Everyone needs a safe place (friend, therapist, confidante) where they can go to just let things out. Whether that's news of glad tidings, pain, anger, frustration, fear.
I don't know what I would have done for the past 30+ years without good friends and exercise - both ways to let frustrations out and walk away a little more calm.
Friends such as Renae - a little older than me, kids older, a little more life experience, but someone who helped me develop my talents by teaching me about my weaknesses and strengths. When I was a young mother we both bought long phone cords, so we could clean our houses and visit, at the same time! We can go months without talking and pick right back up.
Friends such as Debby - someone who didn't look at our differences as faults, but as blessings, who taught me as I taught her. And she never judged - she listened, showed by example, and then allowed me to create myself, incorporating some of her teachings. She provided me a resting place at a turning point in my life - emotionally and physically. We haven't seen each other in many years, but I count her as one of my best.
Eve - taught me that playing with my children, on their level, was the best thing I could give my kids.
Beulah - much older, much wiser, blunt, honest, and by voicing her regrets she taught me how to live without regrets. And how to be true to myself.
Shirlene - heard more than her share of my anger, frustration, marital woes, as we walked and walked and walked and talked. She did not turn her back on me, even when I screwed up big time, but wrapped her arms around me and trusted me.
Karin - taught me language. She says she just opened the door and gave me permission. But I believe she gave me words for my feelings, then validated these feelings. And we've been through so much in our years together, and I love her, admire her, and owe so much of me to her generosity, and frankness.
Cody - kicks my butt every morning, listens to my yapping, and teaches me; even though she's younger than me, she's much wiser in so many ways; I cherish our friendship. We dive right in to push ups and intense conversation. She saw me through cancer - and she saw me!
Holly - respects my bluntness, and we share similar life choices. Without judging. She is generous.
Irma - we don't need any introduction, ever.
Sisters - everyone should have a sister, or two or three or six, like I do, who will listen, call me out, laugh, cry, and they know what "Can we have a sister craft day" really means. They understand family dynamics and can quickly understand where I'm headed.
These are some of my tights - although my friendships are typically that - I go deep, not shallow, I keep friends who are comfortable with this.
Just a few - and I'm finding every day that not only do I have safe places to share, but that I am also a safe place - there is reciprocity in all of these relationships. These women - it's not all me whining or them whining that's the key to the safe place. It's that we are safe with our thoughts, which may or may not result in actions, but the point is - no judging, no edging toward solution, but creating a space where tinkering with identity, dignity, beliefs, choices, definition are just fine - and the conversation will go no further. We don't talk about people (well, spouses and kids sometimes), but rather life - and all the crisis and conflict that come with living life on life's terms, and on our terms.
In a seminal article written in the early 1990s (abstract here) research showed that women "tend and befriend," while men "fight or flight." One is not better than the other. But we do have differences.
I've spent some of my time tending to my friend's needs - caring for their words and thoughts, just as I would a friend who was sick, a child who was hurt, even a grandchild whose parents were on a date. Women tend for each other in a similar fashion - we take each other, figuratively or literally, in our arms and hold on tight, providing that safe space, when safety is all that is needed. We won't let go of these confidences, we don't compare our dirty laundry to each other's clean, won't let them run into the street, or eat too much candy, or stay up late playing video games. We nurture, love, cater to, mull over, and then let them go back to their owners when the time is right. We have each other's backs, and there is never a fear of betrayal. We are true and honest and brave.
I am grateful for my girl friends - those who share with me and who allow me to share with them. We all need that safe place - male or female.