As I prepare to say "see you soon!" to the beautiful women I call my closest friends here in Oregon, and embark on the task of finding new connections with mamas I hope to meet 3,000 miles away, I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately. This past weekend, I went on my first girl's trip since having kids.
My Comadres Adventure was everything I wanted it to be and more and I'm left reflecting on what it is that makes these women so damn special to me. The following are the five guidelines I want to remind myself of as I build a tribe in my new Florida home. Because while my family fulfills me to no end, women still need one another.
Say YES. I want to remember I have to take, or make, the time to keep showing up for other women. I've found unless it's a conscious priority (that's not always ideal or convenient) to be there for one another, it just doesn't work the same way.
There's a trend I've seen lately that hits such a sour note with me: this idea that it's ok to just say no and stay in. The idea that "self care" over keeping your plans intact is totally understandable. The trend of "ghosting" at a party, slipping away instead of thanking the host or saying a proper goodbye. It's not that I don't understand it, it's just that I think it's cheap and lazy.
There was a moment, cuddling with Theo for his nap on Friday afternoon, just a couple hours before I was to leave town, where I questioned this road trip entirely. I thought "Why am I going again? This is perfect. All I want and need in life is right here." But I pulled myself out of bed and finished packing my bag. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on one of my life's most memorable adventures! I had to say yes and get up to go.
If I hadn't said YES to a pre-kids white water rafting trip, camping in the desert between days on the boat, I never would have met Merrilee's husband and so she and I would have never been friends. Instead, that's who I found myself in a car with on Friday night with a clear mission to stay the night as close to the Umpqua Forest as we could get to give us an early start in the morning.
Since moving to Oregon, I'd lusted over photos of hot springs tucked into the forest. After a bit of research, I decided which one I was on the hunt to see: a set of pools tucked in to a rock face overlooking the river below with each pool warmer the higher up the cliff you go. Even when we found the gate closed and knew the road was snowed in for miles, we just puled the car to the side and started walking.
I told Matt when I got home that I never knew how "outdoorsy" I was until moving to Oregon. He said everyone is "outdoorsy", it's just that some people haven't had the opportunity to experience it.
Regardless, never in my life has a hike yielded such a reward as this one. It was two miles in the snow each way just to the trail head, and then the trail itself was steep, narrow, and slippery with patches of ice. We took our time and made it all the way there to be greeted with… cock and balls. Literally, the first thing I saw when we reached the springs was a guy perched above the pools taking a photo of his friend, his junk swaying in the sun.
I know most of Oregon's hot springs are clothing optional, but it still made me giggle to see someone's privates right off the bat. We soon discovered these two were the ONLY other people at the springs! We had passed a few people hiking out as we hiked in, so I felt lucky there wasn't a crowd. Having the place practically to ourselves was special enough, but the sun was blaring too, a rare treat in early Spring. The blue skies sent me over the edge; I was happily professing my love to Oregon and couldn't stop smiling ear to ear. Merrilee similarly fell into a giddy bliss mode, she said she felt like a kid again bounding over boulders and using tree roots as handholds to explore this mystical place we reached in the forest.
Being a photographer, I wanted to take a hundred photos as we explored this magical place together, but I reminding myself to be present to enjoy it. Of course, I took some photos, but I'm also left with still-tangible memories of breathing in the forest air and hearing nothing but the river. In a way, it felt like we were only there a matter of minutes, but according to our clocks it was over an hour before the pools started to fill up with more hikers and we realized we needed to get back to the car for the next leg of our trip.
We also managed a quick hike to the Toketee waterfall that morning, making my FitBit very impressed with me that day. Of course, it was also mind-blowingly beautiful; this is Oregon after all.
Authenticity + Vulnerability Before we left the Springs, I was sure to enjoy the sun on my back for a bit. I remember being too shy to go topless at the beach in Spain and regretting it a little bit afterwards. Seeing all these other people enjoy nature in the buff inspired me to at least unhook my bikini top. It was really pretty exhilarating for me, a freeing feeling, and all the more rewarding when a sweet stranger commended me for it while we were layering back up. She said she had wanted to go topless too, but was afraid other people weren't until she saw me. Perhaps it's small and silly, but I'm learning that when I discover I want to do things in life, I just need to DO THEM.
We met up with more girlfriends at our next hotel in Eugene. A glass of wine and couple rounds of Jungle Speed before a beautiful meal, without ANY high chairs, was followed up with more drinks and dancing at some college bar we were much too old to be in. It was perfect.
The next morning, we had planned to do brunch, so of course I'd packed a brunch jumpsuit. When we decided to pre-game with a hike up Spencer Butte, I wasn't going to let it sway my style. I proudly paired my boots with my brunch jump for the hike, switching up my shoe game for lunch. It was quite the look, but my friends wouldn't expect anything less from me.
I've found it's a waste of time to be anyone other then exactly who you are. I need to remember it's OK to be different then the group, if in an opinion about a current event, a parenting style, or just personal style. If we were all the same, we sure would be a boring group of friends.
It's a wonderful treat to know people who are going through the same things as I am, with their kids, their husbands, & their work. But, it's only wonderful if I get to see them and be with them authentically. It's so easy to stay on the surface and chit chat, but I'm so grateful for the women in my life are also happy to dig deeper and discuss.
Accept. We've all heard "don't sweat the small stuff", but really, Sam. Don't. None of my perfect-for-me friends are perfect at all. In fact, we all pretty much all do something or other that could drive each other nuts if we let it drive a wedge between us. Instead, I make a conscious effort to accept and just let it be part of the deal.
I think we all have the friend who never picks up the phone, or will let it ring and then text back. The friend who never wants to drive (eh, is that me?). The friend who will come over for dinner, but then doesn't cook for your family in return. I don't take any of it personally anymore. When I notice this sort of little irksome quirk in a friend, I chock it up to being part of the deal and move on knowing what to expect from them. I'm probably doing something that drives them bananas too, but once we can all accept that we all have quirks, it just doesn't hold weight anymore.
Clear Expectations On the same note, while it's important to understand what behaviors my friends might display, I've also found it's just as important to make my own needs crystal clear. If they don't know how much something bothers me or means to me, it's as much my fault as their own if an issue stems from it.
It's been a tough skill for me to build, the ability to clearly communicate my own needs and expectations with warmth and patience, because I'm quick to expect other people be mind readers when it comes to my needs I'm working on being clear to avoid disappointment. I've found the art of communicating without offending one another is even more tough as adults. I can no longer rely on seeing some friend I got in a tizzy with in class twice a week or whatever other factors might have put us face to face in the past. Instead, I have to create that space to work it out, and we have to value one another enough in the first place to do it.
I lost a friend over my opinions on healthcare reform via opinions I shared on the internet (I mean, I think that's what the problem was). It took me a little while to catch on she didn't want to be buddies anymore, but what a slap in the face after building a friendship with another family to have it fizzle without even a word as to why. I don't want to be like that; if someone's got a problem, let's talk about it. And if it's a deal breaker, let's at least part ways with words and not silence.
Be Excited Lastly, if there's any single thing I hope for when my friends think of me, it's that I'm PUMPED. I hope they each know I'm their biggest fan. It's easy for me, because the women I surround myself with are truly bad ass women saving the world, changing the world, or making it more beautiful. I'm so proud of each of them for their creativity, spirit, work ethic, heart, talent, and compassion. I'm so happy to be their cheerleader. I'm going to work hard to keep that support for them alive, even from afar, by implementing strategies to stay connected.
Laura, Lesley, Andrea, and Mer - Thank you all so much for such a magical time together! And to all my other ridiculously special Oregonian Ladies, I love you too! Even if you didn't drive into the forest to get a little bit naked in a hot spring with me. ;)