All the Women


I am surrounded by incredible women.

My friends, my friends.  They are in their early 20s and #fierce; they are approaching 40 and full of grace; they are in their mid-60s, preternaturally energetic and endlessly patient.  They are single and married, raising children or choosing a different definition of family, straight and gay.  They are athletes and artists, executives and teachers, therapists, stay-home moms, entrepreneurs.  They live in tiny urban apartments or sprawling suburban homes.  I feel sometimes like I live at the nexus of this beautiful, shining web of women who have come into my life in so many ways — through family, through school, through my children, through work — and I realize that so often when I’m falling it’s this web that catches me, lifts me up, blesses me with its diversity of wisdom and experience, and brings me high enough that I can find perspective again and move forward.

The summer drew to an abrupt close this morning at 7:45, as we piled into the trusty Subaru and fought our way through Chinatown to the Broadway tunnel and school beyond it.  It was a spectacular summer.  A summer of poolside memories, of cheeks rosy from sun and a good scrub at the end of the day.  A summer of ice cream mustaches and sticky hands and slow evenings with movies on the TV.  It was a summer when I let go of all the stress of the routine and just let life happen to us.  I don’t that very often, and it was indulgent and necessary and wonderful.

At the same time, it was a summer of tests.  A lot of the women in my life, in particular, have been tested: tested by loved ones facing illness or death; tested by marriages that are stumbling or crumbling; tested by jobs that are either proving too grueling, or that simply aren’t panning out; tested by family dynamics, with all their deeply personal complexity.  They are being tested by age: by suddenly being the grown-ups, responsible not only for their young children but also for aging parents, aging siblings, aging properties.

It is its own kind of test, to see your friends through times of trial: to know them and be there for them in the right way, at the right time.  I don’t do well with powerlessness.  I can’t sit too long with discomfort.  I am wired to seek the solution and move towards it…but sometimes, and this summer in particular, there is a dearth of clear solutions.  In so many cases, the solution is simply to be patient, and be strong, until the path is clear.  So I have been little more than a witness, and a shoulder or an ear, if an empathetic one.  I have wondered if that is enough.

After long talks with several members of this tribe over the weekend, I stood last night in my kitchen, putting the last-dinner-of-summer dishes away while my husband laughed riotously with the kids over a silly board game on the living room floor.  I felt at once blessed at this life we have, and fretful for those I love who are struggling.  I wanted to feel joy but I was feeling kind of overcome by something else, some strange mix of happiness and fear and hope and frustration.

But then suddenly, there it was: As I stood there, trying to wrap my head around the swirl of feelings, I realized that I am inspired.  I am moved.  These incredible friends: they are facing life and all its unknowns with courage and grace and grit and patience.  They are not folding, they are not hiding.  They are standing up tall, taking punches even as they take conference calls and take their kids to camp.  They are turning to their villages, asking for what they need, advocating for themselves and for their families.  They are role models.  I am so proud to know them, and I feel like it makes me stronger too: knowing that I will surely someday find myself in their shoes, in some form or another, as time marches on; knowing — having witnessed — that deep reserves of strength and compassion lie in all of us.

I am surrounded by incredible women.

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