In a new self-care inspired series, sponsored by Ford, ESSENCE pays tribute to the small, easy changes every woman can make in her life that can yield big results toward her health and happiness.
My best friend Tara and I, like many little Black girls with wild hair and even wilder spirits, were as thick as thieves as children running through the enormous open field in our South Side Chicago neighborhood without a care in the world. We would race—or be chased—by the boys on our block. We’d outrun them, then fall to the ground bursting with energy surging through our little brown bodies. After eventually collapsing from exhaustion, we’d lie flat on our backs in the soft grass, fingers intertwined, gazing up at the passing clouds and pledging our friendship and loyalty to each other forever and ever.
As I look back on those days of innocence and wonder, I think of how this early sisterhood shaped the friendships and bonds that today carry me through good and bad times. My friendship with Tara is one that will last a lifetime and though we’ve had periods of distance and times of true closeness, this bond means everything to me. It taught me to be open and welcoming to new friendships that uplift me every day.
In my 20s, my sister circle consisted mostly of women I graduated from high school and college with and those I met early in my career. These friendships continued through formidable years as many of us were saying ‘I do’ to the men or partners we loved and raising families. I needed my sisters—and they needed me—as we juggled the complex world of motherhood, graduate school, and budding careers. Some of these girlfriends have stayed in my life, others have fallen off or intentionally opted out. After all, everyone isn’t meant to go the distance in your life. They serve their purpose at that time and move on.
In my 30s, the dynamics of my sister circle changed. Life got real as together we faced relationship issues and the challenges of being unapologetically powerful women in Corporate America who weren’t always equipped to look out for our own best interests in male-dominated environments. We were busy navigating the demands of work and family life, success, and failure, sometimes heartbreak and divorce. We’d plan girls trips and sorority reunions, spa days and parties—really, any reason to gather together to love each other up, talk each other off the ledge, stage an intervention when necessary, or simply spend time laughing and having honest conversations about life over a bottle of wine—or three.
Many of these remarkable women are still very much a part of my life in my 40s, and because I moved from one city where I had an established network to another where I did not, I set out to open myself up to making new friends. Those of us over 40 know that trying to make new friends at this stage in life is never easy. Busy, professional women have their own lives, their own day ones, their own careers and their own agendas. Trying to bring new friends into the mix can be well, daunting. But I’m grateful to have found an incredibly supportive tribe of new sister friends in addition to those who have been riding with me for years.
A popular quote from Oprah rings true when I think of the sisters in my life: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” This is especially true within my sister circle. I appreciate that they are with me in the very best of times and the very worst. My girlfriends have lifted me when I thought I couldn’t go higher and picked me up when I’ve fallen. They’ve loved me in the most non-judgmental way possible and told me the truth when I needed—but didn’t necessarily want—to hear it. I would not be the woman I have become without them. Period.
My sister circle is nothing like the friendships we see on ratchet TV. Rather, it’s about real women supporting other real women. It’s about helping each other launch businesses, manage careers and relationships and fight through life-threatening illnesses. It’s about listening to one another’s point of view. It’s about standing in the gap and holding space for each other when life goes sideways. It’s about loving one another even when we don’t agree.
My sister circle shows up in my daily life as a true form of self-care. Whether that self-care comes as a motivational (or petty) group text with members of my tribe on a Monday morning or shows up at my doorstep and takes me by the hand to comfort me during unimaginably painful times, I feel overwhelming gratitude each and every day for these smart, kind, empathetic, funny women and I never take what women bring to the lives of other women for granted.
Leslie M. Gordon is a writer, communications, and marketing strategist, and the creator of Get Your Sol Follow her on Twitter.
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