When I was in high school, I ran with a pack. We were not a gang, we caused no trouble. We caused very little trouble, let’s say that. We were friends. A group of eight girlfriends, trying to navigate the teen years without disaster, and look cool doing it. Our goals back then were pretty simple: survive the school week without embarrassing ourselves, and make it to some party over the weekend where our crush of the moment would hopefully notice us.
Fast forward more years than seem possible to a weekend at the end of the summer, 2015. The eight of us gathered on the New England coastline to celebrate all of us turning 50 this year. We are all still friends, although sometimes go longer than we would like to without seeing one another. Some of us still live in the area where we grew up, others have ventured farther away. But we came together to celebrate our friendship, to enjoy the waning days of summer at the beach, and best of all, to be together.
We treated ourselves to a truly grand, classic New England resort. As a group we know how to splurge, but we rarely do it for ourselves. This time we went all out, though. I think because as we get older we realize how special and rare these times together are. They are more than worthy of a magnificent backdrop.
The laughter began as soon as we saw one another, and would rarely stop for the next 48 hours. If I remember correctly one of our first topics was bladder control, and our increasing concern over its lack as we age. That was a vicious cycle, because the idea of it made us laugh so hard that … well … you get the idea.
It was not long before menopause wormed its grumpy way into our discussion. All of us are at different stages. Some are done. Some have not begun. And some are somewhere in the middle. When one of us mentioned that she was not only done but had barely gained any weight during the course of it I threw my martini at her. Some of us find ourselves struggling with symptoms we never expected, the course being far more arduous than we ever thought.
We did far more than talk about our changing selves, though. We gossiped, we ate, we sailed, we drank. Of course we talked about our children, our spouses, our careers. We talked about many things, still keeping some things to ourselves. We are a group that accepts what gets shared, and respects that which does not.
Through our time together that weekend I constantly marveled at how precious these friends are to me. Our lives have taken varied paths, and we are definitely eight very different women. These are not the people I see most often. And in many ways they do not know me best. Our bond is undeniable, however. It was forged in the confusing, turbulent days of our youth, and honed in young adulthood. We have been through marriages, childbirth, death and disaster. We have laughed and cried together more times than I will ever be able to count. These women have been by my side during the very best and very worst times of my life and none of them has ever wavered. Not once.
This is one of the true, lasting joys of midlife. To be able to say I have friends like these that I have known for so many years. Friends that I can lean on during anything that comes my way. To look back at so many points of my life and see them there with me, and to know that they are with me still. Whatever challenges midlife brings, it also brings gifts. These friends are one of my most precious gifts of all.