When I write these, I realize that I am speaking about things that I have learned from others — my experiences wouldn’t mean much if I only had them by myself! This is why my next Step is so important:
Step 9: Find a group and learn from them
One of the reasons I started Great Girls Network is that I wanted other women to enjoy the benefits of what had been enriching, expanding and informing my life since my early 20s: I already had a Great Girls Network! I have a panel of experts I can call on around the world!
Some of them are actually men, but they are men who appreciate and support women. Most of them, however, are women. We challenge each other. We support each other. We stand by each other. We learn from each other.
My first and for me most dramatic experience of this was when I was barely 24 years old and I moved, with a 4 week-old baby, to Mexico City to study Montessori Education. I was still in a state of recovery from having been involved in The Movement — I had been part of the anti-war effort, among other things in the late 60s, ended up living in a commune in Vermont, and landed back in Texas pregnant and without a future mapped out clearly. [that is a VERY short version of a long story!]
I got back to Texas and reconnected with a friend from a few years back who had a son in a Montessori school. She introduced me to her friends, one of whom was a teacher there. She introduced me to her mentor, a woman from Holland who was starting a training program with the Mexican government to introduce Montessori to Mexico. I got enveloped by the loving energy, the acceptance of those women, and the feeling that I could maybe make a life for me and my child if I continued my education that way.
My parents agreed to help me, and once my son was born, insisted that I go ahead and leave Dallas to make sure I was at the school when the training program started. Which landed me in a sort of dark and dreary hotel in Polanco, in Mexico City. The stress of travel gave me a breast infection, and I was lying in the bed, trying to figure out what to do. I heard a knock on the door and this dear woman opened it and said, Hi, I’m Penny and I’ve come to see if I can help you.
Telling this story is bringing the same tears of gratitude that I felt in that moment 47 years ago. I will never forget it.
She was also a student who had come for the training. She was 36, she had children who had stayed behind in Virginia with her ex-husband and his wife so she could take this course. She understood what my predicament was, helped me find a doctor, get medicine and get better. We bonded at that moment and even though we went separate ways through the years, I still love her dearly and think of her often. We were friends throughout the training course, and she decided to stay in Mexico and work with the school, bringing her children down when she could. She introduced me to a study of metaphysics that I followed for another 15 years. She helped me understand what patience looks like, as she seemed to have an infinite amount of it!
She was a conduit to helping me connect with other women at our school [there were 20 Americans and 55 Mexicans attending] and helped me keep my bearings as I juggled raising a baby to a toddler and going to school full time. We spent 2 years at that school, and I went back to Mexico from time to time to visit her.
She taught me what it means to have women in your life who are not only friends, but mentors, teachers and fun companions on adventures.
Once I moved back to Texas to teach school, the connections with Penny, our friend Marjorie and other Montessori people helped me re-acclimate to my life as a mother and teacher. I met my second husband through a connection with the school, and a year later started my new life as a wife, mother and teacher. When we moved to Houston for his work, I immediately bonded with my neighbor who was the first person I met on my street. Lida and I have now been best friends for 43 years!!! She exactly fits the description above, and is usually my first “go to” for counsel, sharing and comfort.
What Lida and I have experienced over those years is probably enough to write several books! And although she lives in Houston, she even joined Great Girls Network so she attend Track meetings when she comes to visit!
One blessing for me is that I haven’t limited myself to only one group….
My Step 9 is a starting point, and I encourage you to use it as a springboard for myriad connections and relationships. I have a group of 8 women I have lunch with once a month. We not only celebrate our birthdays, but keep track of life changes, things we’re excited about, things we are working on. Those lunches have become a vital part of my life! We all know each others stuff, and we just pick up where we left off each time — even if we don’t make it one month, it is easy to catch up because of our history.
I have a large circle of friends from the days when I was an avid Demartini student. Even though I don’t attend the classes anymore, I still have the friends! I have places I can visit and hang with them all over the world!
I have another group of closest friends that started when we all went on a retreat to celebrate a friend’s birthday in 2003. We knew each other, some better than others, and that trip launched us into such deep relationships that we truly think of ourselves as sisters. And we challenge each other like sisters! I recently wrote something in an email to the group and two of them pushed back and let me know they thought I was out of line. I was grateful for the heads up, corrected my error and we all moved on. Who would I be if my friends didn’t call me on my stuff? I don’t really want to imagine it!!!!
I have many more examples of groups I stay connected with, but you get the point!
The older you get, the more important friends are, and the less time it is necessary to spend with them.
What I am saying here is: keeping friends isn’t about how much time you spend with them. It is about what happens when you are with them. Are you authentic? Are you able to be present, share their stories and be there for them? Do you let them know they matter to you? Do you challenge them when they need it? Do you welcome their feedback to you? Are you the kind of friend to them that you would want a friend to be?
This is where I go to the Cosmic nature of relationships. Love has no limits or time. When you love people, appreciate them, see them as valuable to you because of how much they enrich your life, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been together in years. When you reconnect, you just catch up and go from there.
And this only happens if you see yourself as a Life Long Learner, eager to grow and share with those around you.
What a blessing!