2. The Power of Each Other

 She is my friend. She’s my family. My insides. She will be fine because she has to be fine. That’s how important she is to me. ~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

We all sat around the table with one of my girlfriends at the head.  She would instruct us, training our noses and our taste buds.  The spread was gorgeous – cheeses of all kinds white and yellow, some with blue veins, lush grapes, creamy humus, toasted pita, spanish tortilla, and twenty elegant island women comfortable in linen slacks and summer dresses.  Two wine glasses were at each place – one for the whites we would taste first and another for the bold reds.

The energy of the room could be seen as a glow throughout the district.  Power pulsing from each woman combined in the vibrant room in flavours of family and friendship, sitting on the house like a heralding star.  There were sisters, cousins, girlfriends, mothers, aunts, grandmothers.  There were matriarchs with manchego and shrimp and adolescents with coca cola in their glasses.  English and spanish would alternate throughout the room with white and red wine.  Stories were shared, wisdom imparted, updates given and scarlet jokes teased out of the most unexpected places.

It was as if these ladies know what I had intended to write about today:  A woman without girlfriends is a lost soul cut adrift without an anchor.

In going through the circles of love formed around a woman there will grow an understanding that she meets the varied needs of many.  What is not visible in this picture, however, are her varied needs and how they are met.  She is a complex, multi-faceted, interesting and unique being.  No one person can meet all her needs.  She has many passions and many contexts, plays many roles in the lives of others.  In her own story there are also many roles, a full cast of interesting people who play a part in her own life.  Of all the people she chooses to populate her stage perhaps the most underestimated cast members are her girlfriends.

No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never get through it without your friends. ~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

It is a common tragedy – the woman newly divorced finds herself in a place she does not recognize and did not anticipate ever visiting.  From the day of her wedding, if not sometime before, she has devoted herself to her husbands’ needs, desires, soothed his ego and raised his children.  Her bridesmaids on that day of flowers, lace and vows, would have known standing pretty in pink satin that they were losing her, handing her over.  Even with the best of her intentions Saturday morning breakfast dates would give way to his laundry and Thursday night karaoke would be traded in for cooking him dinner.  She would play the role blissfully unaware for a time and all would be right in her shrinking world.

And then the day of parting.  The feeling of failure, the complete rending of her world into two parts of his and hers, and the stifling silence and isolation that follows.  She probably hasn’t seen her bridesmaids in months.  They probably followed her lead into their own shrinking worlds of domestic conformity.  She is in a desolate place, an isolation that she helped to create.

Should the story end there?  Could this have been avoided?  Does she always have to start from scratch?  The moral – Girlfriends do not lose their importance when a man enters your life.  They are just as important.  Whose shoulder will you cry on when he fails?  And let’s face it, he is human, he will fail.  Who will advise her on the ins and outs of men and women?  With whom will she share the things that only women understand?

Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people to have fun with.
~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

I am convinced that fewer marriages would fail if the woman had maintained relationships with her girlfriends.  She would need less from her man, demand less of him, he would feel less pressured by her.  And sure, there is the potential benefit of keeping him on his toes a little with the knowledge that she can make it on her own without him.  Why should a relationship with him be the only one she has?

[CAVEAT – I am only a casual bystander to marriage and able only to jump on a theoretical soapbox in this instance.  A Bushlings opinion only.]

To the woman who finds herself alone, I encourage you to reconnect with the girl you were, with the girls you were a girl with, and perhaps with new women that can share your girlhood with you.  Life is not meant to be lived alone and company and strength is not only found in a man.

To the woman in love, do not forsake the parts of yourself that will always be a mystery to him.  Continue to enjoy the company of your girlfriends.  Share together, shop together, cry together, and celebrate together.  Seek to learn from and understand each other.  They are your support system and you are theirs.  Be the support to them that you would want for your time of need.  You never know when that time might come.

Finally, to the Single Woman, I am sure I do not need to say this.  For many of you this is your only circle, your smallest most intimate ring, and your only support system.  Love your girlfriends and care for them.  They will bring you great joy, comfort and strength in your solitude.  They will be your family if you have none.

 You girls are the loves of her life, a guy is lucky to come in fourth.
~Mr. Big, Sex and the City

 Today celebrate the women in your life and share the power of your love with them.

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Someone she can be nice to

From the time our breasts were budding and our waists were sliding into curves, we Single Women have been targeted by the attentions of men. We learn to say “No” at a very early age and repeat that word over and over every week, sometimes every day, and for some of us every waking hour. We are defensive. This is a statement of fact.

Our history of self-defense begins as early as age ten and carries on into our last breath. In the majority of cases, where we have said “Yes” instead of “No” we have entered into dangerous territory and have come out hurt and damaged. More belligerent in our self-defense with a new edge to our “No”.

But let’s face a fact today – every Single Woman yearns for someone she can be nice to. Someone she doesn’t have to defend her mind, her heart and her body against. She wants to have a conversation with someone who looks her in the eye and not the bra, with someone who makes her smile with good humor, and with someone she can give of her own free will some of her sweetness to without fear that it will come back to haunt her.

And she finds this person in many places – the gay best friend, girlfriends, other people’s children, a platonic husband, a dog. They receive her kindnesses and enrich her life with their joy and their kindnesses in turn. Without these receivers a Single Woman’s life would mean far less to her. She has an innate need to remain true to her essence and not be completely absorbed by her defense. She can trust them with the best of her, to receive her gifts with grace and without calculation.

Finally, just about every Single Woman will admit to you, if she is honest, one profound truth. If she ever meets a single, attractive, heterosexual male she feels she can safely be nice to, she will never leave his side.

Accountability

You are a smart Single Woman.  You know who you are, your likes, your dislikes, your dreams and your fears.  You know your boundaries, your expectations, what you accept and do not accept from others and from yourself.

But you will still lie to yourself.

Don’t shake your head.  That’s you doing it RIGHT NOW.

Enter accountability.  The person that tells you when you’re talking rubbish.  The hand that points out that you need to let go.  The loving friend in your life smart enough to recognize when you aren’t being the best you and brave enough to face you and tell you.  The voice that calls you out on your bull.  They are all holding you accountable.

I am blessed with friends like that.  They pull my leash when my self-discipline needs a kick-start, or, more commonly, when my temper flares.  Family members and friends with powerful personalities to match my own nuclear capabilities.  People as smart as or smarter than me and brave enough to face me down on my own weaknesses.  Who love me enough to want me to be well and strong.

In recent weeks I had an exercise in accountability.  I suffered a deep hurt inflicted by a false friend.  It rocked my world and brought out an animal that I had believed to be euthanized by my self-discipline years ago.  The H-bomb blew and blood (figuratively speaking) was let.  Then came accountability.  A friend who called me out on it.  Sent me to my corner to figure out my part in this and to work through the process of letting go.  She said things that were hard to hear in the face of my righteous indignation.  But she brought me back to being with a jump-start and reeled me into focus again.

Accountability is often feared.  Avoided.  Resented.  But without it we hide our flaws and sacrifice our authenticity.  Our essence is overshadowed by our efforts to fake success or indifference.

I encourage all Single Women to seek accountability.  It will make the world of a difference in the way you move through life.

But it doesn’t just happen.  Accountability must be created, invited and accepted.  Follow these four steps and you will find yourself being held accountable in no time.

  1. Designate your trusted person by whom you will be held accountable.  Choose this person wisely, particularly with the more private and intimate goals you hope to achieve or hurdles you hope to cross.  The person must be someone whose loyalty is not questioned and whose love is unconditional.  You may designate a different trusted person for each type of goal.  For instance, an accountant friend can hold you to account with your financial goals, your psycho gym-crazy buddy can hold you accountable for your physical goals, and your best friend since the sandbox can hold you accountable for your relational goals.
  2. Share your goal with your friend.  Share with them your desire to be held accountable by them.  Invite them to share their opinion on your goal and discuss whether they would participate in your accountability.  Talk openly about what being held accountable looks like to you.
  3. Trust their love for you to guide them and for them to be on your side.  If you have chosen the right person for the job you should not have to feel defensive when they do call you on what you have asked them to call you on.
  4. Listen to what they have to say.  When the time comes and you have slipped, accept their reprimand.  When you have met your goal, enjoy their praise.

Remember too that not only will you need to be held accountable, your friends may need you to fulfill that role for them as well.  Be to them the friend that you would want them to be to you.  Some rules are always golden.

Start today to invite accountability into your life.

For the Single Woman that has difficulty with #1, perhaps it is time to consider engaging a Life Coach.  This person will work with you through your goals, cheer you on when you succeed in reaching them, and remind you of your own desires when you start to lose focus.  If Life Coaching would interest you, click on the Ford Coaching on the right of your screen to learn more about what coaching is, what it can do for you.  From that site you can also ask Kristen Ford any questions you have about Life Coaching and she may be able to help you find a Life Coach near you.

Dear John

Today you, a gracious reader, gently reprimanded me for the raw vitriol of my morning post on Why Weak Girls Make Poor Friends.  When I stubbornly told you I wouldn’t regret it you banished me from the Shaolin.  Bless you.

The ironic thing is that this morning when I started my day it was with every intention of writing a post on the return to gentleness.  A deeper look at the last four weeks and the progress I have made in taking the focus off of the idol of an idea and putting it on the blessed present.  It was to look at the ground I have gained in forgiveness and healing.  Before my train of thought was interrupted.

For the first time in the Journey of the Hair I took a step backward, out of my disciplined and focused path to grace and back into the jungle.  I’ve been praying Psalm 35 and muttering “traicionera” under my breath allllll day.

This is not an apology.  Not yet.  Probably not ever.  But it is an acknowledgement.  A kick back to focus.  An end to the drama.  The movie is over.  The villains are slain.  Dead to me forever.

The post on gentleness will come.  Just not today.  Be patient with me.

Sincerely,

Grasshopper

Why Weak Girls Make Poor Friends: 10 reasons

  1. They try to sleep with your ex boyfriend.  Your boyfriend.  Your cousin.  Your brother.
  2. They cannot make a single decision by themselves.  They will call six girlfriends and the man they are sleeping with to find out what to wear.  They will call ten girlfriends to find out whether to date such and such a guy.  They will call 15 girlfriends to determine what the “He” of the moment meant when he said “xyz”.  And then they go ahead and do the opposite of what they have been advised by the panel.
  3. They enjoy being the victim.  In order to maintain victim status they get into bad situations that they know are bad situations (because all 15 friends in point 2 above have TOLD them they are bad situations) and then cry about it later.  Bring on the violin.
  4. They bore you to tears for ten years about the mistake they made in point 3, usually dating someone who they knew was going to treat them badly and then proceeded to treat them badly (surprise surprise – string quartet).   All at the same time as sneaking behind your back and sleeping with your ex boyfriend.  Your boyfriend.  Your cousin.  Or your brother.
  5. They get jealous of the friendships you have with other people.  Other women.  Particularly good-looking ones.  Men.  Particularly (but not limited to) good-looking ones.
  6. They insult you in front of others to make themselves look stronger/better/prettier.
  7. They gossip.  Usually in the form of “can I trust you with this?” or “can you keep a secret?”
  8. They are always in competition with someone.  Mostly you.  To the point of embarrassment.
  9. They comfort you when you have been hurt by your ex boyfriend or boyfriend (or cousin or brother), let you vent, agree on what an asshole he is and then go home and call him up to “comfort” him too.
  10. When confronted with their weakness the only response they’ve got is tears.

Cry me a river.

Useless Idle Chat

 “Only the spoon knows what is in the pot.”

This morning it is a very delicate thing that weighs on my mind.  I owe a friend an apology and she doesn’t even know it.  And if I do apologize it will open her up to a hurt she does not need to feel right now.  I will blog about it in the abstract and maybe one day, when the betrayals all come to light, I will be there to help her.

We are not very long acquainted and not yet close.  Yet I have wronged her.  I have wronged her by listening to idle gossip.

There is the argument we absorb growing up and growing wise that gossip is harmful, hurtful and should be avoided.  We understand in theory the importance of honesty and minding ones own business.  But driving to a social event with friends and having them say “Oh Bushlings you are going to meet my friend X.  Be careful with her and don’t believe a word she says” or to each other “I saw her yesterday you know, with another man.  Do you think Y knows?” or worse yet “Poor Y, have no idea what he’s doing with that X”.  It can even be as indirect as saying “Boy oh boy that X, she is something else.”  The tones are advisory, disapproving, warning, and downright self-righteous.  But it leaves the most discerning listener questioning is this a fair warning?  Are they doing me a favour?

No.  It is gossip.  It is taking a bucket of proverbial red paint and throwing it all over someone’s first impression not yet made.  They don’t stand a chance.

In this case I met the victim and was wary.  Her honest overtures of friendship were dissected and examined before I took the step of opening my heart.  When I did it was after a long reprimanding conversation with myself and a long exploratory one with her.  I learned a few of the untruths of the stories for myself but got to the question of “why is it any of my business anyway?”  Only the spoon knows what is in the pot.

It made me mindful of the dangers of influence and the responsibility we have to think for ourselves.  She may have needed a friend in the time it took me to flush the gossip out of my system and I would have been distant and inaccessible by my judgments.  I would never have known, so caught up was I in the manufactured poor impression maliciously made.  Only when I made the conscious decision to be gracious and allow the friend the chance to make her own way into my impression did I learn what a giving, open, caring, honest and lonely person she was.  Isolated more still by malicious gossip.

It made me wonder how many others had heard the snide comments, loose-lipped remarks.  It made me question how many of these remarks have been made about me?  Has there been a preamble to every introduction these ‘friends’ have made?  Who gives them the right to decide how the world should see me?  Her?  Anyone?

Rather than send myself crazy and dwell on the gossipers I have decided to examine myself.  Should I tell her?  Do I reach out enough?  Do I keep my mind open enough?  How should I be dealing with the conversations like these that happen around me?  How do I not only protect myself from their influence but stop them from happening – at least in my presence -in the first place?

Do you have stories about gossip?  How do you recognize it?  How do you deal with it?  What would you do in my position?

Plan like a Lawyer, Shop like an Accountant

On this trip to Miami I have made my first visit to Ross, the Dress for Less store. It took the overcoming of some mental barriers and some serious talks with myself like “Bushlings get it the hell together! We are in a recession! You’re acting like a damn lawyer!” It was the horror of the last one that got me in the door.

Since purchasing my own home in recent months I have been on quite the budget. The investment I saved years for now needs to be maintained – mortgage payments, association fees, dryers need replacing, next month will be the water heater. It has stressed me out a bit to adjust to it all but I have managed so far. And better than expected!

In this experience I have learned something quite interesting. I have lived the life of a Lawyer.

Now let me explain. A childhood friend and I have done many things together. We went away to university as we should. We came home with professional qualifications. We secured challenging jobs with great potential for growth. We bought land. We bought and moved into our own apartments. But at the end of the day when she says she’s broke she means “I have no more money in my frivolous spending budget and I’m not touching my $100k in savings” and when I say I’m broke it means the savings account is broke too.

The difference? I am a Lawyer and she is an Accountant. Lawyers make more money than Accountants usually. But Accountants always have more money than Lawyers.

The Car Demonstration:
Ok so here is what this difference actually looks like. When you drive into the parking lot of a small law firm you will see more Merecedes Benz signs and Audi circles and Range Rover grills than there are parking spaces. The partners have 2 or 3 each, the associates 2, and the mail boy has a measly 1 – usually the best maintained.

Drive now into a top accounting firm like KPMG or PWC or E&Y (they don’t even pay for the full word! We’ll just buy one vowel please). You will see luxury cars only in the partners’ spaces. And don’t be surprised to see the senior partner rock up in a beat up Civic with no air conditioning.

In case you missed it there is another example.

The Shopping Demonstration:
Say I go shopping with my Accountant friend. We will go together to the same store on Memorial Day weekend for the sales. The difference is she will walk straight to the sales rack and if she finds something that isn’t on the sales rack it isn’t coming home with her unless she will lose sleep over it. Me now, I am the kind of customer they design store layouts for. Expensive stuff at front and sales hidden in back. I look for something to catch my eye and everything in the front will keep me up at night. I often don’t even make it to the sales rack!

And so I have found myself in my newly minted responsible adult status examining the differences. There are so many other examples that prove the theory! She cooks six times a week and eats out once. I cook once a week and eat out six times. She lives in a tiny one bedroom fixer upper with plans for a massive home later in life. I went for the 2 bed 2.5 bath with 2 pools (don’t ask) and a gym.

Before coming on this trip I sat myself down and gave myself a little talking to. I am to shop like an Accountant and be patient enough to look through aisles and aisles of special offers or Ross’. I am to go to Bally or Playtex in an outlet mall and bypass Victoria’s Secrets. I am to limit my clothes shopping to $300 and fill two suitcases. I am to choose wisely.

Today I have sat down like a good Lawyer and made a list. $70 of my $300 has been spent on half a suitcase worth of clothes. The rest is to be rationed carefully. Because today I am going to shop like an Accountant.