Inner tribe


It has been a horrid start to the year, and the Queen may want to put 2020 down as a leading contender for “annus horribilis”.

The fires here in Oz have raged furiously and are now said to be the worst the country as a whole has ever experienced. Then there was the assassination of an Iranian general by the US, that lead to a barrage of missile being fired by Iran, on to US bases in Iraq. Then a Ukrainian commercial plane crashed in Tehran, killing about 170 people.

Against such horrid backdrops, I’ve been in a a pretty ordinary mood. When I then saw a message in a chat group that felt like a gigantic signal for a fight or flight response, the answer became clear in my mind. I did a quick thanks-but-no-thanks response to that message and exited that chat group.

For weeks now, that chat group has been discussing a drive from Sydney to Melbourne, after a wedding . That drive was going to comprise a group of 12. I stayed away for a little while but some comments about this being an opportunity for family to do stuff together, got me sucked in, much against my instinct and preference. I thought I’d put aside those instincts and preferences and give the family doing stuff together bit, a chance. I should have stuck to my guns because no sooner had I decided to join that drive that the father of the bride wrote to me asking if I could lead that drive.

He said it would help him if I took the lead on the drive, as he would be tied up with the wedding stuff. Again, I should have remained strong and declined but when someone from the (albeit extended) family asked for help that way, it’s hard to say no. Again, I had seen this (being asked to lead the drive) coming when I decided to come along for the drive, so I should have not chosen to come along in the first place.

With the fires raging through much of NSW and Victoria, Tress and I thought about whether we could do an alternate route instead. That set of a chain of communications that confirmed my worst fears – this was going to be a difficult bunch to “lead”. You are asked to “lead”, but really, what they want is for you to do the work to execute their wishes.  That became apparent when what we said were ignored, and they would do things they had wanted to do anyway.  I said “they” but it really is what I’ve called a “tribe” within the larger family, where anyone outside that tribe will get no bite or time of day, and whatever anyone within that tribe throws up will be grabbed and embraced, no matter what others in the family (who are non-tribe folks) think.

It was for that “tribe”-within-the family reason that I had, maybe a couple of years ago now, left another chat group that had heaps of people in the family. I felt then already, that unless the “speaker” was someone in that tribe, whatever was said would get little or no traction. Whereas no matter how trite or silly a tribe person would say, it would get loads of traction and nods. I have to clarify that this tribe has a bit of a concentric feature; a few would be nearer to the core and would get the most traction. Someone on the next circle would still be part of the tribe and get traction. But the circles end abruptly and someone like me would be so far outside the outer circle I might as well be even beyond the family corroboree line. I didn’t take much for me to exit that group.

When I exited this “road trip” group, after announcing I was going to “un-join” the trip, a great sense of relief took over. If the planning was so fraught, I imagine the trip itself would be just… “fun”. I’m actually glad I out of all that, and regret agreeing to come along and even more so, for agreeing to “lead” the drive. Someone outside a tribe would always be up the creek without a paddle in that tribe, and can never “lead” that tribe. Not all family are equal I guess.