In my “About Me” section on this here blog, I have a list of 25 Things About Me. Number 5 on that list is “I sometimes think that I relate better to males than females but I wouldn’t revoke my membership in the sisterhood for anything. Women rock.” and that sums up my thinking about my women friends to a tee. I have some amazing women friends and I count myself lucky to be in their company.
Some of these women have known me since I was a child – Laurie J. and I met in second grade. Lori M. and I were college roommates. Others are from high school, college, various jobs I’ve had along the way in my career – but all of them have a singular theme: With these women, I have given up pretense. I am my true self, imperfections and all. That is why they are so meaningful to me.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure (and it really was just plain old fun) to spend a weekend in Coronado with 23 women from my college days at Stanford. Some I knew really well. Some I was just meeting that weekend. But the fun part was we could all be ourselves and show up at breakfast in PJs or running clothes or fully decked out and ready for the day and be equally accepted. It’s the best feeling in the world to be with people who just let you be you.
This group has been doing this in one form or another for over 25 years. It was something that started as people realized seeing each other only every 5 years at a reunion wasn’t going to cut it. Now it happens when someone plans the weekend, not on a set schedule. Sometimes it is only a handful of women going somewhere truly exotic – but at the core, it is this bond of familiarity that keeps people coming back.
My first outing with the group was white water rafting in Oregon about 15 years ago. Lori invited me and I figured it was a great way to spend a few days with her, never really factoring in the rest of the group. I had a great time with everyone and I felt comfortable being in their company. I remember one trip to Lake Tahoe a few years later where I was really struggling with my sister’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and had a very heartfelt, honest conversation with one of the women there who happens to be a doctor. Her compassion and truth touched me deeply – and helped me prepare for what was ahead in a way I might never have been able to do.
When we get together, there is always laughter and stories and wine and food. We are a loud group to be around, but the kind of group you look at and think “I’ll have what they’re having.” We just have fun. We talk about kids and work and parents and challenges and successes – no subject is off the table. And your feelings are always allowed.
This particular group includes some amazingly accomplished women – doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, education professionals, stay at home moms – it’s a cross section of talent. This diversity means you get some really different perspectives and ideas. I have loved seeing how conversations ebb and flow when I am with these women. And following one get together, someone shared this article, an excerpt of which is below. Apparently, we’re not the only ones to believe in the power of female friendship.
A friend of a friend wrote last summer that she just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences.
Physically this “quality girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.
Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.
Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged – not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
Talking with a girlfriend is as good as going to the gym? Sign me up. In another article sent by one of this last gathering’s attendees focuses on the value of women friends as we grow older. It’s safe to say I don’t need any convincing at this point – I know the power of these friendships first hand. They have held me up through all the slings and arrows of life’s misfortune and cheered me on when I was riding high.
I have women friends that I do weekends away with who are from earlier in my life and we can pick up where we left off in a heartbeat. It’s comforting to be with people who know your whole story and see you for not just who you are today, but that younger woman you once were. That makes me feel connected in a way that is truly special. It’s something I realized I really missed when I lost my parents and sister – these women know me through and through. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I know it matters to be fully known by someone else.
I’ve often thought that I would love to be able to gather all the women who are special to me in one place for a Grand Salon – to have them mix and mingle with the sole purpose to be to bond with each other and become a larger support system. That may have to stay a dream, but I think it might be time for me to at least plan the next weekend adventure.
I remember my mom talking about “the girls” when she would plan an afternoon of bridge or a lunch at our house. These women were from her younger days, the mysterious time of her life when she wasn’t just our mother, but her own person. Those girls have all passed away, but mom kept her female friends going strong until her own death. She must have figured all this out long ago.
I plan to follow her example and so to my dear friends, old and new – thank you for being in my life, thank you for all you have shared with me, and thank you for letting me be me. Every single one of you rock.