This originally appeared in A Fierce Flourishing Guidebook, which is a compilation workbook of amazing women sharing all sorts of important things you need to flourish this coming year. It is part of your Membership Welcome Kit, and you are going to want to snag one, dearest!
I spend most of my days with my boys, ages three and five.
We spend them on the couch reading library books and doing homeschool, going for walks to the local co-op to get the groceries, feeding our kittens and stoking the woodstove in the basement of our Alberta, Canada, home.
We spend them close, laughing at each other’s knock-knock jokes and talking about simple things like our favorite colors, and not so simple things like why the sky is blue, and building tall Duplo towers.
But some days this house isn’t big enough, and I find myself crying into my toast needing a friend. A grown-up who can drink tea with me — the kind that doesn’t have half a cup of milk mixed into it — and ask me how I’m doing; you know, really doing, from beneath a pile of laundry and a heap of To-Do’s. The girl within. The one who feels forgotten in the midst of caring for a home full of others.
Sometimes the phone rings in the midst of those tears and it’s someone who just knows you need a visit, and sometimes, you’re the one who has to pick up the phone and say, “Can I come over?”
Because this is what it looks like to care for ourselves. To be a friend both to ourselves, and to others. The kind of friend dropping by in sweat pants and uncombed hair, the kind that welcomes unclean floors and cluttered countertops just for a chance to be seen and heard.
The other day I did this. I messaged a friend who lives the town over and asked if I could drop by after my doctor’s appointment the next day because I knew if I didn’t, I might never stop crying into my toast. And she said, “Yes, of course!” So I showed up the next afternoon, on her doorstep, ten minutes late and feeling very out of place.
I thought of all of the things my friend could be doing if I wasn’t interrupting her day. I thought of how needy I was to just invite myself over, and by the time she opened the door I’d worked myself into saying, “I’m so sorry, I’ll only stay a minute!”
My friend shook her head. “You must stay longer than that. My daughter’s gone and blown up balloons and set out the fancy tablecloth and fine dishes and put together a tea for you. We’re so excited you’re here!”
I just stood there staring at my friend’s daughter in her pink sweatpants and her face shining, peering out from behind her mother’s leg and my eyes filled with tears. She was an angel in an eight-year-old’s body.
“Thank you,” I said in a whisper because it’s all I could find, and I took off my shoes.
I sat and ate muffins and slices of mango and drank vanilla tea, and my friend and I, we listened to each other. It was a soul feeding, across white tablecloth and crumbs.
As women, we need this, don’t we? We need to separate ourselves from the hum of the dishwasher and the breaking up of fights and the spilled milk on the floor and look into the eyes of someone who sees you. Who sees the girl in you, the one who used to paint canvases with thick acrylics and go for long runs and read novels by candlelight.
A friend who reaches across the table and puts a hand on yours and says, “You can do this. I believe in you. Look at what you’ve become; look at what you’ve been given — what an honor, to raise these children. I know it’s not easy. And I’m so proud of you.”
A friend whose daughter hangs up balloons just because you’re coming over.
And your kids are there, waiting by the door when you get home, and they grab your legs and won’t let go. The smell of supper in the oven and your husband standing at the top of the stairs looking at you with a worried expression because he hopes you’ve found what he’s seen in you all along.
A woman who is loved.
When has a friend just known you needed a visit and done something about it?
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, and the author of six books including the new memoir Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose (Baker Books, 2015). Proceeds from Emily’s books benefit her non-profit, The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and three children. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.