Yesterday Elizabeth Gilbert posted a piece about Tribal Shame on her Facebook page. It’s about tribal affiliations and how when you don’t fit in with your tribe, this can cause a lot of pain and suffering until you are able to make a clean break with them. This is something I did a long time ago and never regretted. When the pain of affiliation is greater than the pain of being outcast, that is a good sign that you need to get out.
I never, ever fit in with my family. This fact caused me a lot of pain as a child, and the wounds from that, still, to this day, infect my operating system and cause my system to crash occasionally.
In her piece Gilbert says to say to your tribe as you leave them: “I am going to abandon you now. I am going to betray you now.”
I know the exact moment when I said this to my mother. Not in those words, exactly. Not in any words.
I had been planning my escape from her my whole life. My adolescence was particularly tumultuous. We’d have these rip-roaring scream-fests, in which I would shout, “Someday I am going to leave you and never look back. And you will be all alone. And it will be the happiest day of my life.”
She would just laugh at me.
I plotted my escape for years. I applied to college without her knowledge, made my financial arrangements without her help or knowledge, got accepted, sent my deposit, and then, one late summer day, out of the blue, I asked her to drive me 5 hours upstate and drop me at a school I had never even seen. And, she did. I think she thought I was bluffing.
I took my stereo, my box of albums and a footlocker of clothes. I kissed her in the parking lot, and then watched as it suddenly dawned on her what was really happening: She wasn’t just dropping me off at school. This was it. This was the promised moment. Game over.
I saw it hit her. Her face went to ash. I was abandoning her.I was betraying her. She realized in that moment that I was never coming home again. I was leaving the tribe I was never a part of to begin with.
In that kiss, she knew it and I knew it.
She was devastated.
But I was finally free.
It was the best day of my life up until that point. We still kept in touch and she tried some lame shenanigans to get me back to the tribe, but of course they didn’t work. She knew I knew her game. She knew I wasn’t going to play anymore.
Some people think even being part of a dysfunctional tribe is better than outcast status, but I disagree. There is nothing worse than pretending to fit into a tribe you hate. It sucks your soul. It robs you of your integrity and your dignity. Far better to sleep alone, than with the enemy.