I’ve been spending a lot of time with mine. I am an introvert, so this is portentous. I seek them out, listen to their often hilarious but wise counsel, and mostly fill myself with abundant gratitude for who they are and all they mean to me.
On a birthday that veered towards abject sadness, they rallied. We buried our hands in clay and made imperfect pottery, all the while making fun of the beautiful mess of our lives. We tormented our teacher with endless inappropriate remarks, laughed even more, sang while we kneaded, and held each other’s stories close. We shared a meal and snickered as the waiters slunk away from our vehement fun.
Shortly after, still on the birthday theme, I travelled with two of them–something I haven’t done since my early twenties. I had the best time chatting, exploring, getting lost, eating with joy and gusto, having our faces made up by strangers who did their best with what we had; We are in our late forties after all. But we laughed even through that and invented jokes about the many undiscovered (until now) uses of our most reliable concealer, all the while acknowledging — if not finding ways to humor — the heartbreak in the room. I chat with these two nearly everyday. We are never far away from each other.
Another crosses the distance to see me and we spend all day and night talking about mermaids, waxing philosophical about the ways we’ve chosen to deal with life’s crazy surprises. The conversation is nothing but honest. Deep pains are traded. We know we are safe. She chides me for being Catholic when we both know I am not. Or thought I wasn’t (Oh Lord, not that). We don’t blink. We cry. We laugh with abandonment. We are silly. We are sad. We are alive!
Still another is not always physically present, but she reaches in from afar, all heart and genuine concern. Hardly any words pass between us, but we give each other hugs fraught with messages: I see you and I hold you close.
I am proud of these fellow warriors who have gone– and are going through–their share of difficult internal battles, but whose hearts are generous enough to accompany a weary friend through another one she must necessarily fight alone.
A few days ago I filled my social calendar to the brim: breakfast with my “Meanies”–a group of feisty, funny (all my friends are), irreverent, but steadfast friends who have journeyed with each other through over a decade of personal transitions. With them I laugh some more, renew my appetite for food and fun, and enjoy their never edited comments about life, love, death, the inability to get naked in front of a new lover, and this wild path of womanhood we trek together.
After breakfast I moved to a restaurant a few doors away and waited for M, who made me laugh to tears within a minute of her arrival. We talked deeply and truthfully about love in all its shapes and unexplored forms, the ways in which we choose to stand before or inside it, and how we must continue to evolve individually as we discover its tougher dimensions. Then we parted, four hours later, and I drove all the way to my side of town for the 7th birthday of a dear little girl.
I watched the celebrant and her friends share in this milestone and thought of their unfolding. I am momentarily sad about how wonderfully innocent they are, still unaware of how life will grab their hearts and take them for a spin, hurl them towards the unknown and back, destined to be misshapen. But I look at their mothers and think how lucky they are to have them show the way. I send each a silent blessing of humor and the life-affirming companionship of these and many more friends who will lift them up when life threatens to lose all sense. May they also have the wisdom and strength to turn away from friendships that are muddy and untrue. Because that, too, is a skill borne of love.
I am home among my womenfolk and proud of how funny, loving, honest and wholehearted they are. This is my offering to you. You know who you are.
Thank you, from the bottom of my evolving heart.