by Salienna Summer
Offering heart-to-heart talks, even in the middle of night, is a way to give and get comfort.
The phone rings at midnight.
In my world, that kind of call isn’t good. I am not 20 anymore. I no longer live in the world where the fun begins at midnight; where after hours begin even later.
So back to the call. I am in bed. Not asleep. Reading in pajamas. My kids were with their dad that night. So immediately I think, “Bad news!”
I look at my cell phone and see that my friend Stephanie is calling. A little sigh of relief — my kids are okay.
Still, I think, “Bad news!” Again, casual phone calls don’t happen at midnight in my world.
I pick up the phone. Crying. That’s all I hear.
I say, “Stephanie, you okay? What’s wrong?”
In response: more crying.
“Stephanie, what’s going on?”
Then, I am yelling, “Stephanie, where are you?! I’m coming to get you!” as I jump out of bed. I’m thinking “She’s hurt. Did a date hurt her?” I’m thinking the worst.
Then I hear her voice.
“It’s midnight, I am now 40.”
“Stephanie, it’s okay. We knew this was going to happen, right? This isn’t bad.”
She says, “I’m 40. I’m divorced. No boyfriend. No real career. Still worrying about money. Still a single mom. I’m . . . tired,” she says.
So of course as her friend I’m like, “Stephanie, you are gorgeous, so smart, funny. You have so much to offer. You are awesome!”
So I try a different approach. “Stephanie we are so going out tomorrow. We will be around friends. We will have a great dinner, wine, good conversation. It’s gonna be great.”
“Stephanie, you don’t even look 35.”
“But I have nothing,” she says. “I’m not in the place I wanted to be at 40. I feel I have accomplished nothing. No career, no relationship. I still struggle every day financially.”
“Hhhmm.” I start thinking in my head, “I’m in my forties. Divorced. No career. Still no real money to think of. Single mom. No real relationship other than ‘hanging out.’” (Yes, I’m a little bitter about the “hanging out,” if you have read my previous articles.) Then, as if catching Stephanie’s anxiety, I think, “OMG where is my life going?”
But I am supposed to be helping Stephanie, and now all my sweetness is going to sour in my own tears.
So I do what any friend would do. I don’t hold back. And I start crying along with her. She now begins telling me how I’m awesome.
More crying (mine).
I say, “You are awesome.”
More crying (hers).
Failed past relationships.
More crying (both of ours).
We cry over being forty and “old.” We cry over the fact we aren’t twenty anymore. We are both sobbing.
“But you are awesome!” (my words of comfort).
“No, you are great!” (hers).
“You are so funny!” (mine).
“No you are the funny one. And you have a boyfriend!” (hers).
“But he calls it ‘hanging out!’” (mine).
Hysterical laughter erupts (ours).
And we feel a little comfort.
We both stopped crying and just started laughing. I’m not sure what happened to turn the call around. Maybe, we just hid the sorrow. Maybe we actually stepped back and heard how we sounded. Maybe friendship erased the sadness.
No problems were solved that night. Stephanie didn’t hang up feeling great about forty. But we realized it wasn’t so bad. We have great kids. We are surviving. We have roofs over our head. We still have fun (even if it ends long before midnight). We struggle, but it could be much worse. We didn’t solve anything that night. But we had each other. We had our friendship. We realized we had people in this world we could rely on people we could cry with; people we could laugh with. Our tribe.
Life isn’t too bad at forty after all.
So, my fellow Tribe Sisters, we may not all be twenty-one. And those of you who are you may be struggling with other aspects of this thing we call life. The point here is none of us are maybe exactly where we thought we would be. Some of us digressed. Some of us had kids, got married, and got divorced along the way. Some of us dropped out of school and are now coming back. Some of us are taking the longer route.
But you know what I think? I think that the longer route is more scenic. It may not always be pretty, but we saw things – are seeing things. We are living. And we are conquering. We are taking this long route together.
So when we have a night like Stephanie’s and all we want to do is cry, we also should remember that we have each other. Life isn’t too bad after all. We have our people. We have the sisters in our village.