This is one that’s been on my mind for a few weeks. I’ve learned over and over again that the best time to write is when the idea is fresh. When the Muse speaks. But I didn’t, and then I tried to go back and write down those phrases that were so effortlessly flowing in my head and they just wouldn’t come.
So I sit here and try this again because the Muse told me it was time at 4:37am on a Saturday. I know better than to argue.
I also know, from way too many experiences to mention, that the timing of everything in our lives is purposeful…so I am trusting that there was reason as to why I haven’t shared this until now. Maybe time away from it allowed some dust to settle from the thoughts spinning in my head. Maybe I needed to wait until this weekend beach getaway to literally get away from the noise and give my mind room to breathe. Maybe I needed the time to build up the courage.
We’re about to find out.
Dear Strong Woman,
I have always struggled with female relationships.
Perhaps that seems odd considering my girl power attitude and the persistent female empowerment vibes I put out into the world, but it’s true. I’ve had core groups of girlfriends and various stages in my life, but as I’ve transitioned from phase to phase, not all have transitioned with me. The shift from each phase was mostly natural: changing school districts; transitioning to high school; going away to college; moving away from home…so perhaps it makes sense that friends have come and gone.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too.
But once you’ve parked, once you’ve established yourself somewhere, you can’t point to geographical differences as the reason why friendships in that space fizzled. Now it’s something more.
Most of us go through some sort of formal education until our early twenties or so, but I’ve found that the most valuable lessons I’ve learned happened in my mid to late twenties. Those are the years when you take everything you’ve learned up until that point, throw it at the wall like spaghetti, and see what sticks.
Without the crutch of school to fall on, suddenly it’s up to us to create our own identity. To establish our place in this great big world. We often get sucked into activities and behaviors we think we should take part in at this time in our lives. So many of us associate finding our niche in the world with finding our people, causing us to do things our “people” do so that we too can feel accepted. Yes, as we enter adulthood…we resort back to tactics we lived by in high school.
Perhaps we find joy in this because being surrounded by others is all we know.
But how many of us find joy, and how many of us are just trying to keep our spots in the herd?
For the latter, there comes a point where many wake up one day, craving a little something more than what the world has to offer us. Not being ones to accept the it-is-what-it-is mentality, the Strong Women of the world go out and create it.
That’s what I did. That’s what I had to do.
Lost in a sea of to-do lists full of tasks for others, I created a new one with me on the agenda. The others still existed, still burned a hole in my notepad until tasks were either checked off or crossed through, but none of that happened without me taking care of myself first…which was a HUGE shift.
As I began to construct a life that fulfilled me, energized me, spoke to me…things changed. I was happier, heathier, less dependent on others to fill my cup as I learned how to do that on my own. I said yes to things I never dreamed of saying yes to, said no to things I never thought I’d be brave enough to say no to, and found myself.
But while I liked who I was becoming, not everyone agreed with this change.
To give you glimpse into some of the growing pains in my friendships during this transition, here is a Dear Strong Woman entry I wrote during the evolution process that I never shared publically, before the Dear Strong Woman blog was even a thing.
Dear Strong Woman,
I’m not feeling all that strong on this one, but here goes:
Here’s a real-life real-time scenario:
I’m currently getting ready to head out to a night in with some of my girlfriends. I love them all to pieces, but I’ve found that…well…I don’t get as much out of our time together as I’ve used to.
Yep, I said it.
This truth makes me feel uneasy.
But I’m working on that. (Growth is a constant process.)
Some of the thoughts in my head currently:
“When I opt for water instead of the wine, I’ll tell them it’s because I have a long run tomorrow.”
“When I’m ready to go, I’ll tell them it’s because I’ve got an early morning.”
Both of these things are TRUE, so why do I feel so…icky?
The whole truth? I’ve reached this point in my life where I get my fill of social situations pretty quick. After a short while, all I want is a cup of tea, a couple of pups, and stillness. I also, to be honest, don’t really like wine. #girlsnightfoul
So why do I feel like I’m letting them down…for being me? (Maybe because it’s the new me?)
At the heart of it, I know it’s because I am a different woman now. I know that my soul craves something more.
And I can’t feel guilty for becoming the best version of myself. (Currently repeating this out loud.)
So I’ll wrap this up with what’s become my mantra as of late:
You will evolve.
Not everyone will.
Almost a year later, I continue to live by that manta. I still have my girls, but they are a different mix: women I’ve met along this journey; women who are also in a transition from self-destruction to self-discovery.
We do things normal girl groups do, just…differently. For example: We hang out at least once a week, but virtually. Pretty cool when your vibe is able to attract your tribe across different states (countries, even!) and time zones. We also recommend our favorites, but our favorites are different, too. This is not to say that my girls don’t recommend a great face mask or recipe here and there, but our forte…is books.
Damn, do we know our books.
We ask each other how we’re doing, call each other on the bullshit if we throw out an “I’m fine” response when we clearly aren’t, and can usually come up with a podcast or book recommendation for anything. AN.Y.THING.
And THAT’S how I met my other girls.
My favorite authors.
My growth gurus.
These women were able to take everything I was thinking and express it more beautifully and wittingly than I thought possible. These women were able to take everything I was feeling and strip it down to the root of why I felt that way. These women shared their toughest lessons, their truest truths, their most heart-breaking moments, and their beautiful love stories.
And (some of) these women did this live in Philadelphia exactly three weeks ago.
The moment I knew I had to go to this event was after I finished Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior, fan-girled the shiiiit out of her social media accounts, and discovered the event she co-created with (literary genius) Jennifer Rudolph Walsh that just so happened to be making its way through a nearby city a few months later.
The moment I knew I was where I belonged was when I the program I was handed upon arriving was actually a workbook, pen included.
The moment I knew this event was created for me was when Jen Walsh opened the show by very casually saying, “I used to always think that a strong woman was someone who never asked anyone else for help.”
(And my jaw. On. The. Floor.)
The moment that sparked the a-ha! light bulb wake-up-call I didn’t even know I needed was right after intermission.
After lots of laughter, tears, and all the usual things that happen during a good quality girl chat, there was a short intermission. I took the time to free write for a bit, just trying to best capture all of the wisdom and fire flooding my brain. More so, I took the time to just sit and take in the energy in the room. The collective laughing, crying, amen-ing, and hell-yes-ing, that had taken place.
These are my girls.
In an effort to regroup after intermission, Latham Thomas led us in a guided meditation. She told us to create an intention. Something you need in this moment. The first word that popped into my head was guidance.
I’ve been on the cusp of something for a while now. Something that’s riiiiiight…there. Something on the tip of my tongue. I can only describe it to you in terms of energy, because when I am in the flow, it is a current that runs through me.
But running…where? And…how?
The meditation continued. We went from breathing and sitting to singing and standing. She instructed us to put our left hands on our hearts and our right hands on the shoulder of the person to our right. Sitting alone, and with a few seats on either side of me, I waited for people to shuffle towards me. My girls. This is the kind of connection I need.
No one moved toward me.
And before even a twinge of disappointment settled in…I blocked it. It’s okay that they aren’t strong enough to be vulnerable and take steps towards me. I don’t fault them. We all have some growing to do. Until then, I am strong enough to stand alone.
Still high off the energy, I was rattling off as best recap I could to my Strong Man on the way home. But when I got to the part where I was describing the thoughts in my head during the meditation, I had a breakthrough.
I used to always think that a strong woman was someone who never asked anyone else for help.
Jen’s words. My words.
Who am I to forgive them for not being strong enough to come to me? If I needed that connection in that moment, why didn’t I reach out for it?
I couldn’t believe I was saying this.
Here’s the thing: I firmly believe that I should never have to ask a friend to show interest in me. That I should never have to ask a partner to love me. To fight for me. If these people can’t see that I am worth that, then perhaps they we never my people to begin with. Because at the end of the day…
I don’t need anyone.
In true Strong Woman fashion, I can take care of myself.
The ones I hold near and dear to my heart are the ones who I want to be in it. But…the minute they show me reason to believe they don’t want me in theirs, I subconsciously begin the write-off process. The withdrawal. The I’m-not-the-wrong-one-here-they-obviously-don’t-want-me-around-anyway front. I tell myself I am okay with the fade because I don’t want to be with anyone who doesn’t want to be with me. I know what I bring to the table, so trust me when I say that I’m not afraid to eat alone.
But as I sit here closing out this post a whole five days after starting it, reflecting on the experience I had at that event three weeks ago, and hell…even reflecting on the past three days…
I’ve realized my tragic flaw.
I want to live a happy life, and there are some people I’ve connected with along the way who take my happiness to that next level.
If I want that…
I need them.
“Who am I to forgive them for not being strong enough to come to me?”
If I need them, I need to be brave enough to ask for what I need.
So I urge you, Strong Woman, to swallow your pride.
Even if you’re scared.
Even if you think it’s too late.
Ask for what you need.