So far I have interviewed a few dozen women for this blog and while they have all had different experiences of loss or divorce, there is a common thread to their lists of advice for women. In short, they recommend that you spend more time with your girlfriends and nurture those friendships.
Last week I had the chance to spend a few days with two girlfriends whom I hadn’t seen in years. I cannot remember the last time that I laughed so hard over two and a half days. At one point – true story – one of their prints came crashing off the wall as we were laughing uproariously over another one of our shared stories. The latter had to do with aging and some of its more interesting consequences. Most normal people probably wouldn’t laugh when a really nice print gets damaged, but that just made us laugh even harder. If the Universe was trying to send us a message to tell us to pipe down, it failed miserably. We got louder.
This weekend I’m off for an overnight with my book club group (some of whom are pictured above) and it occurs to me how lucky I am to have such great girlfriends, which in turn brings back the words of many of the women I have interviewed. They talked about the importance of their female support groups as they went through their various traumas. Their network of girlfriends played a key role in the process of healing and moving forward. Nurturing strong ties with their girlfriends is now a priority.
It’s very easy to lose touch with our friends. We have the best of intentions and we certainly mean to set aside some time to get together but somehow school, work, the yard, extra-curricular sports and the very busy-ness of life all get in the way. How is it that time can evaporate so quickly?
In a great article entitled The Busy Trap, Tim Kreider makes a persuasive argument for controlling our addiction to being busy. He ends with a fantastic line: “Life is too short to be busy.” What if we all agreed to stop saying we’re “crazy busy” when people ask us how we’re doing? It’s become a bit of a cliche; isn’t everybody busy these days? I think Tim’s on to something. Our grandmothers were crazy busy trying to raise kids with none of the conveniences we have today, and yet I doubt they responded with “I’m so busy” when they crossed paths with their neighbours. I digress.
When Malcolm died, I discovered just how critical my friends are. My family lives several provinces away so they couldn’t help me much in the aftermath of loss. It was my friends who stepped in and provided much-needed support. My male friends helped out with stuff – computer work, renovating the house, maintaining the yard until I finally figured out how to do all that stuff by myself. (You can read about this process in A replacement husband for Christmas.)
My female friends were my emotional support. They listened to me as I cried, they offered words of reassurance and, much later, they doled out tough love in a bid to help me move forward.
There’s a saying that family is your support through thick and thin and while that’s true for some people it’s also true that a lot of family dynamics leave a great deal to be desired. Of course we should all spend time with our extended families and foster those relationships too. But the stories of support and strength that I hear through my research are mostly about friends in general, and girlfriends in particular.
So if you haven’t had a chance to spend some quality time with your girlfriends in a while, I suggest that you pull out the calendar and set up a date asap. Your kids will survive, your partner/spouse will manage perfectly well and your other obligations can wait. Just ensure that the art is securely fastened to the walls wherever you meet.
I’d love to hear your favourite stories of time spent with your girlfriends, and/or how they helped you through a tough time. Please share!