Although it’s been away from our screens for a few years now, I still love The West Wing very much. One of the main reasons why is the brilliantly written women characters. The women of The West Wing are real. They’re women with ambition, stressful careers, families, sex lives and flaws. Women who debate with intelligence, have positions of great authority, networks of friends and colleagues who become like family. They’re women that I wish I’d known. And, in the case of CJ Cregg, to have dressed like. That woman could wear a full length gown like no-one else.
One of my favourite episodes, early in season one, was called The Crackpots and These Women. It was about Big Block of Cheese Day–West Wing fans, you know what I’m talking about–and then, towards the end of the episode, President Bartlett and Leo McGarry (his Chief of Staff) talk about the strength and integrity of the women they are privileged to know. I love it.
So, today, I want to talk to you about the women I know. I might cry a bit while I’m typing, because it’s been that kind of day. But I feel the need.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been surrounded by these women. I choose my friends well. They’re women with whom I go on holiday, drink beer, laugh until I weep, take part in stupid challenges. They’re women whose work and talent I admire, morals I share, style I envy and advice I trust. Every time I turn to them for help or guidance, I am overwhelmed by their brilliance. Their wisdom and honesty. Their sheer bloody badassery. And, yes, that’s a word, because Brené Brown says it is.
I realise that I’m often not the greatest of friends back. I get caught up in my own turmoil, my own mess. I can become absorbed in trying to pick my way through the tangle of my own problems, to the extent that I don’t see those belonging to other people. I don’t ask, often enough, how these women are; I don’t stand in their shoes. I don’t pick up the phone–because talking on the phone is less comfortable to me than writing–to check up on my friends. To just say hello. To tell them that I’m thinking of them, in their darkest of times, and that I care. Because I do. These women, these remarkable women, choose to be my friends; I care about them very much.
I’ve had conversations with my friends recently that will stay with me for a very long time. Conversations about our lives, our flaws, our messes and problems, and sometimes–because sharing what’s gone well is just as important–about the good, positive stuff that’s happening to us. My friends and I can empathise with each other, as we’re often facing the same battles, and empathy is a powerful way for us all to feel better about them.
I’ve had conversations with newer friends, older friends, friends met through work, through college, through blogging, Instagram and Twitter. Living under the same roof means that I’ve had lots of conversations with my mother. I’ve even been having deeper chats about grief and change with my eight year old daughter; she is many years from being a woman, but she has views gained from her own short life that deserve to be listened to.
They lift me up, these women. I see myself through their eyes, their words and their belief in who I am, and I treat myself better as a result. Because we all know the truth; we’re kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves. So, when my friends tell me to rest, I rest. When they teach me all they know about self-care, I look after myself better. When they listen to me talking about my problems, I then listen to their guidance. My friends are the balance that my own internal voice needs to stop it being overly critical and self-sabotaging. They help me see my life differently, in a more positive and balanced light. That nothing lasts forever and the bad times will pass. They help me to see that everyone has moments of failure, but that doesn’t mean that I am a failure. Through their eyes, I’m simply trying my best. Picking myself back up again. They help me to see that the day isn’t over yet; there is still time. They help me to make better choices and, as a consequence, to create a better future for myself.
And so I want to say this to these women, to my family, friends, mother, daughter: thank you. Thank you so very much. I love you. And I promise to do better by you. To be worthy of our relationship. To seek you out, to help you more. To ask how you are and to remember to listen. To see your point of view. To join you in the dark, if that helps us both to find the light again. To do for you what you endlessly do for me.
These women. They sparkle. They are vulnerable and strong, honest and funny. They are wise and brilliant. They have integrity and courage. They make me so much better, braver, happier, than I could ever be on my own. They are–I believe with all my heart–magnificent. I feel surrounded by their love and I am in awe of it.