Being a Phenomenal Friend

We women have a phenomenal power that many of us don’t realise. It’s the power to lift each other to full flight,  or to strip each other back to bone. Either way, it’s powerful.

Both men and women have hurt me from time time but there is something about being being betrayed by one of my tribe – by another woman – that has the potential to ruin me a little more than any other. As women we are all different but we all know what it’s like to feel vulnerable, strong, insecure, capable or scared. There’s a wisdom we have about being a woman and when someone uses that wisdom against us, it feels like the ultimate betrayal.

I’ve also seen how women can use their strength, wisdom and love to make each other soar. There is something about being lifted and valued by one of the sisterhood – by another who ‘gets it’ and knows what it takes to reach full wingspan. By someone who wants to see us soar. There’s a raw honesty and validation in there that can see mountains moved by the feminine hand. 

When there is a phenomenal circle of women around you, it’s harder for the nastiness and put-down of the world to find it’s way in. This is why we need to cherish our girlfriends – put them at the top of the list, or at least very close to the top, and be an incredible girlfriend ourselves.

We women have incredible power to lift every woman in our lives and help her to soar. We can’t help but take flight ourselves in the process.

Girlfriends are an important place to start, by being one of these women or many. All are extraordinary and chances are you’re already at least one:

  1. The Getaway Girl (aka The Travel Agent). 

    She’s the one who is always working on the next girls’ trip. We need this woman! Science has proven that girls’ getaways are a way to do the important things we need to do to at each life stage. Girls’ trips will have a positive impact on health and well-being for different reasons, depending on the stage of life you’re in.  Here’s why:

    .  In adolescence, all-girl getaways feed the desire for independence and provide girls with a way to break away (nicely now!) from their family. It also offers the chance to ‘express their rebellion’. Nobody is suggesting that anybody push the limits to the point of ending up sharing a prison cell, but pushing the boundaries and finding the edge of yourself is important and the stuff of all things wonderful.

    .  In early adulthood, girls’ breaks make way for adventure and experimentation. They form a ‘rite of passage’ to the next phase of life – away from education and training and towards a family and career.  

    .  Middle adulthood can be two things – a break from family commitment or the transition through traumatic life events such as death or divorce. Either way, those women in your life who are beside you will see you through.

    .  Late adulthood is a time when women are able to own their independence in a way they might not have been able to earlier in their life, when travelling without a husband wasn’t as acceptable. Girls’ getaways in this stage might also be a way to cope with widowhood and to solidify friendships, which become particularly important again at this stage of life.

  2. The Go-To.

    This is the woman we reach for when there’s trouble. Women have a way of dealing with stress that heals and according to a UCLA study, we can thank evolution for that. Shelley E. Taylor, the lead author of the study has been researching in the area for 25 years and has analysed more than 1000 studies. She has found that women have a ‘tend and befriend‘ response to stress – they tend to their young and want to be with their friends. Being with others in times of stress is hardwired into our genes. Those of us who have social support and are connected with friends are healthier and have ‘younger’ stress systems and more resilience against chronic disease. 

  3. The Listener.

    She reminds us – without saying anything at all – that we don’t need fixing, even if the world around us sometimes does. She gets it, and we know she gets it. In a crisis, she’ll sit and listen and tuck our hair behind our ears when it sticks to our tears. She’ll be with us when we’re a red hot mess or when we’re on the edge of being fabulous. When we’re bursting with a brilliant idea she’ll nod with a ‘go get ’em’ smile. When we’re falling apart she’ll keep her advice to herself, knowing if she could think of the answer that easily, you would have thought of it and done it by now. She’s the strength when you have nothing left.

  4.  The Cheerleader.

    She believes in you enough for both of you. These are the women who make you soar a little higher because they make you believe you can. 

  5.  The Nurturer.

    She’s the one who is there when you’re struggling to be anywhere at all. The nurturing side of womanhood is so powerful that it can help women survive a chronic illness. Science has proven that too. Researchers looked at 2,264 women who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and found that women who had more supportive social networks were over twice as likely to survive their diagnosis. It wasn’t the size of the support network but the quality that mattered. Women with lower levels of social support were 61% more likely to die from breast cancer or another cause than women with higher levels of support – regardless of the size of the network. We can literally save lives by looking after each other. So let’s do that.

  6. The Reality-Checker.

    She’s honest but never judgemental. She’s wise and loving and usually right, and she will never criticise. Ever. Sometimes we need to hear when we’re doing something dumb. And sometimes we need the world to hush so we can learn the lesson ourselves. The reality-checker will do both. She’ll point out that taking him back four times in six months is maybe three times too many – but if you still decide that this time will be different, fine – she’ll drive you there herself. And if turns out she’s right, she’ll be there to listen and help pick up the pieces, without saying ‘I told you so.’  

  7. The Fearless Warrior.

    She’s the one who helps us find the edge of our limits and pushes us just beyond. Before we can say, ‘Um. That’s not really me’ she’ll have us learning Russian, bungee jumping, trying a round of speed dating, or heading to the outback for a pumpkin festival ‘because it’s something we haven’t done before’. She’ll try anything and get you excited about trying it too. Just check that your chord is tight before you jump. And check hers too while you’re at it.

  8. The One Who Believes You. (Even When She Shouldn’t)

    She’s the one who believes what you say – whether it’s your new business plan or that you’re done with your job or your relationship or any other big changes you want to announce. She believes you, whatever your emotional state when you announce it and starts to devise the plan to help you do it. And she’s excellent at it. She won’t push you either way but she’ll be there with a huge fluffy net to catch you – just in case – when you make your move. She’ll reassure you that you’ll be fine – because you always will be – and she’ll walk beside you every step of the way. If you change you’re mind, there’ll be no argument from her. We love her because she takes us to the edge of our dreaming and shows us how it looks. Then lets us decide whether to go there or not.

  9. The Do-er.

    She figures out what you need before you’ve figured it out yourself. She the one you want in a crisis because she might not be able to be with you, but she will know what needs to be done – and she’ll do it. She’ll have your dinners sorted and your kids collected from school. And as soon as she’s free, she’ll be there talking, laughing and throwing a load of washing on before she walks out the door.

  10. The One Who Knows Everything About Us.

    This is the woman who knows everything about us – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things that make the ugly turn away. She doesn’t judge – ever – and reminds us that we’re so much more than our dim dirty secrets. You’ll never have to worry about hearing your story from a third party over lunch – these women know how to keep a secret.

  11. The One Who Takes it to a Deeper Level.

    There are some friends who are great for a laugh, and some who are good to let your mind run away with. This woman will talk and talk with you and will have you wondering where the time went. She makes you think and she helps you discover. She’s full of wisdom and puts you well within reach of yours.

And something all phenomenal women do, no matter their special type:

  1. She shares your joy, not just your sorrow.

    For some people, it’s easier to be there when you’re firmly (face)planted on the ground than when you’re soaring. We need to celebrate each other’s success and cheer as loud as anybody when one of us flies a bit higher than the flock for a while – because we all know what it takes to soar. 

  2. She never judges you – or any other woman.

    Phenomenal women don’t necessarily like all women but they never judge them. Instead, they look for what that woman knows that they don’t. They know that every woman has a story and that you can learn something from most of them – even if it’s how not to be.

Phenomenal women are many things but one of the things they do without fail is lift other women.

How do you do this? Probably you do it differently for different people. Is there any you would add to the list? 

2 Comments

Rebecca

This is wonderful and so true in so many ways.
I don’t have very many close women friends and do feel that I need them!

I have a younger sister, who until about 8 months ago was nearly my worst enemy most of the time. Not through choice I might add. Neither of us had ever been able to ‘get’ the other.

We lost our mother suddenly about two years ago and when it happened of course, we both dealt with it very differently.
I, as a parent, went into practical mode and as well as all the obvious things to do I threw myself into renovating our late mother’s house which we inherited.

Of course, this was my way of coping and along with the support of a wonderful man in my life and my beautiful little girl, I was able to somehow navigate through the fog of loss I was feeling.

My sister dealt with the loss of our mother very differently and to me it seemed as though she simply shut herself away, becoming more and more dependant on her then boyfriend. She was angry and unpleasant much of the time, understandably of course! I knew that this was her way of coping and left her to it most of the time. I must say that I too had my fair share of behaving irrationally and being a bit if a b****.of course I did!

Once the major work on the house was completed we made the decision to move into the house together. My daughter and I, and my sister and her boyfriend. My sister and I coped with living together by talking to anyone but each other most of the time. Eventually my sister and her boyfriend broke up and I was left worrying about the idea of living with her without the adult buffer between us that her boyfriend had become.

After a while though, my sister and I started to find ourselves in long conversations, often about our mother and childhood. It became a bit of a cleansing process for both of us. Our mother, though an incredible woman, had often made situations worse between my sister and I. We talked and talked and eventually she started to confide in me and tell me how she was feeling about having lost our mother and her boyfriend etc, and I too started to confide in her.

She’s a very bright, bubbly person who always seems to be the life of the party but can be mentally falling apart, but since she has had to rely on no one but herself she has grown incredibly.

She now has a new group of women friends who she spends time with, I’m almost jealous!

We are very good friends these days. Its amazing, if you had asked me about my sister a couple years ago I would have probably just said that I love her but I don’t like her very much. Now I can say that I not only like her but she fits many of the headings in this article for me and I for her.

We need other women! they just get ‘it’ more than men.

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Hey Sigmund

This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. When our relationships with women work, they really work and there’s just nothing like them. The relationship between you and your sister sounds like an amazing one – worth every second of the work you both put into it!

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Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.
Some days are great days. We want to squeeze every delicious moment out of them and keep them forever somewhere safe and reachable where our loved days and precious things are kept. Then there are days that are truly awful - the days we want to fold in half, and then in half again and again and again until those days are too small to hurt us any more. But days are like that aren’t they. For better or worse they will come and they will go. Sometimes the effects of them will stay – the glow, the growth, the joy, the bruises – long after those days have gone. And despite what I know to be true - that these are the days that will make us braver, stronger, kinder and wiser, sometimes I don’t feel any of that for a while. I just see the stretch marks. But that’s the way life is, isn’t it. It can be hard and beautiful all in sequence and all at once.
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One of the tough things about being human is that to live wholeheartedly means to open ourselves to both - the parts that are plump with happiness, and the parts that hurt. We don’t have to choose which one can stay. They can exist together. Not always in equal measure, and not always enough of the beautiful to make the awful feel tolerable, or to give it permission to be, but they can exist together - love through loss, hope through heartache. The big memory-making times that fatten life to full enough, and the ones that come with breakage or loss. The loss matters and the joy matters. The existence of either doesn't make the other matter any less. 
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What I also know to be true is that eventually, the space taken up by loss or heartache changes space for enough of the beautiful to exist with it. This is when we can start to move with. Sadness still, perhaps, but with hope, with courage, with strength and softness, with openness to what comes next. Because living bravely and wholeheartedly doesn't mean getting over loss or denying the feelings that take our breath away sometimes. It means honouring both, and in time, moving with.♥️

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