A Small But Mighty Tribe

“The scarcity model drives consumption and accumulation; it spurs us to want more, to buy things because we think it will fill the void. The problem with scarcity, however, is that you can’t fill it or fix it with things.” Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

I’ve called myself a ‘rational minimalist’ from day one of embracing this simplicity lifestyle because the idea of living with just one plate, one fork, three towels, and six shirts in a completely barren room is a bit extreme to me. But I do tend to consider whether I really need an item before I purchase it (with the exception of a recent purchase of an ice cream maker, which I didn’t need at all, but that’s another story for another time. No one said I was perfect).

I think I got over my ‘scarcity model’ mentality as it relates to material goods and money about three years ago and the proof was in the pudding when the nation ran out of toilet paper (TP). I never ran out of TP during this pandemic (knock on wood) and I didn’t hoard said paper. I usually buy three months of TP at a time anyway, so by the time the need arose, TP could be found among numerous retail outlets and online venues. While I get that most people don’t have months of TP accumulated, I do, but it is because I hate going to the store, not because I’m afraid I won’t be able to wipe my booty.

But as proud as I am that I keep material purchases to a minimum, I’m not going to say I’ve overcome scarcity mentality all together. Because – trust me – it is there, in the shadows, and kids: It. Is. Ugly.

It isn’t present in my fear of not having enough paperclips or food or money, but it does a full-court press in my mind when I feel the anxiousness of not having ‘people’.

Yes. My scarcity mentality shows up in all its glory when it comes to human connection. It doesn’t even care that I am naturally a bit standoffish and find it hard to make friends. Fear loves a good playground.

Knowing this about me, I think the Universe shows up for me in little ways to remind me that I don’t need to fear this. It’s like a small whisper in my darkest hours – “Hey. I got you, Boo.” The right text at the crucial moment, a card in the mail, an invitation to dinner. It all happens when I need it.

But sometimes, just sometimes, none of those things show up at all and the whisper says “You have to push through this feeling in order to be brave. I know it hurts and I know you’re scared but you will never ever be able to show up for people if you can’t even show up for yourself.” Those are the nights that terrify…and strengthen…me both at the same time.

To shed some light on this: Today is my birthday, and even though I can sit here and honestly say there is nothing material I want for my birthday (it’s true!) I desire to be ‘remembered’. And I have been. And I appreciate that. My bestie even made me a cake.

That’s me…Denise. Even a corner piece!!

And why does this scare me so much? Because my biggest fear is that I am erasable. In fact, my entire ‘death’ plan includes cremation and is solely built on the belief that I will be the only plot in the graveyard with no people left who care. I think many of us struggle with this on some level – maybe not therapist-worthy level like me, but still. Everyone wants to be significant to someone, right?

And on this day, my 49th birthday, I may not have gotten a text from everyone I wanted to – in all fairness, some are dead and some just are mad at me – I was reminded by those who did reach out that I’m surrounded by people who care; that my bucket of people who are there for me (when it really matters) is full. I even think the mad ones would be, too, if it really was a matter of life and death.

All that said, people aren’t mind readers. I think it’s important to voice what I need and to also let go of the expectation that others can meet that need, or that they will even want to.

If, like me, you tend to isolate and withdraw when under tremendous stress or when the grip of depression is threatening to pull you under the water, it’s important to realize that you have a responsibility to reach out even when its hard or when you don’t feel like it. The feelings of isolation will only expand and the belief of scarcity will grow until it takes root and you have a garden of nothingness living inside you. Yes, it’s hard. It can be so effing hard. And if people give you a hard time for isolating instead of asking you why you are isolating in the first place, then you need to realize those aren’t healthy people – at least not healthy for you – anyway.

My friend, Machell, is a pro at noticing when I’m not in a good place. My social media gets cleaned. Pictures get changed to private. No likes or snarky comments on her quilting posts. (She’s a talented quilter. I am not.) She never asks when she’s getting out of Facebook jail, as if my anxiety is somehow about her. She is always the first to text “You’re on my mind. Hang in there!” or “I see you’ve been off [social media] for a bit…I’m thinking of you.” No matter how many times I forget her birthday or don’t respond to her texts, she never unfriends me. Never. That says a lot about her character because, admittedly, I can be a really shitty friend. (M, if you read this, your birthday is now in my calendar. I’m sorry for forgetting all these years.)

As Joshua Becker says: “The problem with scarcity, however, is that you can’t fill it or fix it with things.” I posit that you can’t fill the void with people either. You have to fill it with the right people. I promise you that the 800 friends in your friends list aren’t your friends. You never get the chance to make new old friends and you need the people in your life who understand the significance of certain days on the calendar or who tense up a little when they hear a train whistle.

I realized I had to fill my “people drawer” with the souls who fit right now and stop hoping that I’ll someday lose enough baggage that the other people will fit again. FFS, if I have to lose all my excess baggage to be loved…I never will be. Or will be waiting a long-ass time. Like a favorite shirt, when it comes to old friends, we all have to decide if that ketchup stain is worth throwing it out. It’s a fucking ketchup stain. That shirt is still good for a day at the lake.

I hope that if you feel that your list of people – your tribe – is small that you do these things: 1) Don’t underestimate the power of a small tribe; 2) Don’t ignore that tribe; 3) Don’t expect them to read your mind and, finally, 4) Reach out to them when in need.