Comforting Words: Woman-Friends

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It should have been simple…my weekend that is.

My woman-friend from Calgary, A, was coming to town for a meeting and we were talking about meeting for supper Friday evening. Then, being the ‘entertainer’ that I am, before I knew it we were planning a ‘girls only night’ for five of us at my place.

'A' had two women she wanted to invite – one I had not met but she promised we would immediately bond. The second, D, was introduced to me a few weeks ago and we had hit it off, so I was looking forward to seeing her again. For myself, I invited my woman-friend Anni to join us.

The evening was ‘billed’, by me of course being the commandeer I am, as a night for women over forty who are re-entering the dating scene or actively reviving their existing relationships. We were to gather at 6:00 p.m., each person bringing something to cook or something they had cooked at home.

That was my compromise for a potluck – a Canadian tradition that I totally abhor! Wine and other alcoholic beverage were to be very available as we intended to totally unwind and get down to the nitty gritty of dating and sex for women over forty.

Serendipitously, Anni had only the previous evening watched a PBS programme on the exact topic we were planning to dissect. As she and I shopped early Friday afternoon for our contributions to this gathering, she shared the tidbits offered by Dr. Christian Northrup. What was most striking for Anni was the advice that women should try to frequently gather, exactly as we were about to do, as this is good for our well-being and spirit. “That’s what I am doing tomorrow!” Anni told me she excitedly screamed at her television.

Just after 6:00 p.m. Friday my women started to arrive. As it turned out, it would be only four of us as one person could not make it.

As it turned out – the party went on until Sunday.

Except for one, D, who I was meeting for the second time but who had had made such a lasting impression on me with her forthrightness and wonderful sense of humor and wit, I considered these woman-friends. As a matter of fact, having shared the way we did this weekend, D, would now join the ranks of my woman-friends and how could she not? After all, not only did she go away knowing much of my life story and the details of my journey over the last 16 going on 17 years but she understood and totally identified – albeit from a purely heterosexual perspective - the pain and agony that I have endured and the exhilaration for life that I am now enjoying and experiencing.

I have often used the phrase “Wounded Healers,” but not as often said where that came from. It is actually the title of a book by Henri Nouwen, the same person who describes friendship in this way:
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
The ‘banquet’ table was laden with wonderful delights – tuna and artichoke and asiago dips, chicken soup, roasted tomatoes, prawns, hot and spicy chicken, potato salad and ham – and the wine was flowing. We laughed, we screamed and shrieked and we cried as stories of bad dates, bad sex and messy divorces and separations were shared. No topic was taboo, no holes were barred – we talked about everything and everyone who either joyfully or painfully shaped us into the women we now are and we toasted ourselves.

Well after midnight we parted company, except for A, who it turned out was actually going to spend the entire weekend with me and not one night. As she and I cleaned up the kitchen before going to bed, I felt a deep sense gratitude wash over me – for these women in my life. I recalled a tarot reader back on a beach in Jamaica telling me that I have a long line of women standing behind me, ready and able to support me whenever I needed them. Friday night proved him right yet again.

However, the celebration of friendship did not end there.

On Saturday, I was scheduled to meet my ‘new acquaintance’ to go equipment shopping for our upcoming backpacking trip. Regular readers will recall my ordeal last year on a hiking trip when I truly thought I would have either died on a cliff in Nordegg, Alberta or would lose one of my toes because of improper footwear. I was not going to make the same mistake this year so off we went to get me “geared” for not one but several hiking and backpacking trips for the summer.

Side note here: I have received so many calls and emails about this my ‘new acquaintance’ – most wanting to know more and at least one upset that she had to hear about this on Comforting Words. Her exact words were – “I thought we had a Oprah and Gayle friendship! Why do I have to read about your ‘acquaintance’ on your blog???” I thank you all for your interest, concern and more important your love and support – but please do not go out to buy wedding gifts! Enough said for now.

Back to the main story, knowing that the plan was to go get me this gear and return to my apartment for pizza and a movie – two of my women-friends decided that they would ‘crash’ so that they could size up this individual. This was hilarious! I felt – in a good way – protected and cared for but was not sure how 'the scrutinized' would take this and my woman-friends did not care!

They returned to the apartment before we did and as we waited for the pizza to be delivered they not so coyly pried and prodded. I laughed as I watched them in action – so too my, let me say “date” because it’s hardly accurate to call someone who you have been seeing at least twice per week for almost six weeks now an acquaintance. (I know I am going to get hell from my Oprah and Gayle wanna-be woman-friend for this disclosure – Lord help me).

The point here though is not about my dating but rather about the bond between women – a bond that comes when we are open to the genuine care and support that we as sisters have to offer each other. I will always remember and was reminded again this weekend of the ‘warning’ never to throw away your girlfriends for a lover (man or woman) as they are the ones who will be there for you when the going get tough.

My date survived the drilling of these two woman-friends of mine and will still need to be ‘processed’ by Anni, AA and my senior citizen (who has had an initial contact but not had the opportunity for the full interview).

Sunday was a bittersweet end to this wonderful weekend of female bonding. I went to church with A after she promised me that the preacher would deliver a good sermon (My main focus at any church service is the sermon). She did not lie.

Among the many things the guest preacher spoke of I was stuck by the example of the Amish community in the United States who intentionally lived out their faith and demonstrated forgiveness and peacemaking after their daughters were murdered.

In an indirect way, that is what my woman-friends did for me this weekend – they actively and intentionally shared their gift of love with me and together we made peace, we forgave and we embraced hope as we laughed, cried and talked about stepping back fully into life and intimate love.

The bitter came as I sat with my senior citizen, who came over Sunday afternoon to tea. She shared with me the recent diagnosis of her medical team – one that can go either way during surgery this summer.

As I recall how this woman lovingly held my hand when I was at my most vulnerable last November, I fought back my selfish tears. “I will be out of a job at least for the next two to three weeks, so I will come to your appointments, whatever you need, with you as you should not go through this alone,” was the first thing out of my mouth.

How do you repay someone, women, who have loved and unselfishly and agenda-less held you as you heal? I do not know but I thank God that I am now again in the place where I can give it my best shot.

I ask for your prayers for my senior citizen. I also ask you to call your woman-friends today and get together – maybe not for an entire weekend as we ended up doing or having them drill your date – but just because.



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