I am madly in love with my husband. End of story. Period.
But it's not the end of story. I used to think this meant that I would never need to find another soul to talk to, laugh with, and confide in. However, because I DO love my husband and want to continue to have a healthy and happy relationship with him, I have come to the conclusion that A GIRL NEEDS GIRLFRIENDS. PERIOD.
Here are the reasons why.
1. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it hurts a whole lot less when it's coming from a girlfriend. If I was to purchase a new outfit and excitedly model it in front of my husband, I wouldn't want to hear that although my new aztec-patterned harem pants look pretty darn hot on the size 0 teenage model, on me the effect is a bit different, and I look as wide as the state of Texas. In fact, if he came out with that statement, I would probably have a mini tantrum and pout the rest of the evening, despite the fact that he had told me the truth and saved me the embarrassment of wearing it in public. My girlfriend, however, is a different story. Not only would she tell me the sad truth of my outfit's atrocity, which I would accept without question, but she would help me figure out a way to repurpose the fabric to make fabulous matching infinity scarves for me and my girls.
2. You can diet together. Or not. Let's face it, going on a diet is tough business. We all know that it's easier to face that challenge with a few companions to share the misery with. Girlfriends are perfect for that. Not only are they great as encouragement to resist temptations and cajole you into meeting them at the gym for that impossible spin class, but they are also perfectly skilled at reasoning and letting you eat that donut "because you earned it."
3. No one wants your man sitting through the latest chick flick, including your man. Even though you get to see the movie you want, it gets annoying and down-right infuriating to have to listen to him snicker and guffaw through all the best, sappiest lines in the movie, or even worse, have to translate the dialog of the period drama you have been waiting all year to see, because he insists that he cannot understand their British accents. It is much more enjoyable to cry, sigh, and laugh with a girlfriend who is coming from the same girl-zone as you are. Really, it's a win-win situation. You get to enjoy the movie and have fun with your friends, your man can sit home and watch the football game with a plate of nachos and sour cream, and you come home all ready to exhibit your romantic feelings for his stoic selflessness in encouraging you to hang with the girls for the night. This handy rule also applies to Broadway productions, symphony performances, operatic overtures, and modern dance theatrics.
4. Girlfriends are supreme sympathizers. The other day I was having a rough day at work. I was feeling sorry for myself because I only had a few minutes for my lunch break and my hands were fatigued and bothering me. I texted my husband to tell him my woes. His response: "Stop texting then." Men are good at solving problems. They pride themselves in being able to reassemble, reorganize, or rethink any problem that you throw their way. Unfortunately, as women, we don't usually want our problem fixed. It may even be unfixable. All we really want is someone to listen. Enter The Girlfriend. Girlfriends know how to listen. They know how to reaffirm that your feelings of frustration/fear/annoyance/worry/anger/embarrassment are valid and understandable. They would feel the exact same way. They would have done the exact same thing. And then they tell you a ridiculous story about when they made a fool of themselves in a situation which has no connection whatsoever to the incident you originally called about, which makes you laugh. Problem not solved, but you sure feel a whole lot better.
5. She knows you inside and out, and loves you anyway. It isn't always right away. Frequently we hide the parts we don't want anyone to know or see for as long as possible, but if your girlfriends are sticking around by your side for any substantial period of time, at some point they are going to see the real you. And I'm not just talking about the make-up free, ponies and grubbies kind of days. They are going to see you in crisis. They are going to see you in pure, hysterical joy. They are going to see you in all your fuming, exasperated glory at some point. It's only a matter of time. That's the true test of friendship right there. If they not only can tolerate your crazy moods and hair-brained ideas, but also join you and add their own version of silliness to the mix, you know that you have the genuine thing. We all need someone who can love us, understand us, and lift us up when we need the boost. Who better to do that than someone who has the same hormonally charged cycles as you do?
Girls Get It. Period. (Pun only slightly intended...)
I have been blessed with so many wonderful women in my life. Girlfriends have helped me through some of the most trying times that I have ever faced. I have had days where I felt all alone in the world, swallowed up in my grief or despair, only to be lifted up and delighted by a perfectly timed phone call from a dear friend, reminding me that not only am I NOT alone, but I am surrounded by love, acceptance, and understanding. That, in the end, is what it's all about.
So, who's up for a Girls' Night Out?
It is 12:30 am and I find myself sitting in front of the bright computer screen, my house completely quiet except for the occasional mumbling coming from my son's room, who has a tendency to talk in his sleep. It is one of my favorite times of day.
I love to smell the crispness of the air in the bluish light of morning. I love the fevered energy of the afternoon, when the world is alive and bustling. I love the mellow fire that dances across the sky as the sun begins its descent below the horizon.
But there is something about the night.
During the day I am able to feed off the energy that comes from the world around me to power through the many responsibilities that I carry. I am constantly distracted with the noise and demands of four children, a house that needs attention, a job that requires my complete focus, along with the deadlines associated with volunteer assignments from the kids' school and from church. My world is noise and bustle. Work and expectations. Busyness and emotional fatigue.
But at night it is quiet. I am alone with my thoughts. I can sit and dream, analyze and write, read and ponder, or just turn everything off, my mind included.
If the craziness of the day has been draining, the quiet of the night is like my personal pit stop.
Tonight I am handing my credit card over to the gas station attendant and proclaiming, "Fill it up! And don't you worry about any spills that might happen when you top it off. I know that I will need all I can get for the road tomorrow, and every drop counts...."
Tomorrow we will be packing the car up to the rafters to prepare for a trip. But this isn't just any old trip. My oldest daughter, Heidi, will be leaving the nest to attend college at BYU-Idaho. The campus is in Rexburg, Idaho, 800 miles by car from our home in Everett, Washington. I know, because I already googled the distance. I also know that, according to google, it should take 11.5 hours to drive by car. By my own experience, however, I know it is more like 14 hours. Of course, that is in a car packed with four kids and one adult with a teeny bladder (and I don't mean my husband). It is the same school that my husband Eric and I met at twenty-one years ago. We absolutely loved going to school there. I will never forget all the amazing experiences and memories made on that campus and in my first little apartment of six girls.
I remember the nervous energy I felt as I walked into my apartment for the first time, to meet the five strangers that I would be living with for the next year. I remember not knowing how to say goodbye to my family, as my parents tearfully gave me a last hug. Like me, they also did not like to prolong things, so as soon as my mom had ensured that my kitchen was stocked with enough milk, cereal, and hamburger helper boxes to last me a month, they left me to start a new chapter in my life.
Six girls sharing two bathrooms, one refrigerator, and a communal pile of clothes and accessories. I was in heaven. We stayed up late talking and laughing, with plenty of goofing off in between. One roommate brought a Jane Fonda exercise video to school with her and we did one of her routines almost every night. Another girl made homemade facial masks with avocados and bananas, making our apartment and our skin smell yummy. We would pass around bridal magazines, dreaming about our own happily-ever-afters, and tease each other about the boys that were constantly hanging around the apartment until curfew.
I had never been surrounded by so much girls-only fun! Even though we had never met before the first day of school, my roommates became my dearest friends. They were my family away from home. In fact, we are still in contact with each other to this day. (On a side note, one of my roommates became my sister-in-law, meeting my husband's brother at our wedding, but that's another story!) Through my relationships with them, I realized how much my life could be enriched by having a handful of girlfriends at my back, looking out for me, encouraging me when I am down, and giving me a healthy dose of silliness and laughter to boot.
After Eric and I were married we shared an old derelict apartment which was above a clothing store and down the block from a frozen yogurt shop. The building was condemned the year after we moved out. I still remember the door which couldn't open all the way into the tiny bathroom because it hit the side of the toilet, and the gaping hole in the floor which was directly beneath our ancient claw-foot tub. Those tubs look fashionable and fun in gorgeous magazine spreads, but in real life, the lack of insulation was torture. Rexburg winters are pretty cold. I will never forget the frigid baths we had to take, since the tub was not equipped with a shower, and the air from outside would come swirling in from the floor, ensuring that our baths were quick and efficient.
Those were some of my happiest days.
Now Heidi will get to attend the same campus and make her own memories. We are thrilled that Heidi wants to attend our alma mater.
The only problem is, I feel like I have entered the Twilight Zone.
When did this child of mine grow to be old enough to leave the nest? I didn't give her permission to grow up so soon, she did it all on her own. I don't remember agreeing to this part of the bargain. It seems like she should still be a cute little thing, barely big enough to lug around her suitcase with a sticker proclaiming "Off to Gramma's House!" on it.
The problem is, I know that I did agree to this part of the plan. From the moment this tiny little bundle was handed into my arms eighteen years ago, I knew that someday I was going to have to let go.
It doesn't make it any easier, of course.
I am going to be that mom who is crying at the first rest stop outside of Rexburg, looking back into her "empty" car because it is one passenger short. I am going to be that mom who is anxiously checking her cell phone every five minutes to see if there is an incoming text from her daughter. I am going to be that mom that calls every night, just to check in and make sure she had something to eat. I am going to be that mom who sits in her daughter's empty room, fingering the porcelain ballerina that she left for her little sister to adopt. And I am going to be that mom who's heart will ache, not having her best friend just down the hall to show her her new outfit or tell her a funny story from the day.
However, I will also be that mom who cries tears of pride and joy as she sees her daughter grow from the new experiences she is about to encounter. I will also be that mom who encourages her to try new things because I know they will be good for her. I will also be that mom who hopes that she will find her own happily ever after with a special love, whether it be in the next year or the next ten. I will also be that mom who, while welcoming her home with a warm embrace, will gently nudge her to expand her own wings as she tentatively takes that first flight.
These eighteen years have made it all so hard to let go. Every day I have had the privilege of watching her go from a teetering toddler, full of smiles and laughs, to a beautiful young woman, full of promise and courage. I have seen her struggles and triumphs, her heartaches and growth. Watching it all, I have had the opportunity to love her more every day.
Yes, she may still be just a cute little thing, barely big enough to lug around her suitcase (she is mine, after all), but now it will be emblazoned with a sticker shouting "Off to COLLEGE!" The collection of beloved dolls and stuffed animals are now replaced with a collection of fashionable scarves and bright bottles of nail polish, and they will soon be packed into that big ominous suitcase.
It is just around the corner, and as much as I would like to hold on to what has always been, she will be off to start her own adventures. But my how her wings will shine. I can't wait to see how beautiful they will be, or how high she can soar.
My name is Heather.
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