I admit I was hesitant to take a weekend away. I hadn’t spent any real time with my girlfriends in ages, but the prospect of organising my children, husband and myself for an entire weekend was daunting to say the least. There were birthday parties and rugby games and a number of meals and bedtime routines, all of which I knew my husband was perfectly capable of. But the truth is he is out of the loop. I usually organise the birthday presents, the rugby uniforms, the dinners and the general administration of our day to day lives. This would take forward planning and forethought. So after an excel spreadsheet, a long and detailed explanation or two, (Including gps co-ordinates and directions for the various activities as well as a couple of quick dinner recipe ideas), a few minutes of throwing clothes into a bag and a tender kiss goodbye to each of my favourite people…I was away.
It helped that I drove through incredibly beautiful countryside to get to my destination. It helped more that I was able to blast my headphones and play my own music – not a wiggly woo or dinosaur roar in sight. By the time I arrived I was ready to start relaxing. And ready to enjoy the company of some of the most incredible women I know.
It got me thinking, because I had time to actually listen to my thoughts and not push them to the back of my mind amongst the chaos of noise until I had a moment to ponder them. That moment was now. I was able to ponder. As we meandered from winery to chocolate maker to cheese tasting destinations, I was able to recharge and become a fraction of my inner self again. To remind myself what a normal conversation was. To enjoy moments as they came instead of as they passed by. To not plan, not think ahead about logistics and not worry about anyone’s daily vegetable intake.
But most importantly it allowed me to engage with the women I had grown up with, had wild nights with and sung into hairbrushes with. The women I shared my dreams and experiences with, stayed up all night talking with, and offered a shoulder to over a broken heart.
And I realised amongst all the noise I had forgotten how important female relationships are. I’m not talking about the village – whatever form it takes – that you find a bond with as you raise your children together. That’s important too. So important. I’ve met some fabulous women through the birth of my children, some of the most inspirational, brave and uncompromising women I’ve ever known. They are invaluable to me, and I love them as friends and as mothers.
But there is something so restorative about being with the people who knew you and loved you before all that. The ones who know your deepest faults and fears because you shared them when you were courageous enough to be vulnerable. I realised that something happened when I became a mother. I felt like I lost the right to be brave and take risks, because it wasn’t just me I was taking risks on behalf of. These girls knew me before that sensibility set in, and seeing them reminded me that it was there. Somewhere inside of me is a teenager belting out Aerosmith’s Dream On, believing that there are still surprises around every corner. And knowing that that is actually a good thing.
The women I spent the weekend with know who they are and what they have meant to me. They are confidantes and bridesmaids and drinking buddies. We grew up together, got married together, some of us have had children together, but our lives have moved in a less homogenous direction. They will always be part of the fabric of who I am – partly because of our shared experiences, partly because we’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and partly because there are things that don’t need to be said. These are the reasons I have chosen them as my friends, and they have chosen me, every day for decades. There will always be that thread that pulls us together, and sometimes pulls us away from our daily lives. Even if it’s just for one night, the ability to get that perspective from a few hundred kilometres away is remarkably liberating.
Driving home the next day it occurred to me that I would not have left my family, even for the weekend, for just anyone, which made the weekend away that much more important. As I headed home to the routine of lunch boxes, ballet classes and bed time stories I had an epiphany. Although it may seem mundane sometimes I choose to live in the humdrum of suburban-hood. I choose to be a stay at home mum, to work part time, to be in the loop, (usually to set the course for the loop), and on the days that I feel like escaping I will remember that. I choose to have less time for my girlfriends, but I know I can make it count when I do see them, no matter what we choose to do. It was such a redemptive notion. And just like that, like a four year old belting out the soundtrack to Frozen – I really was free.