Can the weighty importance of this be emphasized enough? (Is weighty importance redundant?) I grew up more of a tomboy than a girly girl, and because of that, I was more comfortable on a sports field playing tag than in a girl friend’s room playing with dolls. It was always easier to be friends with boys than with girls because there was no sharing, no gossip, no subtle messages, no sharing feelings, just running around playing, or as I got into high school, hiking and rock climbing. I eventually got to the point where being around women was even a little awkward for me – I didn’t know how to act like a girlfriend to other girls. I would watch as a girl got her heart broken and would be bawling, and other girls would be so nurturing by putting their arms around the heartbroken girl, telling her that everything would be okay, that he wasn’t worth it anyway, and she deserved better than him. The whole scene was usually like a foreign culture lab observation for me…I was totally out of my comfort zone when it came to sharing and bonding with other girls.
I somehow managed to come out of my childhood and young adulthood with a few good girlfriends – but I can say with certainty that it was not by my doing. It was their determination to hold onto my friendship despite years of on-and-off stints of not returning calls or emails, and not sharing anything I was going through in life. What were they thinking by keeping me as a friend?!
As the years have worn on and I have been in and out of the peaks and valley of life – admittedly a few more valleys than peaks – the one thing I have realized has been there all along and right beside me are my girlfriends. Without judgement, without hesitation, and without condition, they have remained at my side through thick and thin. That’s not to say that I haven’t lost a few girlfriends along the way though…there have been girls that I confided with while going through awful rough spots in my marriage, and they were so hurt and betrayed when I got back together with my husband after a year of separation, that they blocked me out. It’s a hard pill to swallow when a good friend bows out, but I know that it happens. I sometimes have a hard time accepting my sister’s dating choices, and I’ve seen the anger that swells up in me when he treats her less worthy than she is and she goes back to him and tries to make it work again. I get it…of course I can’t leave my sister, nor would I, but I understand the emotion of loving people who make decisions you don’t agree with.
I guess the trick, then, is to hold on to the friends that will always be there no matter what, and send our warmest blessings and goodbyes to the ones that won’t. There’s no need to add more negativity and anger out into the cosmos (oooh, I’m sounding SO not like my sheltered Catholic upbringing right now!), but instead thank them for being a friend to you when you needed one, and wish them all the best in their life…and then let go. I think this is especially difficult for women to do – to let go of friends and to move on. We even tend to hold on to friendships with women that have a negative impact on our own lives. You know the types – the women who I like to call “positive sucks” – that no matter how sunny and beautiful of a day it is, or how much money and health and love they have in their life, they will always find something to complain about – they literally suck the positive out of any situation. Nothing is ever good enough – the service at a restaurant is poor, the nerve of that guy to cut her off on the road, the cheap food at a nice wedding, the zit on her face that ruined her day…this list is endless. My cousin said he thinks of his friends in categories. He asks himself if he were in jail in another state and called his friends, there are some that would drop everything without a second thought and come bail him out wherever he was. There were others who may have to take a little while to figure out logistics leave him hanging a few days. Then there was the group that wouldn’t bail him out because of some excuse or other. But that’s how, as a guy, he can identify where his time and energy can be put as far as friendship investment. When I ask myself that question, the outcome is a little scary – mom, if you’re reading this, I think you might actually take a few days to bail me out.
It is a worthwhile challenge to surround ourselves with friends who add positivity and light and warmth and beauty to our lives. And we should strive to be that sort of friend to others. The girlfriends that have stuck by me have given me so much love, I’m not sure I could ever repay them, but it’s worth a try. When all else fails – our marriage, our love life, our jobs, our awful bosses, our parents, our kids, our car we forgot to put oil into (since we bought it) – when the dust settles, our girlfriends will be the last ones standing right there beside us. One of life’s greatest ladies, (I’m lucky to have her as a friend) said this on her Facebook the other day: “My friends remind me, by their very steadfastness, that truth, beauty, and goodness exist in the world, and that, no matter what, there are and always will be people loving people through thick and thin.”
To my girlfriends, I thank you for helping to be the mirror of self worth, strength and courage that I sometimes forget about. Thank you for your vulnerability and patience with me as I’ve retardedly grown and learned how to be a better girlfriend over the years. I will continue to stumble, but bear with me, and I will most definitely drop everything to come bail you out in a pinch. I love you now and always.