It took me 14 years of marriage and 2 children to start falling in love with women.

Turns out, this is one more thing my mother was right about.

I was in my late teens when Mom started to “get into” an array of “women things.” Book clubs. Coffee meetings. Studies. Projects-journals-clubs-retreats, all of them appearing to me– teenager, remember?–to be such a mighty waste of time. Why read Women Who Run with the Wolves when you could actually be out running? When you could be leading the pack?

So I ran. I ran, and I ran, and I ran. For years.

I picked an aggressive career (law) and an aggressive corner of it (litigation). That was a start, but I wanted more black leather. I cut my hair even shorter, dyed it bright red, and took up web design. This was back when a web designer actually needed to know what “HTML” stood for.

I had great plans to parlay the web work into an intellectual property legal career—which, in those days, was clocking in at a sweet $600 per hour.

But, by the end of law school, I was too tapped out to tackle another degree.  Plus I’d met a man who wanted to marry me.

So I sorta threw in the towel on that and called it good.

Despite all this Sturm und Drang, the Universe had, along the way, sent me dear women.  I seriously don’t know how I got that lucky. I can only conclude that they became, and remained, my sisters because they knew how to be sisters.

It was a quality I patently lacked.  I was a good boss. I was a reliable colleague. I was a dutiful daughter. I was a diligent wife. I didn’t fully grasp the sisterhood thing.

I could appreciate it, though. I deeply admired the way these fine women each stood as the hub for their own circles of women. I didn’t entirely understand it, but I was grateful to be included.

Enter midlife.

At midlife, I had to stop running quite so fast, for fear of stepping on a couple small creatures that had somehow attached themselves to me and persisted in calling me “Mom.”

Whereupon, these things happened:

When I stopped running, I found space to accept that a woman-soul is a complex thing, in the sense of, “oodles of moving parts.” Love, grief, loss, hope, self, others, needs, gifts, wholeness, brokenness: all these and more are tectonic plates. With each great upheaval or tiny tremor, lacunae appear. Some of these small emptinesses can be filled only by another woman’s grant of permission or grace.

When I stopped running, I found silence enough to sense that “women’s work” encompasses a big damned pile of subtleties: nurturing, celebrating, grieving, attending, holding space, granting recognition, gifting silence.

When I stopped running, I found both the time and the vision to watch women do their work in the world. And I was awed.

Thanks to today’s Internet–no longer restricted to those who know what “HTML” means—you can indulge a whole lot of exploration about love and belonging.  The idea of a “tribe” includes, but swiftly expands beyond, the idea of “family.” If you Google “urban family,” you’ll quickly drill down to the divergence.

Back in 1993, Robin Williams, in the closing lines of Mrs. Doubtfire, finally said what we’d all been wanting to hear about “family”:

There are all sorts of different families . . . . Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country – and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months… even years at a time. But if there’s love, dear . . . those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. 

I dare you to read that out loud and not get choked-up.

I think it’s time for somebody to get that pithy about “tribe.”

What your own tribe looks like, and where you place it your world, is open to near-infinite possibility. I admire those who have flexibility with this. Including fluidity, in the words of my photographer cousin.  It seems fluidity and expressiveness are becoming common conversations, and I think that’s pure wonderfulness.

Although there are downsides to tribes as well, in the sense of having social permission to kick to the curb anyone you may define as “un-tribe.”  Someone recently told me of a dedicated vegan who refused to break bread with carnivores. They could still be “friends,” apparently, but were unwelcome to dine at the same table.

I must be getting old, because such a hair-splitting definition of “friend” puzzles me. But then, being deeply mired in the heteronormative at the moment, I’m probably not the most qualified person to discuss fluidity, either.

So I guess I won’t be the person who defines “tribe” for the ages.

But I can be grateful for my own.

Accordingly—surrounded and supported by wise women—I’m using Valentine’s 2018 as a pleasant opportunity to tell you about a community that’s been founded to celebrate wise women (and a few righteous gentlemen, and all other self-expressions are welcome as well). My Bucket Brigade is an online community to help you get un-stuck from clutter and claim the life you want.  “You need a village. Join ours,” is one of our taglines. You can sneak a behind-the-scenes peek here.

When Wednesday rolls around, I will be grateful for the doilies, the chocolate, and, ahem, any roses I might receive. I will be grateful for my daughters’ hugs and my husband’s enthusiastically-planned overnight getaway. I will be grateful for my family.

Plus, this year, I also will be grateful for my circle of wise women. Gladiator, philosopher, healer, peacemaker, wordsmith, traveler, you are kin to my soul. Thank you for sticking. Women, you are loved.