I sat quietly on my back deck, in the shade, pen poised, with a brand new journal in front of me. And nothing happened. Well, that's not completely true. There were several birds that flew by, and I thought about the out of control bushes I need to prune. But the first page is still blank, because I sat there, completely intimidated with the first blank page of a brand new journal, even though I have a trunk full of finished journals in my basement. Who said I was any good at this, anyway?
So I stopped thinking and went inside to watch last week's episode of Mad Men. And as I watched the well-dressed, well-conceived, well-endowed, and well-written women on that show, it hit me. Women.
I spent the majority of this long, blissful weekend with girlfriends. Friends that I've had for years, and friends that I've had a few months. When I made my weekend plans, I was excited to see these friends, but I didn't realize how much I needed to see these friends, until I was with them. I think most people know what I mean: the talking, the wine, the laughter, the cookies and the cookie dough, the shopping, the laughter, the talking, the wine, and the laughter. There is a part of the female soul that glows after time with her friends.
I just finished a book this week called The Girls From Ames. It's a journalistic view of 11 female friends, now in their 50s, who literally grew up together. It wasn't phenomenal, but it was thought-provoking and nostalgic and made me feel equal amounts happy that I have some amazing girlfriends and ashamed that I don't have 10 female friends with whom I have yearly reunions. This book talked about how women live longer when they have close girlfriends, and, when diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, women actually heal faster and heal more often when they have close female friends. It certainly made me think about the women I love, the friendships I have, and the friendships I wish were different.
What I don't think the book captured very well is how difficult it can be when women who are so close start to feel dissonant; how difficult it is when a friendship, for whatever reason, is no longer the kind of friendship it was. I know I've shed as many tears over certain friendships as I have over romantic relationships in my life. And I think that is because there really is that part of a woman's soul--that part of my soul--that grows and shines and dreams because of and with her friends.
And what The Girls From Ames touched on, and what I've recently learned, is how friendships with women change as you become an adult. Time is so precious when there is so much else to be responsible for: your job, your home, your marriage, the family you are creating, and the family you came from. It is so hard to find the time to spend with your girlfriends and those friendships can sometimes suffer for it. But what is so amazing to me is how, despite all those distractions and responsibilities, I can call my friends I haven't spoken to for weeks and, spend the entire conversation being immensely grateful that it feels like we spoke the hour before. There is an understanding between us that life is busy and life is also really, really hard, and because of that and through that, we'll be there for each other.
Obviously not every friendship works like that, and those are the ones I did shed tears over and sometimes still do. Sometimes there are people I want to call but it's just too hard to dig through the emotional crap as out of control as the bushes in my yard that need to be pruned. I'm sure “better people” would say it’s worth it, that they would dig through, and sit on the phone, or across the table, and nod and smile and listen and emote. And sometimes it truly is worth it. But I'm also going to be brutally honest and say what those “better people” would not: when I have one hour to myself every day, and during that hour I am commuting, I would rather call one of the friends who isn't going to judge me for not calling the week before.
So this weekend was special. I saw four different girlfriends, each a different degree of important to me, and I'm definitely glowing brighter because of it. From eating cookie dough to buying new journals to sitting on the beach collecting different colors of sea glass, I valued every second of it. And while we may not be as well-dressed, or well-endowed as the women on Mad Men, we are certainly just as, if not more, well-conceived. Partly because there is that one thing the Mad Men writers missed—women don’t just cut each other down. They make each other glow. And the best friends do so without even realizing it. They do it by being who they are, and by understanding that who we are is all we can be.