Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tribal Living

This morning on my way to the tube station I was thinking about something highly profound: hair - specifically, my stepmom's hair, my mom's hair, and my dad's hair, and what my hair might look like when I'm older, in relation to theirs. Then I laughed out loud because I realized my stepmom's hair has no bearing whatsoever on mine, given the fact that we have no genetic relationship whatsoever. However, it seemed quite a positive sign to me that I had momentarily forgotten this or, more accurately, that I had come to a place where somehow, on some level of my subconscious, she is family. And even as I write this I feel a little twinge of guilt, like I'm betraying my mother. Which I realize is probably unfounded since she has never once expressed any discontent or trepidation around my developing a good relationship with my stepmother.

Anyhoo, back to me and my own life. Having spent the last 5 months living with my dad, stepmother, and little sister, I suppose it's only natural that I would feel a closer connection to my stepmom than I previously had. She and I have become movie buddies, and occasional at-home Sex and the City episode-viewing buddies. She shares all her issues of the New Yorker with me, and we like some of the same books. And even though her habits of self-care and wellness are generally much more conventional than mine and she is probably quite skeptical of many of the kooky things that I do or say (many of which, incidentally, are partially due to the influence of my mother AND ran quite counter to my dad's beliefs in many cases, hence, divorce), she is more open-minded than I might have first thought. For example, I have continually shared my essential oils with her and my little sister when they have gotten sick over the months I've been here (which, I might add, is rather often and I do have my opinions as to why that might be and what might be done to decrease the frequency of illness, most of which I do my best to keep to myself) and, lo and behold, she found them to be helpful and last time she got sick she requested one of them before I could even offer. For a girl like me who comes from a long line of physicians, healers, and, well, people who can't help but stick our noses into other people's business and try to help, save, rescue, or heal them, that is very gratifying. In fact, for Christmas, I plan to gift my stepmom with some of those oils so she can have ready access to them after I leave.

A month or so back, I was babysitting at a house down the street and just as I was leaving an absolutely torrential downpour began. The broken umbrella that my client loaned me for the walk home did very little for me and I was completely drenched by the time I arrived home. The sky was very dark and gray. It was a highly dramatic storm. And when I came up to the path that leads up to the house from the sidewalk, there was my stepmom standing on the stoop waiting for me, with the golden light from the house behind her in the open doorway. And I was so touched that she was standing there outside waiting for me. It was quite comforting.

These are just a few examples. It's pretty near impossible to do justice to an entire relationship with a handful of examples, regardless of what kind of relationship it is. The point is that I do feel closer to her than I did when I got here in March. And deeply appreciative and touched by her generosity in opening up her home to me, and enjoying my presence here.

A few days ago I was feeling a lot of grief about leaving London, now that I feel so much more connected to my family here, and have made some really precious new friends in this city. Then yesterday I found out that one of my new friends here is moving to NYC within a week of my return. He happens to be part of a spiritual community that's very important to me both here and in New York. And on Facebook, when one of our mutual friends lamented my impending departure, this friend told him not to worry because he had volunteered to head to Manhattan and make sure I am okay, because now I belong to Britannia. It reminded me of when I was in college and had a pretty ethnically diverse group of friends and, for a period of time, there was an ongoing joke about my black friends claiming me as theirs and my Asian friends claiming me as theirs. Side note: For those of you who don't know me in person, to appreciate the irony of this joke it might be helpful to know that I am, coloring-wise, about as white as they come, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and very pale skin. So I am used to being claimed by "opposing" tribes - my parents, my groups of friends in college, and now my British vs. my American friends.

Obviously it's all in fun (well, during my parents' divorce it wasn't, but in the other instances it was and is), but it strikes a chord. When I feel displaced, as I have many times in my recent years of moving here and there, geographically, job-wise, and otherwise, it is comforting for me to know that I am claimed by multiple tribes. Or perhaps more accurately, I am claimed by one tribe - one complex, intricately layered, tribe. And my stepmother is now part of that tribe - integral enough to factor into a rumination on the ever-crucial topic of hair. In fact, she even gifted me with a haircut at her lovely high-end salon here in London last month. It was a rite of passage, you might say.

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