Just got a group text from my running buddy July, with some photos of me, Donna, and her taking a strength training boot camp class a couple of years ago. July has since moved out of the area, but we stay in touch. Her text read, “Came across these. How much fun we had! Actually the only one smiling is Donna. Miss you guys.” The photos show me doing chin ups on a high bar and deep lunges with a kettle bell. How did she know I’ve begun organizing photos of the fit, healthy me training for triathlons? I’m preparing for my next chapter as a cancer survivor.
I clicked on Facebook yesterday and saw that I had a message. It was from Ginny, one of my running buddies. I’ve only run with Ginny a handful of times. Despite being a few years older than me, she’s one of our group’s fastest runners. Over the half dozen or so years I’ve known her, we’ve shared more coffees at Starbuck’s than runs. But she’s checking in with me “…here’s hoping today is a good day. You’re in my thoughts.”
The day before yesterday, I was sitting in my living room and heard the storm door on my front door open. I thought it was my husband coming home. I waited, but the door shut. I got up and opened the door to find a gift bag positioned between the doors. I looked up as Donna, another running buddy, was scurrying back toward her car. “Hey, miss,” I yelled. “Darn it,” she said, “thought I’d be able to make a clean getaway.” Her gift bag included a number of thoughtful items, but my favorite was the jazzy pair of green socks that say, “Courage, Strength, and Hope possess my soul…” on one side and “I will stand firmly and without fear. – Goethe” on the other.
The day before that, I received a card in the mail from Mary, the running buddy who helped me run my first thirty minutes more than a dozen years ago. I’ve lost count on how many cards I’ve received from Mary since my cancer diagnosis. They’re all beautiful and all include a note. “Thinking of you today…” this most recent one started.
Last week, my running buddy Maryellen, chauffeured me to chemo. She lives a few towns over, so we’ve only run together occasionally. Sometimes we’ve met at a fun run on a weekend or ended up at a race together. We chatted all morning during my chemo treatment and the time passed quickly.
This is just the last week or so. The number of texts, emails, and check ins has been noticeable. “You have a lot of friends Mom,” my daughter Mary commented.
I started running thanks to a supportive group of women from the Pioneer Valley Women’s Running Club (PVWRC) who was offering a walk-to-run clinic. Mary was the unlucky mentor who drew me in the pairings the first week. She kept me company during the 10-week program, offering nonstop chatter that kept me distracted from the actual running part. Mostly, she helped me believe I could be a runner. She, and all the other women I’ve met through the club, are helping me believe I can handle cancer.
Due to an aggravating case of plantar fasciitis, and now the cancer side effects, I probably haven’t run in almost a year. My running buddies are still with me. Mahjong nights, Starbuck’s visits, yoga retreats, local theater performances: offers come in weekly for fun things we can do together. Most have nothing to do with running.
We support each other. We check in. We’re present. We hold each other accountable. We inspire each other. We listen. We see. We pretend not to see. We laugh. We cry. Sometimes we laugh and cry at the same time. And sometimes we run together too.
We’re connected. They make my life better. They’re part of my tribe.
Don’t already have a tribe? Find one. The PVWRC offers walk-to-run clinics every year, but if running isn’t for you, start looking for another group. How about a rec department walking group? A prayer group at your church? Bowling with your co-workers? Trivia night with your cousins? Check out the community bulletin boards at your local coffee or sandwich shop. Go online. Meetup is an app that offers groups in every geography. In my area, you can join people to hike, salsa dance, learn about crypto currency, participate in drum circles, or join a supper club.
Tribes are groups of like-minded people who support each other, share ideas, and interests, and develop strong bonds and mutual trust. Often, you never would have met, had you not had a shared interest. There’s a group out there that is holding a spot for you. Help them by reaching out. Then, show up.
Already have a tribe? How did you meet? Leave a comment and tell us.