We all seem to come from a tribe. Sometimes the tribe looks like an immediate family, sometimes a neighborhood, or a church, or a school. It always feels safer in the tribe than out of the tribe. Here you all more or less agree with each other; here your sins are largely forgiven for the tribe knows you’re a good person even though you sometimes screw up. To leave the tribe is to wander the savannah alone, just you and your bow against all the wolves and hyenas.
But, as I wrote earlier, when you have a child with what we call special needs you are sometimes confronted with the challenge of seeing the world through the lens of unconditional love. For instance, for years Sawyer behaved in ways that I, and perhaps some of my tribe, had long determined was inappropriate. You didn’t get to be in our tribe when you acted like that. The conditions for being loved by our tribe were, among other things, to not act like a weirdo.
Fortunately, Sawyer was not about to accept help from someone who thought what he was doing was inappropriate. Thus began the shift in perception that led to my memoir and this website. This was not a smooth and easy shift, in no small part because the idea that no one is broken seemed like just the sort of belief that could get me booted out of not just my tribe, but every tribe.
In many ways, I’m a pretty traditional guy. I look and sound a bit like a television news anchor. I like sports and situation comedies. My favorite band is The Beatles; my favorite composer is Beethoven. Moreover, I want people to like me. If I find myself in a group, I want that group to accept me as one of their own. It seemed possible to me once upon a time that if I mastered being the Traditional Guy, everyone would accept me.
It didn’t work out that way. Some tribes hate the Traditional Guy as much as some other tribes love the Traditional Guy. So what’s a fellow to do who wants to be accepted everywhere? Sawyer had the answer in his own quirky way. It is easy to band together through love of a common enemy. As a New England Patriots fan I loathed the New York Jets and all their players. Until, of course, the great cornerback and one-time Jet Darrell Revis was traded to the Patriots. Now I love Darrell Revis!
It’s all a game. The only way to be accepted by all, to never be anyone’s enemy, was to cease to believe in enemies. That right there could get me killed, I thought to myself, but it’s worth the risk. I had lived my life in a tribe of one anyway. No one had ever agreed with every single thing I thought or said. If I could accept that I might find my way into the Tribe of Man, the only tribe to which I would ever want acceptance in the first place.
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I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.