The Blessing of Friendship

Yesterday I got together with a group of friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic – former colleagues at an alternative high school – women who’d been shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the trenches as our school went through some challenging times. Our commitment to the well-being of our students, our shared sense of humor, and our trust in each other, had drawn us together and bonded us for life.

And here we sat at the local Starbuck’s – together again – a group of women ranging in age from 30 to 70 – two of us retired now, two of us still in the trenches of an educational landscape that has changed drastically in the last couple years. We hugged and we laughed. We got caught up – talked about families and skirmishes with COVID and what strategies we’re using to stay sane in an insane time, and how education changed during the pandemic. We talked about adventures and aging and the adventure of aging, and how older women are viewed by society – the bad AND the good of that – the tendency to dismiss older women and the freedom that comes with aging. We shared and listened. We took turns and gave each other time to talk – and it was a natural thing to do this – it always amazes me how naturally the conversation flows with these women. There are no prima donnas here. We are genuinely interested in each other.

After we’d been there a couple hours – completely enveloped in our bubble of friendship and mostly unaware of what was going on around us – a woman in her sixties rose from a table near us and headed for the exit. As she passed our table she stopped and smiled and said, “I miss my friends! I’ve enjoyed listening to your laughter!” She was very cool – I knew she would have fit right in with this group – and we thanked her and wished her a good day.

Not long after that, a couple of men in their sixties – they looked like men who might have just gotten back from a hike together- rose from THEIR table and passed us for the exit. One of them looked over at me as he passed and I smiled and he smiled back one of those genuine full-faced smiles and, in that instant, I just KNEW that he’d been listening into our conversation, too. And, for a moment, I was embarrassed, remembering all the things we’d been talking about at our table. But then I realized that his smile had been kind, and more of a “we’re-all-in-this-together” type of smile than a “you-guys-are-batshit-crazy” type of smile, and that felt good.

Two and a half hours later my friends and I hugged each other good bye – promised each other we’d get together again soon – and each of us headed home to our families. But those two and a half hours together were like an oasis in the desert for me. I felt my soul soaking up the love and inspiration and fellowship, and left feeling rejuvenated.

What a blessing to have friends like these.

Friends

This Body

This body has done everything I’ve asked of it. Since I was 10 months old and taking my first steps, this body has been my chief form of transportation – and my most reliable one. It’s conveyed me to the tops of Mount Rainier, Baker, Adams and Hood. It’s brought me through amazing places of meadows and waterfalls, and sparkling deserts – taken me through foreign streets and foreign landscapes, and through the gardens and orchards of my own backyard. This body has run races, and jumped over high jump bars, caught baseballs and served volleyballs and swung a tennis racket. Its hands have clasped other hands in friendship, stroked my babies’ foreheads as they drifted into sleep, bandaged knees, tied shoes, painted and typed and weeded the garden. This body has given me the means to dance and sing. It’s birthed my two sons for me. Its eyes have given me a means to see the beauty surrounding me, and its ears have given me access to music and laughter. This body has been my faithful instrument; a loyal tool. It may not be as quick or light or nimble as it once was, but it has served me well, and I am grateful for it. So no, you aren’t going to hear me disparaging this body’s weight, or its wrinkles, or its age spots. You aren’t going to hear me talking about this body as if it’s my enemy. This body deserves more than that. This body rocks!

        The elements and functions of the physical body and of the physical world will change as mortal mind changes its beliefs. What is now considered the best condition  for organic and functional health in the human body may no longer be found indispensable to health. Moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving. Neither organic inaction nor overaction is beyond God’s control; and man will be found normal and natural to changed mortal thought, and therefore more harmonious in his manifestations than he was in the prior states which human belief created and sanctioned.
– Mary Baker Eddy

“I am woman, hear me roar…”

So God created man in his own image and likeness; male and female created he them. – Genesis 1: 27

Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God… The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity. – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy

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As a Christian Scientist, I believe God to be both Father and Mother, and all men and women to be made in her likeness. I believe that if we, as a society, fail to appreciate or value the expression of God’s feminine nature, we’re not appreciating the full expression of our Father-Mother God.

Tonight, as I was giving thought to the financial, political, and social challenges that women around the world are currently facing, an old Helen Reddy song came boldly bounding into my thoughts:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

CHORUS
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
’cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
’cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

CHORUS

I am woman, watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand…

– Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

This song was a kind of anthem for me as a young woman. It was one of the songs I hummed to myself as I climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier.  It was with me as I launched myself into my career, and it was with me as I tried to figure out my place as a woman in American society. It inspired me to be strong and brave and confident. “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman,” sang Helen Reddy, and I sang right along with her.

I married, had children, raised a family, entered a teaching career, climbed more mountains and hiked more hills.  New songs took the place of I Am Woman.  I suppose at some point I began to think of I Am Woman as too simplistic or schmaltzy or shallow or something.  And finally I am Woman faded completely into the distant recesses of my mind.  Until today, I don’t think I’d thought about that song for years.

But today it came back to me – and it didn’t enter my thoughts in a dainty or delicate way, either – it came bursting in, all unapologetic and vibrant. I found it on youtube and listened to it again, and felt myself becoming inspired, just as I had as a young woman three decades ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUBnxqEVKlk&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=AVGxdCwVVULXdW3YgNT-BsHvNXAaqMSO2y

Biologically, I have brothers, and I have sons, but no daughters or sisters.  Although I love all the wonderful men in my life – right now, today, I want to take time to celebrate women.   I’ve been blest to have a wise, wonderful mother, and, even though I have no biological sisters, I’ve had a life filled with the inspiration and support of “sisters of the heart” – strong,  courageous women who’ve been an example to me of the power of womankind. Today I want to celebrate the courage and daring of the pioneer women who helped build our country; the suffragettes who worked tirelessly so that other women, like me, could vote; and the courageous female leaders who are working right now to ensure that women’s lives and rights are protected.

And I want to make a commitment to being the best representative of womankind that I can be, too.  Today I resolve to fully express the courage, strength, and love that are attributes of my Father-Mother God.  “I am woman, watch me grow; See me standing toe to toe, as I spread my loving arms across the land…”

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Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out  from  the material world and be separate. They must renounce aggression, oppression and the pride of power. Christianity, with the crown of Love upon her brow, must be their queen of life. – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

(This post was originally published in March, 2012 – during Women”s History Month. I thought now might be a good time to bring it up again. May Malala Yousufzai and all others who are working for women’s rights around the world see their hopes fulfilled.)