In middle school, high school, and most of college, my girlfriends were my center. Everything I did, and everything I knew came from them and returned to them. But, over time, let’s say college age, I became one of those girls who would describe herself as someone who “got along better with guys than with girls.” Which really just meant I wanted the boys I thought were cute all to myself, but I used the unoriginal excuse that girls seemed to crave drama and guys were just easy going and liked to hang out, not gossip or start trouble. As time moved on, the girlfriends I had from my younger days, I kept, but I wasn’t interested in making any new ones–really ever.
When I got married, some woman, I don’t remember who, told me to find good girlfriends and hold them tight. And whatever-her-name-was was right. My husband did not like my male friends, not even my old ones. It was better for him that we made couple friends, and after a few fights, I agreed it was better for our relationship if we made couple friends. I thought making friends with a couple would mean my husband would get to hang out with the cool half of the couple and I would get stuck with the wife. But what I didn’t know was that making couple friends would save me by opening up a whole world I hadn’t really explored in my youth: the world of girlfriends.
During the early years of my marriage, I met great girlfriends like Rachel who was married to Josh and Jill who was married to Doug. Luckily, both my husband and I got along with both halves of the couple, and they got along with us—or at least they continued to invite us over for weekend football games, game nights and holidays. As time went on, my husband became more comfortable with me hanging out with single girlfriends like Rachael who lived with me when my husband was in Korea (man, did we have some fun times!), Courtney who has a firecracker wit and the smarts to match, my supervisor Eliza who was awesome wrapped in a small package sealed with terrificness, or Jilly who was deemed “safe” because she was dating one of my husband’s friends–luckily for me she was also full of energy and had a caring heart. I started accumulating so many girlfriends; it became hard to see the forest for the trees. But my early instincts to keep the cute boys all to myself wasn’t wrong, and eventually the drama came, not in the form of any of my girlfriends, but in the form of one of my husband’s.
When my world began imploding, it was my girlfriends who stood by my side, sometimes holding me up and other times, picking me up off the floor. It was my girlfriends who talked me through the crazy thoughts and allowed me to sharpen my faith on the stones of their experience, grace and compassion. I didn’t necessarily seek out girlfriends, but they kept coming into my life through my Bible study class, or through work, or friends from my past who reached out to help me, like my girl Meg in Tennessee who spent countless hours on the phone with me, letting me weep and curse, shout and sit silently. Women opened their arms to me like my sister-in-law-turned-friend, Jen, who put up with more of my whining and crying at the same time she was pushing me to run farther, run faster and pick up the pieces of my perspective.
During my deployment to Afghanistan, I met Peggy, Melissa and Megan, and I deepened my friendship-turned-sisterhood with Tommi. All these women let me expel the demons of my thoughts, and, like the best girlfriends should, they cried with me sometimes; they made me laugh sometimes; they told me it wasn’t my fault sometimes; they gave me difficult truths sometimes, and they showed up all the times I needed them.
I continue to receive the gifts of girlfriends as the shadows are starting to dissolve back to where they came from a little more each year. I meet wonderful women; some of them are introduced to me by their husbands, and some I have the honor of serving alongside like Shelmon and Deb who have shared their faith and never-say-die-attitudes. Others are in my life just because sisterhood is a beautiful thing that I didn’t understand or appreciate because I was so blind for so long.
There is little more precious a gift than sharing your life with someone else. Each one of my beautiful girlfriends has shared her heart with me in some way, lifted me up and pushed me forward in others, commiserated with my pain and disappointment and my struggles with motherhood and being an ex-wife. Now, I’m moving into a phase where there are women in my life who are there because they need girlfriends, too, to show them that the girls don’t bring the drama. When you get older, girlfriends bring the healing and, hopefully, the wine.