This post was going to be about my mother. But I realized as I wrote it in my head that it was really about my girlfriends.
A few days ago, I was feeling sad about my mother, and I saw a picture, taken at some local fundraising event, of me with six of the most marvelous women in the world. They are marvelous because they are my friends.
When I see a picture like this, one of Urusala LeGuin's short stories pops into my head. It's a story set in her universe from Left Hand of Darkness, a powerful book unto itself. The story is framed as a series of snapshots, a this device that echoes one of the themes of the story, how our memory is often frozen like a picture.
The picture with my friends is still fresh, it was only last week. But in a month or two, I will remember the event, but not feelings exactly at that moment. Maybe in a year or two, I will not remember even where we were at the time.
I look at the picture, and I know similar ones exist, ones with a different mix of people's faces in them. I know, because I've seen them. And while I don't know the faces in those pictures, on Facebook, on Twitter, in miscellaneous blog posts, I know the feeling.
These women love me and each other. And it doesn't matter how smart or thin you are. It doesn't matter if you work in a factory (as one does) or teach school (as another does) or have several squillion NIH dollars (or not). It doesn't matter if you are fat or fit. It is a friendship born out of shared time together, of helping when things are tough, and looking out for someone else.
I have not always had time for women like this in my life. And now, looking back, I know why I didn't have time. I am not even sure, as wonderful as having such women in my life is, I am not sure that I would be here, now, where I am if I had. Family and job often sucked everything out of me. But there were also times and places in my life when I thought these women didn't exist, or at least exist for me. And that was wrong.
When I moved to almost-MRU in the Middle-of-fracking-nowhere (as it seemed to me at the time, I know better now), I was emotionally devastated. I had probably hit 5 or 7 of the top 10 stressors in life (although not getting funded by NIH isn't on most standard lists, it is on ours). As I have at other times in my life, I plastered "I can make this work" smile on my face, and stood up and taught large classes of frequently indifferent students. I sat in front of a computer and lost myself in data. Or in grant proposals. But I was not happy in my Potenmkin Village of life.
And I found these women. They didn't just fall into my life, although that is possible. I found them, and made an effort towards friendship. Without meaning to, they saved my life. I know that I have, on occasion, saved theirs. These women are there for you. They are worth finding. They are worth the energy of reaching out to. They will save your life.