Suddenly I’m surrounded by amazing women who have had their lives “go pear shaped.” That expression, which my husband picked up from his English bandmates, loosely means that the best laid plans have gone terribly wrong. Right now, many of my female friends are dealing with some really tough shit: A divorce, the aftermath of a sexual assault, a cancer recurrence. Hard to fathom things. I’m currently going through what seems like my hundredth work nightmare, a slight thing by comparison, but it’s still damn stressful and a little surreal.
Incredible women friends of mine have been dealt blow after blow in the last few years: kids with down syndrome, hearing loss, autism; fertility problems, miscarriages, deaths of premature and stillborn babies; loss of parents, siblings, spouses, kids, and friends — through death and estrangement; their own and loved ones’ mental illnesses and addiction problems; career upheavals; rapes and domestic abuse; and more cancer. There is always more fucking cancer.
Here’s the thing though. We’re all in our late thirties or forties now, and I’ve known many of them for upwards of 20 years. Back when we were fresh-faced post-college kids, trifles far smaller than these would have sent each of us into a tailspin of extraordinary proportion. A dented fender or a late utility bill would have made us insane. Now, when something truly awful happens, we have a long cry, talk it over, figure out what can be done, and get to it.
It reminds me of this awesome quote by the beautiful, genius writer Elizabeth Gilbert:
“The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. These women are my superheroes.”
None of this is actually so sudden at all; I’m just suddenly realizing it. Because we’ve now been through a lot of extremely rough things: funerals, hospitalizations, nasty break ups, complete life overhauls. I’ve reckoned with a bunch of these issues myself, and I’m not only still standing, I’m more resilient than I’ve ever been. I’m learning to balance the shit with the great beauty of this life. It’s so much better and easier with the support of these women.
We’ve been beaten up, tossed around, ripped open, grieved a lot. Yes, we are scarred. But now we have scar tissue, and we’re stronger for it. I wish we all had it easier. None of us deserves it. It would be a whole lot nicer if things just went right. Yet here we are, and we aren’t crumbling or jaded; we’re bravely shouldering together, moving through as our older, wiser, braver, tougher selves, which are also — simultaneously, miraculously — gentler, kinder, and sweeter for all our tenderizing.
Shit will go wrong. As long as we’ve got each other, we will handle it.