I’ve heard far too many times in my life another woman say to me some version of, “I’m not really friends with other women. They’re too: ______” with a variety of choice words to fill in the blank… catty, bitchy, high drama, mean, jealous, and so on. The plot of Mean Girls in real life.
There are a lot of women that are distrustful and unsure of other women, for a variety of reasons. Most likely experiential and painful. The fear of closeness, the lack of trust, the unwillingness to try again is almost always founded in some sort of reality. I’ve experienced, and admittedly even perpetrated, episodes of pain myself and I’ve read Queen Bees and Wannabes – the real life psychological analysis of the numerous difficulties girls and women face. But it makes me so sad, because female friendships can be unbelievably rewarding, life affirming, positive, strengthening, and beautiful.
Female friendships not only can be all of those things, but should be all of those things. And they are completely worth pursuing.
In every phase of my life, from early childhood to present, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have such relationships and it’s so important to me to show women who feel that honest-to-goodness female friendships aren’t possible that they really are. In addition, its important that men see the value of what women can give to each other; something different than what comes from romantic relationships– unconditional support, sisterhood, it’s unique. That’s what this little segment, Women Rock Wednesdays, is all about. Of friends who become like sisters. Of intergenerational relationships that inspire and calm. Of growing up to find aunts as peers. Of women finding something in other women that is healthy, fulfilling, and rewarding. Because it’s always possible.
This past January, I planned a big birthday party for myself. I booked my cousin-in-law Megan (who I have known since she was 6 and now she’s 19 and in college and I just adore her) to come to my house and teach a painting party — paint and wine and all that jazz. I sat down at my computer on January 5th to send the email invitation. Party minimum was 10 and I knew not everyone would be able to make it, so I invited far more than that. As I made a mental list of the women I’d love to be there, I was shocked at how quickly it grew. On the day of, I ended up with 20 women in my home. 20 amazing women, packed in like sardines, having an absolute blast. My heart was full to bursting and I felt so much gratitude for all the amazing women in my life — near and far. In my kitchen that day and embedded deep down in my soul from across the globe (because I have an awesome friend in Australia and that means I get to say that).
And as I sat down to write this post, I even thought of some of the “mean girls” I knew once upon a time. The girls whose pictures on Facebook and still give me the heebie-jeebies as I think about the cruel words said to my face, behind my back… but thinking about it now, as much as it sucked for me then, seeing those girls — smiling, still together, in big situations and little — I’m glad they have each other. Every woman deserves that!
Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of amazing women that do amazing things in this world and are worthy of celebration. But that celebration is someone else’s job — Google Doodles and the like 🙂 I want to celebrate something else — the thing that happens when two women connect with one another. That’s what Women Rock Wednesday is all about.
A-a-ron Rod-gers just won celebrity Jeopardy… so that was kind of awesome. And got me re-hooked on Jeopardy. Which I love love love. Even though I don’t know anything about classic literature or operas of the twenty-fourth and a half century. True story though, one time I took the online Jeopardy test. They never contacted me. I’m convinced that it’s because in a moment of complete and total idiot-level panic I typed in “positron” instead of “proton” for “this positively charged atomic particle…” or something along those lines. Such a ridiculously dumb answer, and for a chemistry major no less. This has been my secret Jeopardy shame for many a year.
Even more secret a shame than the fact that I was all about middle school Quiz Bowl once upon a time and took great delight in the fact that 1) I was the only girl on the team (boom!) and 2) that I wore the most gloriously denim jumper that ever denimed to the competition in 8th grade. Holy crap did I rock that thing. In my own mind anyway. Smart. Denim-clad. Barettes in my hair. Maybe I’ll make that my story if I ever do get on Jeopardy. I hope I can tell it awkwardly enough– lord knows that people with legitimately cool stories at the break never get very far. Just, next time around, it’s proton… proton… proton…
Seth and I are headed to SoCal to visit the Lemas over the long weekend and I’m crazy crazy excited about it. SoCal because that’s where they live. Like all the time. Can you even imagine?
One of the coolest things about the Lemas is that we have never lived any closer to them than whatever the astronomical distance between Michigan and California is (but also never further than the even more astronomical distance between DC and Cali, so we’ve got that). And yet, we’ve remained super close. I’m sure it helped that Chris was Seth’s boss for a good long while… but he’s not any more and we still super love them and I’m pretty sure that was never the only thing. Regardless, as a result of that distance, our relationship is completely and totally travel-fascinating. FASCINATING! We have gotten together to hang out all over this lovely country of ours (plus Mexico!) and that makes any and all of my Lema Memory Montages extra special and fun.
This weekend, I spent a TON of time doing yard work. I got a bug up my butt about needing to remove all the plastic lining from the garden beds in our back yard and replace them with brick and for some reason, I decided that removing all the plastic, trenching the sod, pulling all the weeds, and purchasing, laying, and securing 126 individual 10 lb bricks would be a one person, one day job, most certainly… and when I was done, I was going to maybe mow real quick and use the string trimmer around the trees and along the fence line.
Completely delusional. Also, my hamstrings are still KILLING ME.
But, in my delusional state, I had lots and lots and lots of time for mind-based montages. And the Lemas kept popping in on account of, as I said above, 1) we’re going to see them this weekend and 2) such montages are especially brilliant.
During one such sweat-soaked, sun blasted (because, guys, it got up to like 75 degrees this weekend– snap!!!) montage, I stumbled upon Chris’s notion of “sphere of influence” and realized that finally, after something like7? maybe even 8? years… I think I finally get what it means. Finally! And it’s not even ridiculous at all. In fact, I love it. Just like all love every other thing that is Lema. Of course.
I don’t remember what hotel or what city or what year it was… but once upon a time, long ago and far away, Chris mentioned something about his desire to have influence. To have a sphere of influence, I believe, or at least that’s how it imprinted in my brain. I don’t know that I was necessarily even part of that particular conversation, I may have just overheard something between Chris and Seth, but it was such a weird thing to say (I thought) and such a foreign concept (to me) that I really did just kind of let it tumble through my mind over and over and over again over the last several years.
Like a pebble in the sea, that idea is smooth now.
(And that’s a particularly appropriate metaphor here because I have been to not just two oceans with the Lemas, but also a legitimate sea — The Sea of Cortez.)
At the time, way back when, I knew Chris as Seth’s boss. At a software company. He was different, of course, because he’s from California and really introduced the whole “working from where you are” concept to the company. He put a lot more emphasis on intelligence and value and culture than most (well, any) other “boss” I’d ever known and he super appreciated all of those things about Seth, so naturally, I loved him. At the same time, Chris also had this little side life that I was vaguely aware of… computers, internet, WordPress, something…
And in that arena, influence was his goal.
Sooooo… what? Like he wanted to be the boss of computers and the internet and WordPress or something? Because that’s what influence means, right? Being the boss, in charge, in control, telling people what’s what and how’s how and who’s who.
Not to Chris. And not in reality. Where Chris lived.
Turns out, influence is not synonymous with power or control or position. If it’s forced or mandated or manufactured, it’s not genuine influence at all.
What Chris has taught me is that influence comes from sharing your story, building trust, and cultivating interest.
Chris taught me this not by actually saying any of it (although he probably has, because Chris has basically at one point or another said all the words— kind of like, if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters and enough time, eventually they’ll stumble on a literary masterpiece… but seriously, most of Chris’s words are on purpose insightful, I believe)… nope. He taught me this by doing it. By letting me hang at his beach house for a week as crazy fascinating and ridiculously “California” people came and went to celebrate my husband’s birthday and smoke cigars and play in the sand. Then again when we went on a cruise with a bunch of WordPress folks that scared me (on account of coolness). Sometimes they talked shop, most of the time they laughed and told stories. Built trust, relationships… influence. More recently, Chris transitioned full time into the WordPress world. He’s no longer technically Seth’s boss, but it wasn’t really ever about being Seth’s boss. He and Seth had a relationship that really transcended work roles and that lives on, regardless of what company Chris calls home. And when Chris did join a new company, he did so with a big old sphere of influence spread out in every direction (because that’s what spheres do) and that meant sooooo much more than his new fancy job title, high up position, standing in the company.
Like I said, completely fascinating.
So yeah, being an influencer, that’s a pretty worthy goal. Not a weird one at all. Watching Chris do it was kind of spectacular. And I think building a solid sphere of influence is kind of my goal too. Not power or position. Not fame or fortune or money. Definitely not in the WordPress community (I mean, thank goodness for WordPress, allowing me to blog without understanding a dang thing about it, but therein lies the problem in that sphere, you know?) Not even an appearance on SNL. Rather, to have a sphere of influence because I shared my story, I built trust, and I cultivated interest.
Anyway, I’m off to SoCal… got to go pack a bag! Woot!
Ahhhh… hope. To discuss my thoughts on hope, I really have to start with what I consider the opposite.
Have you ever had a case of the eff-its? It’s a condition to which I am highly susceptible.
Never heard of it? Let me explain.
A case of the eff-its happens when you give up hope and just say EFF IT. So, essentially, it’s the opposite of hope.
I’ve been known to say eff it with respect to eating (ok,especially eating), exercising, cleaning, studying, yard work, cooking, hair styling, grad schooling/experimenting, etc, etc, etc. But if I’m totally honest with myself, as satisfying as screaming EFF IT and diving into some sort of lactose-laced decadence (sans lactaid, because I’m a glutton for punishment when I’m doing it to myself), hope is always better.
In 2013, I was presented with an occasion to choose hope and I hoped harder and more vehemently than I’d ever hoped for anything before. In May, my grandfather fell into a canal in Venice, Italy and took an enormous amount of contaminated water into his lungs. Given his age, lung condition, and long-term history of smoking, the Italian doctors gave him very little chance of survival. But you guys, he pulled through. Against all odds, and perhaps on the strength of hope and love alone. During that time, all I wanted was for my Grandpa to come home again and I hoped for it night and day for the entire month long ordeal. Never once did I feel a sense of despair, never once did I give up hope and say eff it. How could I? The thing I hoped for was worth it.
So perhaps, then, the secret to hope is making sure that the thing you’re hoping for is truly worth it?
When I contract the eff its about diet and exercise, it’s usually because I feel like I’ve eaten something “bad” or failed to work out hard enough, but recently, I embraced the notion of Health At Every Size (HAES) in combination with the idea of living the healthiest life you can enjoy. I can more reasonably hope for a healthy lifestyle and comfort in my own skin than I can hope for a body and/or lifestyle that’s simply not enjoyable for me to maintain.
After 30, I hope for a healthy and enjoyable life.
When I contract the eff its about cleaning, it’s usually because I’m tired and I’ve set unreasonable expectations for myself. I make a mile long to do list and become overwhelmed. But it’s amazing how nice it feels to wake up and make breakfast in a kitchen that’s been tidied up. Just one little thing. And I think I can hope for a basic level of maintenance clean, enough to keep my home a peaceful place for us to live, without feeling the need to edge the carpets and dust the blinds on a weekly basis.
After 30, I hope for a peaceful and comfortable home.
Grad school weakened my mental immune system and I was highly prone to the eff its during that time. In retrospect, I think that’s because the only thing I ever hoped for was to be done. I took no pleasure from the process because it was never the end. And suddenly, the magnet my Aunt Susan gave me during grad school makes so much sense:
Right. Happiness is not defined by getting to the destination, but rather by finding happiness in the moment. I need to hope for happiness rather than the thing I expect to bring it, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 years, it’s that happiness can be found in the most unexpected of places.
After 30, I hope for happiness, wherever it may be.
I suppose the place where hope has never really deserted me… no, let me rephrase that. The place where, in my life, I have been least likely to desert hope has been in relationships. There are a lot of people in this world that I love very, very much and as evidenced by the immense hope I held on to while my Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt suffered through my grandfather’s terrible ordeal in Italy this spring, the hope I can feel for their safety, well-being, and happiness, is truly limitless.
After 30, I will continue to hope for all-things-good-and-faith-and-peace-when-they-are-not for all the people I love.
Hope truly is a thing with feathers and in my first 30 years (or perhaps in the last year of my first 30 years) I’ve learned to appropriately direct it to what truly matters in my life, regardless of the storm. Much like it’s cousin love, hope asks for nothing in return and is not in limited supply. Of course, it can be accompanied by disappointment should the thing you hope for not come to be, but hope for peace or recovery or strength or gratitude can simply take its place.
PS: You know what else was a thing with feathers? Even if only briefly? Dinosaurs. Excellent.