Sixteen or seventeen years ago, when Bry and I moved to NYC, we left our families and friends and we moved into a new home where we were welcomed by new friends who very much became our family, in NYC and even after. From child-bearing to church responsibilities to the loneliness you feel in a big city with small apartments and husbands working 80-hour work weeks, the group of ladies I found there in NYC I needed in a different way that I had ever needed anyone in my life. Anne, Amy, Emma, Amanda, Liz, Ruth, Kyndra, Kristie, Lauren, Krista, Christina, Lorinda, Jen, Davian, Stacey, Desiree, Angela, Jill.
When we moved back to NYC after almost three years in London, most of the women had left the City. And that was okay. Do you know what I mean? Most of the desperation we’d felt those first 7 or 8 years in the City with young children had simply dissipated as the children grew.
What I didn’t know, though, was how much I still needed these women in my life. It wasn’t in the same every-day-at-the-playground way that we’d experienced together before. But more of a touch-down-and-look-at-where-your-life-is-going way. We could offer that to each other. We had seen each other through deaths and divorces, economic crashes and also a whole lot of laughs!
Many of these women from my NYC family, now in different parts of the world, were able to meet up again, for the week, in the Virgin Islands.
We spent every waking and sleeping minute together. Literally. And we loved it! At the end of the week, in my personal journal, I wrote about the things I had learned that week from each of these brilliant women. Today, for SO WHAT SATURDAY, I want to share these things. My life experience is better for having this time with these women, teaching me and inspiring me and loving me, where I am at.
- I want to be more generous with my money, like Anne.
- Kyndra told a story about a charity dinner she and Anne had attended together. A young man from Harlem, and one of the scholarship recipients that evening, spoke about his life experience growing up in a difficult situation, sustained only by his sister. Kyndra remembered seeing Anne, her head bowed, filling out a check on her lap, for a sum of money, and quietly slipping the check to the young man’s sister sitting at the table next to her.
- I remember when Anne met a young woman in a difficult home situation. Anne wanted to pull her out of the situation for as many hours of the day as she could. So, this young woman worked in Anne’s home, and then, once done there, Anne paid her to work in my home. My need wasn’t great, but this young woman’s need to be in a safe home was great. Anne was a blessing to me, in that gesture, but even more, a God-send to this young woman.
- And how many more young people have been blessed by her generosity over these many years.
- I want to laugh at myself and at life more openly, without caring what others think, like Ruth.
- I think this woman laughed 90% of her waking hours this past week.
- She danced, she sung, she joked, she hugged, she wasn’t afraid to show affection to everyone. She wasn’t afraid to try anything new because she knew, in her own heart, that if it didn’t go as planned, it would just be something else for her to laugh about. I loved this.
- I want to take care of my body as gently and as consistently, and without shame, like Kyndra.
- I don’t know if there is a more beautiful woman in the world. Her care for her physical body is absolutely intentional, and comes from a place of love for herself.
- I want to take better care of myself. And she gave me some brilliant ideas.
- And I want to be careful to not compare myself to others or feel shame for caring for myself. No one will take care of me the way I will take care of myself. My body and my mind and my spirit are gifts to me from God, and I am responsible for the care of these gifts.
- I want to be beautiful on the outside and on the inside, like Amanda.
- Amanda is a naturally beautiful woman, physically. And she dresses herself and carries herself with this confidence. But there are few women as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, like Amanda.
- Amanda held my hand while I re-learned to scuba dive. She made my bed for me almost every day.
- Amanda cried easily, out of love, and complimented others easily, out of respect.
- And she has always been that way. Twelve years ago, when we were living on the Upper East Side but serving in the Deaf congregation every Sunday in a church building down in Union Square, the children and I would pass the church building on 87th Street, where most of our friends went to church, each Sunday, to get to the subway on 86th Street. One Sunday it was snowing outside, and I hadn’t dressed my children properly for the 45 minute walk/commute to Union Square. I stepped into the lobby of the 87th Street building, not expecting to see anyone, just to warm the children for a second before moving forward through the weather. Amanda was sitting in the lobby with one of her own fussy boys. And when she saw our condition, she took the blanket off her son and literally wrapped that blanket around my own boy in the stroller, before letting us go out into the cold again. I have thought about that moment many times over, over the years. I think, in life, even when we are headed in the right direction, we have times when we need to step into a safe place, for just a second, to rest, to warm ourselves, to re-dedicate ourselves to our journey. And waiting there, in that safe place, are friends, ready to wrap us in warmth and love, before letting us go back out into the weather, on our way to where we ultimately want to be. I am grateful to tears for Amanda and the safe place she’s offered me.
- I want to find what I am good at, and what my contribution to the world is, in this chapter of my life, then offer myself to that end so freely and with such focus, like Emma.
- Emma is a mom, the wife of a bishop, and a NYC lawyer. And she knows her boundaries in each area. She knows where she can contribute the greatest, and at what time, and she does so with such discipline.
- And her friendships have not been an exception. She is a devoted and focused friend, in every way!
- I want to “drive” more confidently, like Liz.
- Liz was our driver, this entire week. And she was incredible on these crazy island roads!
- But not only is she confident as a driver, she confidentially approaches any new thing in her life. She had gotten her scuba license 26 years ago, and had never gone on a dive since them. But she joined us, and out scuba-ed most of us this trip.
- From career changes, to location changes, to the strength it takes to raise teenagers, Liz confidently approaches life – open hearted and open minded.
- I want to reach for my dreams and learn to carry myself well, whether or not my dreams are on the horizon, like Amy.
- Amy is a news broadcaster. She has always reached for her dreams, sure that what she wanted, she could achieve.
- And other areas of her life have been maybe more challenging for her than her career. But she has held her head up high and carried herself with class and with kindness, through the challenges she’s been given.
Today I wrote to a friend who texted, asking me how the girlfriend trip went. I told her:
I am deeply deeply grateful for the past week. I cried myself to sleep last night, not that I was at all sad to be home – I am SO glad to be home – but because I felt so deeply grateful for all the beauty in my life. Women need women, right? I wished I could have gathered ALL the women that I love so deeply around me (on a tropical island with free pina coladas on the beach!)