Power of Friends

The school year came way too early this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy for 8 hours of free time, but this year I just couldn’t seem to get my act together to prepare my 9 year old for a new school year. Mentally, I wasn’t ready to let him go, I guess. Ready or not however, the school year began and I ushered my child into his classroom to meet his new teacher and see his desk. I waved goodbye (no more kisses in public) and left the school. As I pulled into my driveway, a pervasive emptiness enveloped me. This is not something I’ve ever experienced before. I’m the first one to do the Back To School Happy Dance (stay at home moms know exactly what dance this is) as I drive off after the first day, so I’m not sure why this year was different. I stepped into my house, which is a wreck from the summer, and cried. I was lost.  It wasn’t until today, the third day of school, that I’ve felt my groove again and I think I owe it to my girlfriends.

Life is full of so many changes. I always had lots of friends, but I never really had close friends until I lost my father. I learned that losing someone who was my cheerleader, my confident, and the first person to set me straight when I was wrong is harder than hard. It’s like losing your inner compass. It took me a a few months to find my bearings and my true north. Surprisingly, it was the girlfriends in my life that helped me find it. I remember feeling stripped bare to the soul when I received an email from a friend who had lost her father several years ago. She knew exactly what to say to me that made me realize that I was not the only person in the world to have lost her bearings in the world. It opened my eyes to the power of the women in my life. It was life changing. I still have many friends, but the friendships I have are meaningful. No longer the sorority girl back biting petty relationships, but ones that I can be my goofball, nerdy, complete basket-case self with. I no longer feel the need to allow someone into my life who loves me for anything other that who I am: messy house, no makeup, haven’t been able to call, need to vent, need to laugh, need to cry – whatever. I am so grateful for these relationships. I wish I had learned to trust the women in my life before I became an adult, but I suppose that comes with maturity. Maturity to be able to recognize when my friends need someone to talk to about the challenges of marriage, parenting, life stresses and to be that person who always has a bottle of chardonnay in the refrigerator ready to go to the back porch for an impromptu chat session. Maturity to know that the stresses that I have are not so different from my friends, so we might as well laugh about it together.

I don’t have a daughter, I wish I did, because I would tell her about the power of friends. As a teenager, I wanted to surround myself with people who made me look better. I think that’s what most teenagers want, especially girls. To create a perception of themselves that is better than their distorted self image. Those relationships are powerful because they can create a conflict within themselves. Nobody will like me if I don’t wear the right clothes, have the right friends, go to the right places, like the right things, the list goes on. But this creates a distrust of the very people you’re trying to impress. So the cycle begins, shallow relationships – don’t let anyone in, don’t let anyone see you on the inside, change who you are to be like them. But what does that leave you with? Loneliness and anxiety – the very thing that friendships are supposed to cure. So instead, let’s teach our children to take their power back. Tell our kids to only allow the people who laugh with you, not at you, when you can’t figure out your homework, or you stink at ballet. Be friends with the people who encourage you to be the best one in English, instead of rolling their eyes when you’re the first one to answer the question or you break the curve. Choose friends who empower you, not the ones who take your power away. That’s why we are here, isn’t it? To build each other up, not tear each other down.

So this week, I have pulled myself together and trudged off to my boot camp where the girls (and a few guys) in there lift me up without saying a word, besides “Come on Red, you’ve got this!” Yes, I do – I’ve got this!

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