To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before

Did that get your attention? Now don’t get your hopes up, this post is not a tell-all of my secret past. It is a musing about friendship and what I have learned (and am still learning) about the joys, lessons and power of my female friendships over my almost 44 years.

I have been reflecting about this a lot lately. I used to say that the early twenties are the time when people go through the most change. Now, I am no longer sure that is true…I have been through more change in the last four years of my life that make my early twenties seem easy. Dramatic change can happen at any stage of our life – this I now know firsthand. With so much change, close relationships are bound to change too, ebbing and flowing over the years.

As an adult, I have never been one for large crowds or parties. I actually loathe “networking” because it feels like speed dating. How can I get through three minutes of chit-chat to determine if I have enough in common with this person to use them for job-networking or a potential friendship? Are they going to try to sell my essential oils or something else? Are they trying to get a job at my company? I am just not good at casual relationships – probably because I don’t want to be good at them. I would much rather have great conversation with one or two people than be out in a group of casual acquaintances trying to make a connection of some sort.

So, having close friends has always been important to me. I once said to my friend Maryanne that I collect people.

This is the only picture I have of me and Maryanne. We need to get together Maryanne!

This is the only picture I have of me and Maryanne. We need to get together Maryanne!

Going all the way back to grade school and throughout the various phases of my life, I have “collected” close friends many of which I still connect with today.

Some friendships are as strong as ever with frequent contact. With my local friends, it is fairly easy to regularly get together for lunch, happy hour and an occasional night out. With many of my long distance friends, we meet up for a girls weekend once a year or two, grab dinner when in town, and keep up over Facebook, texts and an occasional phone call. Just this morning, my friends Mary, Beth and I exchanged a few texts about a very hilarious memory we share – a perfect way to start our Sundays with a good laugh.

Me, Beth and Mary at our most recent girls weekend at Beth's cabin, "Lazy Bear"

Me, Beth and Mary at our most recent girls weekend at Beth’s cabin, “Lazy Bear”

Some friendships are strong with infrequent contact. These are the kinds of friends that I may not speak to for many months at a time, but can pick up like it was yesterday. There are no apologies for any lapse, just joy that the connection is still authentic and worthwhile. My friend Megan moved away over a year ago, and she has 2 small children. We are literally having a conversation over a few months via voicemail, texts and Facebook, trying to plan my visit next month. I miss being involved in each other’s daily lives, but I know in my heart (and I hope she knows in hers) that I would be there in an instant if she needed me. Many of my friends fall into this category, and I am so blessed to know we can count on each other to share a joy or a sorrow when we need each other.

Megan and Me at a rally for Elizabeth Colbert-Bush.

Megan and Me at a rally for Elizabeth Colbert-Bush.

Going through so much in recent years, I have grown as a person, and though I have changed, I feel I am more “me” than ever. I know myself a little better, and because I have a very full life with family, friends and career – I am a lot more discerning about where I place my time and energy. I have realized that as I get older, I have less in common “on paper” with my older friendships. Most if not all have never divorced. Most if not all have kids. Some put their careers on hold to take care of their children. I am divorced and never had my own children. I was single for several years as a 40-something, and have been very focused on my career. I am now building a family with my significant other and his wonderful children. One of these things is not like the others…and that thing is usually me!

This means that my friends and I have had to make an effort despite our differences. For most of my friendships we have figured this out. I think one of the keys is that we stay connected through the special memories that we share, and we keep making new ones when we have the chance. We collect more stories to laugh about and share the  next time we see each other…which leads to more stories and so on, and so on.

Another key I think is the respect we have for each other. None of us has walked in the other’s shoes, so it is incredibly important that we reserve judgement and notice, accept and appreciate both our differences and our commonalities.

Finally, we give each other the space to change. When my life was more simple a few years ago, I had more time to be “Auntie Laurie” to my friends kids. I remembered their birthdays and holidays and would send gifts and cards. As they have continued to “multiply” and now I that have my new blended family, I am barely getting out a like on their Facebook or Instagram pages when I see I missed a child’s birthday. I trust that they know how much I still love them and their children – and that I will bring presents when I visit! As my nephew Joseph teases me, he and they are “still in the circle” – I am just redefining what happens in the circle because I know my limitations.

Any effort I put in to these kind of friendships comes back to me many times over. I truly cherish these women, and know that I am a better person because of them.

For all of these women who have had a place in my heart over the years, I am grateful.

I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most, to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you…

Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes the sun

Like a stream that meets a boulder

Halfway through the wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

I have been changed for good

-”For Good”, WICKED