Almost a year and half ago, I was sitting at lunch with 2 of my best friends, when one of them started to tell us about the struggles she was going through in her marriage. Serious struggles. Unimaginable things that I never could have dreamed that anyone I knew would ever go through, let alone someone so close to me. It broke my heart into a million pieces to hear her tell me these stories about what had been going on all of those years. Tore me apart that I hadn’t been there to help her deal with it all and get through it….that she had bottled this up all of that time and kept it hidden from everyone in her life. Dealt with it on her own.
Now I get it. She loved him. She wanted it to work. She made excuses for inexcusable things. She suffered through things she never should have had to experience. She allowed herself to be beaten down. To be degraded and made to feel like she wasn’t worth it. That she somehow deserved these things or that this was how things were supposed to be. She wanted to fight to keep her family together. After all, she had littles and she wanted a family for them. She wanted a mom and a dad and a happy home to raise them in. So, she had put up with it all. For a long, long time.
As I sat across from her trying to process all of this, I couldn’t help but see the blankness in her eyes. She seemed so different. Checked out almost. The things she was saying were instantly bringing tears to my eyes, but she looked unmoved by it. Glazed over. No emotion. That’s when I realized that because she had been dealing with this all for so long she had become somewhat used to it. This was normal for her.
I actually remember thinking about how in that show the Vampire Diaries (yes I watched it and loved it…don’t pretend like you weren’t totally into Damon and Stefan and their smolderingness) but I digress. In the show, the vampires could “turn off” their emotions. Not allow themselves to be affected or bothered by anything happening around them. That’s how I felt like she was. She had just turned off her emotions to enable herself to get through this. It broke my heart.
I had to drive back home 4 hours after that lunch so I had lots of time to think. A song came on the radio that is now just engrained in my heart. It was Rise Up, by Andra Day. If you haven’t heard it, go right now and listen to it. It’s amazing.
I was bawling my eyes out in the car as I listened to it so soon after hearing what my friend was going through. The words of the song were so applicable to the situation. I immediately sent it to her and told her that I all I could think of was her when I heard it. That she was strong. And brave. And incredible. And an amazing mother. And fierce. And beautiful. And that I knew that she would get through this situation. That she would find the strength and the wisdom to make the right decisions for her and her family. That I was there for her. For anything that she needed.
Since that time a year and half ago, so much has happened. I have watched my friend as she put her game face on and battled through this fight.
She has had to endure so much….accept so much…live in fear…live with feelings of unworthiness. She had been beaten down to a shell of the friend I once knew. Someone had decided that they were better than her and that they had the right to make her feel the way that she did. To treat her in a way that no one should ever be treated. But what I watched transpire over the course of the next year and half was truly incredible.
She didn’t allow all of that past to dictate her future. She didn’t let herself stay down. She picked herself up. She made tough decisions. Was faced with unimaginable choices but dealt with them. I’m sure she spent many nights in tears and on her knees praying for direction on the right thing to do. For her family. For her children. I can’t even begin to imagine what she had to go through because fortunately I have never faced that struggle. But watching her face that struggle head on has been nothing short of inspiring. Watching her climb out of the darkness she had hidden in by keeping this bottled up inside for so long, and facing it head on has been incredible.
She is so strong. Such an amazing mother. She is doing things I know she never thought she would have to do. Starting a career again. Figuring out how to support her family. Learning how to be on her own again. All of it so overwhelming and unimaginably scary, but she has handled it all with such grace. Such poise. Such strength.
Many of us have women in our lives that we think are incredible…..but do we do a good job of telling them that? So often we spend our time gossiping about each other or other women. We criticize everything about other women. We judge. We look down on. We act catty. And many times, though we may think something positive and uplifting about a friend, we don’t tell her. We will sit around for hours at happy hour gossiping, but then we struggle or forget about telling people the positive things. We let it go unspoken…assume that it’s just known. We need to do better than that.
If you have a friend who recently did something that you were inspired by…then tell her that. Send her a quick text or pick up the phone and call her to tell her about it. If you think that one of your friends is the strongest women you have ever met because of things you have seen her do or handle or overcome….then make sure you tell her that. If you know a friend is struggling with something…build her up. Give her words of encouragement. Lift her up and remind her of the beautiful, strong, fierce and amazing woman that she is.
Whether things are going great for someone or they are at the lowest point in their life….words of encouragement and positivity are ALWAYS good. Sometimes we just need to hear someone else tell us that we are strong in order for us to believe it about ourselves. Need to hear someone tell us that we inspired them for us to realize that we have the ability to inspire. Need someone to tell us that we are beautiful for us to see it in ourselves. I am challenging each of you and myself to do better at building up the beautiful babes in our lives. Be conscious about speaking positivity and words of encouragement to the friends and loved ones in your life. It doesn’t have to be a big thing….it can be a simple compliment about an outfit they wore that you love…a congratulations and recognition for a job well done at work…a heartfelt note about how they inspire you to be better each day…a thank you for them helping to motivate you. Whatever it is…my challenge is to just make sure when you THINK it, you say it. Don’t let those admirations and words of encouragement go unspoken and be lost, but share them with the other women in your life and let’s focus on building each other up and calling out all the awesome that we see around us!
And to my friend who I know is reading this (because I let her proof read it before I posted it since it’s about her J) I love you so much. I know I’ve said many of the things I said here to you already, but I just hope you know how incredibly strong and brave I think that you are. Your strength amazes and inspires me….you’re an incredible mama and woman!