and eat cake & ice cream for breakfast once in a while. Or splurge on that adult coffee…
  • They’re the people that agree to take the road less traveled with you, even if it makes the kids in the backseat nervous.
  • They’ll join you as you trespass in an old castle because you’ve never been in a real one.
  • They climb on pool furniture, as if you’re playing a game of Hot Lava, at a hotel pool with you.
  • They’re labeled with you as the “crazy drunk ladies,”(even when you’re stone cold sober) by the pearl clutching naysayers of life.
  • They’re the ones that you travel half way around the world with not knowing where you’ll sleep.
  • And finally, crucially, they’re the ones that arm up with you when you’re headed into battle. They may not know how you’ve been wronged, but they’ll be damned if they won’t help you find justice.

We all need that friendly, mischievous voice that encourages us to step out of our comfort zone. To conquer a fear that we thought would always have a hold over us. To take a chance, even if we might fail, because they know we’ll come out better on the other side for having tried. Thankfully, in my Tribe, I can always count on at least one Partner in Crime to leap into the abyss of the unknown with me. Even if it takes a little shove to get me to jump.

If your Tribe doesn’t yet have a Partner in Crime, perhaps it’s your vacancy to fill.

*It must be noted that you can’t have an entire tribe full of Partners in Crime at any one time. Every well-rounded Tribe needs a Bail Holder. But we’ll get into that one another time.

The Truth Telling Friend

It had been a long, hard few weeks. I hadn’t really admitted to myself how difficult life had become and how trapped I was feeling. It happened so slowly that I didn’t recognize the signs and the shifts. The walls of my world were contracting and cracking, preparing to bury me under their weight. All while I was busy shoring up the walls of those around me. Completely oblivious to what was happening to my own house. Admittedly, I had small glimpses of the impending destruction, but I managed to successfully minimize my own distress. “I’m just tired. I’m fighting this nasty cold,” I told myself over and over again. Denial is great; for a while.

Thankfully, I have a friend that isn’t afraid to tell me the truth. Even when it’s not what I want to hear. Even when I try to deflect and change the subject. Even when I deny her observations. My friend knows me well enough and loves me enough to push through my resistance and offer me the whole, honest truth. In the most loving and supportive way possible she gave me permission to stop and acknowledge that all was not right in my world. Permission to admit I was running myself into the ground. Validation that I deserve more for myself than what I’d been allotting. She saw behind the face I put on for the world & recognized the truth of my present reality.

When I finally allowed her words to penetrate the wall I had built around my denial, I was overwhelmed with the strangest emotion. Not fear, not anger, not sadness, but relief. Relief that someone saw. Relief that what I feared was selfishness was something else entirely – a desperate need for rest. Actually, not only rest, but a reevaluation of my current trajectory & a course correction.

Along with the truth, came an offer of her unmitigated support. And an assignment, that just happened to be the same one I had given her a few months ago. Funny how our words can come back to haunt us. Or in this case, remind us of the importance of not just having a truth telling friend, but being one as well.

 

My Tribe

One of my greatest blessings in life is the myriad of diverse people that are in my social sphere. From all walks of life, backgrounds, belief systems, etc. I am surrounded by diversity and appreciate what each individual brings to my life.

But I must be honest, I have a few people in my life that I’m closer to. Some of them are connected to each other, and others are not. This core group of individuals make up the center from which most of my other relationships sprout. Some are cherished, long held friendships, some are newer, but no less important friendships. Some are people I’m in regular contact with, while others I may only talk to once in a long while, but they are always there. Supporting me, challenging me, championing me, holding me to account, laughing with me & sometimes narrowly avoiding jail with me. In short they make up My Tribe.

In this series, as sporadic as I know it will be, of posts, I would like to introduce you to the members of My Tribe. The beauty of the big bag of Skittles that is my social circle is that we move between many of the different roles I will describe. I am truly, immeasurably blessed and I hope this will be a little window into why. Hopefully it will help you to appreciate your own Tribe. And if you find yourself without one, I pray it will encourage you to find your own people. The ones you can be your authentic, warts & all, self with.

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