September 17, 2018
I originally wrote most of this over a year ago after seeing the blockbuster film, “Girls Trip.” It was a much-anticipated movie that chronicled the lives of four black women who had been friends for years and in many ways, it was a symbolization of another element of “Black Girl Magic.”
We are mystical and majestic when it comes to “holding each other down” and just being there for each other as well as everyone else in our homes, churches, relationships, and communities. While watching the movie many of us knew that we saw versions of ourselves depicted on the big screen and that was worth every moment we spent watching it.
For me, I loved the idea of seeing sisterhood displayed realistically. I wanted to see the good, the bad and the ugly and how despite and in spite of it all, the deeply seeded friendships shared was like a virus running through bloodstreams; you just can’t seem to get rid of it. I believe that this is the foundation of true sisterhood and friendship. And yes, I know it ain’t easy, but I know it is worth it.
Beyond the laughter and the tears, a few messages from the movie resonated with me and I wrote this blog to expound on my thoughts but now, at this precise moment, I’ve discovered that I missed an important lesson from the movie.
I realized that I never wrote about how to be “that” friend to your strong sisters. How to help them when they never ask for help and how to still understand that they need help even when they look like they have it all together. I’m adding this as Lesson 6 because it’s where I am in my life right now…
Lesson 1: Be there.
Just be there for your friends. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything to show them that your back is ready to carry their load. There were scenes in the movie where I just wanted the friends to “be still” and just “feel” the pain of their sister to help her heal. There will be the “right” time for the “right” moment, but there are times when you just need to sit and just feel her pain with her. Your sister is loyal to you and will sometimes suffer in silence with you until that “breakthrough” is visible. Being still requires being obedient to your friendship and knowing that sometimes you just have to wait until they are “ready” to “make moves” in their lives. It can be hard to “watch” because you want to “do” but as her friend, you just need to be “there.”
Lesson 2: Scan the room.
Not everybody who is sitting in your front row is clapping for you. Sometimes there are people standing against the wall in the back of the room who have been rooting for you all along. You just have to allow yourself to look beyond the front row to see your supporters. There was a character in the movie, Julian, who was the person leaning on the back wall. While he wasn’t advertised as a “main” character in the movie, I think that his role symbolized the support systems that we have and tend to overlook. Remember to look beyond what is front of you because what you may need the most could be in the back of the room. Be sure to scan your audience because support may be present in many ways but you need to allow yourself to look beyond the obvious to receive it.
Lesson 3: Allow yourself to be loved.
I resonated with one of the characters because I think that she reflected the core of my soul and who I am the most. I have always been that “strong, tenacious, resilient, courageous…” girl who never feared complications and challenges in life. I always seem to “make” things happen rather than “let” things happen. I’m a “go-getter” who honestly believes that there is a pot of gold just for me at the end of each rainbow. I own the power of positive thinking, the power of change, and I believe that the “best is yet to come” despite and in spite of what the past has shown me or the circumstances that I am living in right now. I support the idea that you can “have it all” but also demand that we first learn how to define what “all” means to us if we really want it “all.”
Because I am so strong, sometimes I forget to allow myself to be “weak” and allow others to help and love me the best way they know how. I’m not even sure I know how to be weak. I don’t know how to depend on others, and I don’t understand how to permit others to take care of me.
If I took the time to just “be still” and allow myself to share my heart, my pain and my tears with others then perhaps the burden wouldn’t feel so heavy as I am processing any perceived fear, confusion, and doubt.
I watched my life unfold before me on screen as I watched one of the characters discover that she could still be “that” strong woman while simultaneously revealing her weakest elements. While doing this she recognized that she was still able to maintain her integrity, hold her head high, and not feel the need to be perfect. She could still hurt inside while still feeling powerful. And she could still stand in her truth while revealing the lies that existed within her reality. While the scenario of her life that taught her these lessons are very different from my own, I knew that the core of her character was aligned with the essence of my being.
I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to hold up my end of my sistagurlfriend relationships and share my pain. And not just the things that are “safe” to share like the debilitating effects of living with Lupus. I need to share the things that keep me tossing and turning at night, writing books and blogs that I never publish, and the hurts that force me onto my knees while praying and begging for the power of discernment. I need to become transparent about things that I struggle to gain clarity with. And, I need to embrace that I don’t have to find the answers by myself simply because I never pose the questions to anyone else.
Through the lens of this movie, I was reminded that I don’t have a single friend who knows the “most” about me. I have childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, married friends, work friends, Soror friends, cousin friends, colleague friends, etc. who operate in “compartments” in my life. While all of these are powerful relationships, they are segmented without much overlap. People know bits and pieces of me…but not all of me. And it’s not because they don’t want to know all of me, it’s because they accept what I give them. Just like the character in the movie. I watched the various facets of her life finally merge, and her “girls” were there in spite of all the fragmented pieces, and it made me wonder if that were possible for me.
I remember when I wrote and released my first book. It was an intimate portrayal of my life and how I became the woman that I am. I chronicled many childhood life experiences that unraveled my heart and soul while providing a glimpse into the infrastructure of my mindset.
Included in that book were raw stories of a child who was always loved but still was victimized in an abusive household. I stood erect in my truth as a young girl of an alcoholic mother who succumbed to a diseased liver (cirrhosis) at the tender age of 37 when I was only 14. I shared the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that I lived with throughout my childhood and the formula I used to push through the pain so I could live in and on purpose while still pursuing my passion. Despite my childhood circumstances I was determined to work my dream to live my dream.
It wasn’t difficult for me to share all of this in a book but you know what? I never shared it verbally with my friends. They had no clue and didn’t discover it until they read the book. Until the publication of my first book my unwritten rule was “unless you had lived it with me, I never talked about it with you.” And that was that.
I was so wrong.
When I think back about how much I needed friends who knew my entire story, who understood my complex personality and my frame of mind during that time, it saddens me because I realize what I have missed throughout my lifetime. I recognize that I shortchanged relationships and stagnated my ability to be authentic with people who loved and cared about me.
I just didn’t embrace the power of sisterhood.
There are so many layers to this lesson that I am still absorbing…I’ll stop here though.
Lesson 4: Enjoy your friendships.
Yes. Just take the time to have some fun and enjoy. We are all busy, and we all have responsibilities, but sometimes we just need to have fun and embrace the simple things in life. Whether it’s a girls night out, a weekend trip to “nowhere” or a shopping expedition without money, do the things that make you smile. The things that make you live in the moment and embrace the love you have for your sistagurlfriend.
Lesson 5: Know your value, understand your worth.
Absolutely! Remember how valuable you are to your friends so that no matter what you are going through, you matter to them. You are short-changing yourself thinking that they will think of you differently or won’t be there for you if you don’t share your struggles of significance with them. Remind yourself that these girls want to see the power within you emerge, they want you to be that foot soldier emerging from the trenches, and when you’ve “been through hell,” they want you to know that although you may be bent, you are not broken; you may be damaged but you are not destroyed and that you are already equipped and empowered to turn tragedy into triumph, and while you may feel like the victim now, you will be victorious later. That’s the value they know you bring to the table of friendship and you need to understand how worthy you are to them. I know that we sometimes we forget the value we bring to our friendships and how worthy we are to the people who are our friends.
Check on your “weak” friends. Check on your “needy” friends. Check on your “hard to reach” friends. Check on your “always got it together” friends. And definitely, check on your “strong friends.” You never, ever know when that “check” is the one they needed at that very moment.
Lesson 6: Be “that” friend to your “Strong” sister!
Let’s face it, historically women have carried heavy loads emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially, and spiritually without reservation. They just seem to do it. In most cases they don’t think about it. They just morph into their daily routines of being all things to all people at all times. They bend, but never seem to break. And embrace that sometimes they may feel damaged, but they know they don’t have time to be destroyed. But you know what? Even the strongest sisters need those friends who can break through the barriers surrounding their hearts, minds, and souls.
The “Superwoman” friend needs friends who don’t take “I’m fine” for an answer when you call to check on them. They don’t need more people in their lives who believe that their lives are spectacular because of the pictures they post on social media. These powerful women need friends who will kneel down with them as they are praying, rub their backs, use the soft Kleenex to wipe their tears and remind them that everything is going to work out because tomorrow is just a day away. They are yearning for friends who know the intonation of their voices well enough that they can hear the crack in it when talking about something painful story. These friends will recognize the anguish in their voices without them having to say that they are hurting.
You see those strong sisters are the women who don’t know how to let the world know they need help. They desperately want it but haven’t learned how to ask for it. Instead, they have trained themselves how to put band-aids on gunshot wounds and serve as soldiers ready to hustle, grind and sacrifice for those who are important in their lives. They’re prepared to be on the front line so they don’t have time to dwell on disappointments. They have to fight to climb out of the trenches of disruption and disintegrate threats to their dreams. And they won’t surrender to failure. It’s just not an option.
Although they consistently lean on their triple shields of grace, faith, and mercy, they still struggle for significance and live in an emotional capsule and are reluctant to share that they need help.
But as their sistagurlfriend, we have to do better and fight to find out what’s wrong with our strong sister. We have to be willing to find the path that she is traveling on, lace up our tennis shoes and begin the long walk with her. We can’t be afraid of poking and prodding to get her to open up because we already know that she isn’t going to voluntarily do it because her heart and her pride won’t willingly allow her to do so.
I’m not going to pretend that this will be easy but somehow, we have to force that breakthrough. We have to create that sacred space in our relationship with her where she knows that it’s safe to “be still.” She needs to know that it’s safe to allow you into her omnipotent world knowing that you won’t judge her or, think she’s weak.
This is a tough one, but we have to do it. Too many of our strong sisters have become somewhat ignored in the women’s empowerment movement and #metoo era. Too many are left to feel that they must become stronger to be great in this evolving society. And too many are feeling that the stronger they become, the less they need other sistagurlfriends.
There are many opportunities to be “that” friend of your strong friend but you just have to recognize and seize the opportunity. Equip and empower yourself to give her what she needs even when she doesn’t know how to ask for it or want it. Learn how to intrude on her thoughts so she knows that you are there. And know how to invade the cloak of privacy that she uses as a shield to protect her strength. Trust me, she needs you.
Sistagurlfriend is a unique relationship that is only empowered when we allow it to flourish and become all that is has the aptitude to be. But first, you have to give yourself permission to allow the growth. I know, for me, I am reassessing my role in my friendships and how I become a better friend to my true “sistagurlfriends.” I want to. I need to and I will.
Life is simply too short to skimp on enjoying special times with your sistagurlfriends. I always say “to have a friend you must also be a friend,” and sometimes I think that we forget to be the best friend we know how. We can’t do that anymore.
Years ago when I pledged my sorority we learned a message that has stuck with me for over 30 years. The gist of it was, “We are complex women with diverse personalities and fascinating dimensions to our behavior. The good aspects and adverse aspects, together, are the creative raw materials used for our intellectual and spiritual growth.” Wow. In my mind, this summarizes what this blog post is all about. Cultivating and encouraging our sistagurlfriend relationships.
Find the formula of friendship that works for you and your girls and apply it so that your needs are met, and you know that they “got your back.”
I know we can do this. I know we got this. It’s not just what we do; it’s a part of who we are.
The bottom line is that we owe it to ourselves to learn how to be “that” friend and how to sustain the healthy friendships that we have. It impacts us emotionally, psychologically, socially and perhaps, spiritually. We need our “ride or die” friends…and they need us too.
Will you work to be “that” friend and make it happen too? Think about it, how can you become “that” friend? Are you willing to become “that” friend?
Tell me, what’s the most significant lesson that you learned to build, maintain and sustain amazing, powerful friendships?
“White Girl Speaks”