Perhaps my favorite holiday made up by a television show is the February 13th celebration of Galentine’s day, made famous by Parks and Rec character Leslie Knope.
It’s a holiday to celebrate your girlfriends.
I’ve been beyond blessed in the girlfriend department for years. For all of my young adult and, now, older adult life I have been surrounded by women who are smart, funny, kind, thoughtful, compassionate, interesting and passionate people. They are movers and shakers, they educate themselves on the things that matter and they regularly laugh about the things that don’t. There is no cattiness, no frenemies, no back-stabbing. No, the women in my life are straight-forward, loving and full of integrity. I look forward to time with my girls more than I can say.
I have come to understand, deep in my bones, a truth about female friendship. It is one of the most powerful and life giving forces on the planet. There is nothing quite like it and I have been profoundly impacted and made better by mine.
Jen Hatmaker, of course, says it better than I ever could. A few months ago she posted the following on Instagram.
A few months ago, my girl @nicholenordeman sent me a picture and a story.
It's about female elephants. See, in the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses.
They surround the mama and baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they'll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first.
When the baby is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.
Scientists tell us this formation normally occurs in only two cases - under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.
This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover...we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others' backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck.
And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.
I have this picture saved in 3 different places & in a frame. (I also have an elephant ring given to me and my girlfriends from @taralivesay - it tells me: never alone.) Maybe you need this too. If you are closing ranks around a vulnerable sister, or if your girls have you surrounded while you are tender, this is how we do it.
There is no community like a community of women.
When my dad died it was the women who carried my mom through. It was her female friends, the ones she’d had for years, who came immediately, who stayed, bringing food, washing dishes, sitting in the cold silence of her grief. When everything came undone, they were there to hold the pieces and help put things together again. I can picture them vividly, snapshot after snapshot of the ways they closed ranks around my mother, endured the pain that couldn’t help but overflow from her and continued to show up day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.
I watched it and I knew, I knew deep in my bones, that these women were rescuing my mom. That those female friendships, cultivated over years, were the forces that carried her.
I, of course, didn’t have to just witness it through my mom and her friends. My own female friends were the ones putting me back together when my dad died. They were the ones who bore witness to my tears, my frantic, crazy brain, paralyzed by grief. They were the ones who checked in, who sat with me during each wave of grief, who continued to show up, bearing the pain that would have broken me if I’d tried to carry it alone.
My favorite galentines are the ones who have walked the weariest paths with me and also make me laugh the hardest. The ones who can equally revel in the darkness and the light. The ones who keep pointing me forward, spurring me on, cheering all the way.
And so that is why I love Galentine’s Day. Because my female friends bear the heaviest, hardest burdens and also make light and lovely the sweetest of days. Here’s to my women friends, those forces of nature who have shaped me so beautifully.