So often we realize we have family that has nothing to do with blood relations.
I am a person gifted with so many beautiful friends. Friends who have stuck by me, accepted my flaws, grieved with me. Friends who held me up in hard times and laughed with me in the good. It’s surprising, actually, because I remember while I was married with very young children, feeling so terribly alone, like no one knew what friendship was anymore. What I think I didn’t realize was that I was actually the one not invested in connecting with others on a deeper level. I was too caught up in my own little world, with a pile of anger simmering inside me (shall we call that manure?), and unable to see the richness of my life. I have compassion for the woman I was, but I certainly don’t want to be her again. She was pretty confused, really trying to keep up with the Joneses, and so fucking breathless.
It was my divorce that started to illustrate for me that wealth in this life has nothing to do with the numbers in your bank account. It has everything to do with your relationships.
And I am wealthy beyond measure.
So in honor of being 40, I wanted to share the stories of two soul sisters who also turned 40 this year, all of us within a month or so.
Let’s go with the oldest of us three, Vanessa, the crone! (Ha!)
Oh, Vanessa. Vanessa who lives in Tennessee. Vanessa who just always fucking smiles, no matter what happens. Strong like a sycamore tree. And as kind. And smarter, probably, than anyone I’ve met.
In middle school, Vanessa was confident enough to wear yellow shoes with these big ribbons. People don’t like that shit in middle school. A girl who wears what she wants? Who is her own person? Puh-lease. But she did it. And she smiled all the way through. (And of course she got annoyed with all that small-mindedness because it was stupid.)
Speaking of middle school, I had my share of mean girls. The clincher for my friendship with Vanessa, what settled us as soul sisters, was when I was supposed to show up at a basketball game at the school to meet a bunch of “friends,” but when I walked through the door they all looked at me and ran away.
This so doesn’t seem like a big deal to me now. If a bunch of girls did this to me today, I’d laugh and sit on the bleachers and continue to enjoy the game, wondering if they were getting lost in the halls. But at that moment? It felt like my life was over, like everything was shattered. I went home crying, and I even called one girl’s mom to tell her (I was a feisty little thing), and then, either with the prompting of my own mom or on my own, I decided to call Vanessa. Because it was only then that I remembered that the girls had been mean to Vanessa, too, had also cut her from the group. So I told her how wrong that was and how I still wanted to be her friend. She was so gracious, so accepting.
And you want to know a secret? I was always worried Vanessa would get angry with me, think that the only reason I reached out to her was because I’d been wronged, that she’d be resentful I hadn’t done something sooner to help her. I would have deserved that. I would have deserved her saying, Nah, you weren’t there for me last week, so I’m not going to be here for you now.
But she didn’t do that. Because that’s not who she is. Not at 12, and not now, at the wonderful age of 40. Vanessa is my ardent supporter, the one who’s always putting her hands together under my feet to lift me up the ladder. And when we see each other, which is rare, it’s like no time has passed at all.
Cheers to Vanessa. I will always love you, girl, no matter what.
Which brings me to my next soul sister, who is Katie, my best friend from college. The passion I feel for this woman is deep. I can’t explain it. I’m like a fucking tiger for her, and if anyone even thinks of doing her wrong, I will show my fangs.
Ya think this chic would ever text me? Or return a text in a shorter time than three hours? No. But I love her anyway. (Katie, don’t feel guilty.) Because I know that even when her fingers don’t reach out, she is thinking about me, pondering my life, sending me energy from her car or her office or from the couch while she’s petting her big hairy dog.
I don’t know if there was one clinching moment when I became sisters with Katie. I can’t think of just one. But I do remember quite clearly in our little feminist utopia of a college dorm that when someone said something harsh to her, she spoke up and told the girl, “That hurts.”
I was always impressed with that. Because I never felt I could admit to anyone that something inside of me hurt.
And then there were the two plays I wrote in college, in which Katie was the star. The comedian. The weather reporter. She stole the show both times.
So to the one who always makes me laugh and always listens and lets me monopolize the conversation, and to the star reporter, bless you. I love you always.
Now, for anyone reading—I know you have soul sisters, too. Or brothers. People you’re related to by soul. People who God sent to you to make your life better, and who listen to you, and support you, and nurture your spirit.
Go give ’em some roses.