Why our women friends nurture us and keep us sane.
Family is important, but when we moved recently to be closer to grandchildren, I left behind a circle of women who were special to me. While I love being with my husband, my son, and his family, women friends are equally important. We women need extra circles of love too. I am still in touch with those special friends from my past, and I’m in the process of creating a new local circle of women friends.
Traditionally women would do their work together (washing the clothes in the river, hauling water from the communal well). I grew up in Montana, and when I was young, I remember identifying with the pioneer woman in the diorama at the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena. She was beside her little sod house with her well, her chickens, and not another living soul as far as the eye could see.
When I was a newlywed, I didn’t think I needed friends. In her book Women Rowing North, Mary Pipher tells us that our culture does not teach us that our friends are high priorities that hold our lives in place (especially as we age). But, one by one, we eventually realize the treasures that are female friendships.
Large circles aren’t necessary, it’s the closeness that matters. In a documentary about heart health, Tieraona Low Dog, MD, described asking a patient to give her the names of three people she could call who would come right now if she needed them. These kinds of friendships don’t just happen; they are created and nurtured intentionally.
The way we interpret the phrase “There can be only one” depends on if we see ourselves as having the starring role or the supporting role. If we play a supporting role in someone else’s story, there is scarcity and competition to be the one best (your skill here) or to have the one best (your desire here.) We see other women as the competition. (The phrase ‘divide and conquer’ comes to mind.)
If instead we see ourselves as the stars of our own story, there is abundance and cooperation because we are confident in our status as, in the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “the first, the last, the best, and the only one of our kind.” There can be no competition, and we stand united with other women as friends.
As unique individuals on our own soul-tending journey, we can tell our stories to each other and share what we know. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Other Women by BJ Gallagher is a fun book that I took home because of the picture on the cover—four happy women friends sitting together in a canoe. We all have our own stories of things we learned while talking to our women friends, things nobody else thought to mention.
My favorite book on the topic is The Friendship of Women by Joan Chittister, an American Benedictine nun, theologian, author, speaker and a true wise-woman elder. She tells us that women’s friendships and their penchant for openness, possibility, support, empathy, personal experience, nurturance, acceptance, and intimacy are new hope for the human race.
Depending on our skills and interests, we can meet and bond with other women in all kinds of circles that we join or start ourselves (including reading, writing, community service, workshops, dog walking, music, community acupuncture, yoga, laughing yoga, dance, quilting, gardening, and dream work.) My dream is that Sacred Sisterhood Circles—made of women who come together on a deeper level as mentors, role models, and friends to congratulate, encourage, and validate each other—will become common place. Strong women lift each other. We are better together.