There is this thing that happens when you get to hang out with a childhood friend. The years melt away and you’re back at your pre-baby, pre-wife self. Just yourself. Who you were before your adult roles became the bigger part of your identity. Before responsibility and change and heartbreak and all the stuff. That noisy stuff that makes the mirror blurry.
I spent the weekend with my friend, who also happens to be my cousin. She’s known me for as long as I have been alive and seen me through all kinds of stuff. There’s comfort in that. We know each other’s history from the time before. We know the dreams we had and the plans we made. We know the paths we travelled and the ones we didn’t. And here, on the other side of forty we still know who each other is.
And that is a beautiful, comforting thing. We both lost our mums in the last decade. Our mums were sisters. We talked long into each night about grief, being women, the legacy of the women in our family. Being mums. Being us while we travel through the terrain of our days. It is so easy as women to lose sight of who your are, were, your core self. Life gets so demanding, and you choose to prioritise based on your responsibilities. The kids, your husband, maybe your job, your friends. How often are you the last on the list? Have you ever been at the top of it?
I remember scoffing at women’s magazines when I was a working mum. Make time for you! Look after yourself so you can look after them! Yeah right, I would think. There is no extra cash for that. There is no extra time for that. There is no one who can take the kids just so I can have “me time”. Not everyone can afford to be that selfish. That’s what I thought ‘me time’ was. Selfish. Unrealistic. A pipe dream.
And then we got sideswiped by my health problems. And prioritising became about survival. Saving the energy for an ever-more-pared-down-list of the most important, essential, crucial tasks. Spending my ‘spoons’ on the family and getting through the day. Gritting my teeth to manage what small amount of work I could, pushing through the necessary tasks. No room there for frivolous “Me time”. Me time was suddenly in surplus; but it wasn’t soul food time. I was busy working on getting through the storm of body issues Dysautonomia sends my way. It wasn’t restorative or helpful time. Just grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it time.
So when my cuzzie friend and I hatched the plan to meet halfway between NZ and Perth; in Adelaide, I honestly doubted I would make it. I didn’t think I could physically manage two flights, the days between, the struggle and strain without all my home comforts. But seeing Erica again was powerful motivation. So I proceeded to hope for it anyway. And it was worth it. It was restorative. Girl time. The way we can talk about a hundred things and pick up the threads at random times without ever losing our place. I held her in a hug and felt connected to who we were again.
Maybe you think planning some ‘me time’ or ‘girl time’ with one of your dearest friends is a crazy thing to do. Maybe you think you are too sick, or too busy, or too tired. I did. And I booked it anyway. It was a huge weekend for me. As I sat waiting to board the plane home my eyes filled with tears. I took myself right to the edge of my coping capacity. I was spent. I couldn’t walk. I felt so disconnected, dizzy and tired. So worn. But in my soul? I was fed with the joy of finding my old self again. There’s soul food right there. Enough emotional energy to make it through the next stretch.
Even if it seems like a crazy thing to do, book out that time for you. You need it. You may not know just how much until you are there and you see it; you, again. Looking back at you in the mirror. Always there, just waiting for some quality time with you.