I spent the weekend on a retreat with my three college roommates.
And when I say "retreat," please do not picture anything remotely spiritual and/or yoga-involving. I mean "retreat" as in "running away from our kids and sitting by the pool all day drinking alcohol." At one point someone suggested half-heartedly that we should go for a hike.
We did not go for a hike.
- The most heart-rending, terrible breakups of your life? The job that seemed it would define your existence that you didn't get? That thing that mentor you really respected said to you that was totally mean and devastating? For the most part you will be able to laugh about these things when recounting them a decade later over beers in a hot tub. This is inherently comforting and should be remembered when new terrible things happen.
- Old friends remember that you once looked good in spandex leopard pants. They saw you back in the days when you could pull off flamingly red hair and fondly remember that you. In short, old friends remember all that you were before your adorable quirks calcified into genuine, permanent weirdnesses, and can help you remember that you as well. Which is good.
- It's good to have people in your life who you didn't choose. In my case, these friends were chosen for me purely by the luck of the housing draw. We're as different as four women who attended the same East Coast women's college can be! Really, though, it is nice to have people with different perspectives, backgrounds, and job choices as some of your closest pals. I value it.
- At this point in our lives, we have an assortment of husbands, friends, and siblings in whom we can confide. But there is something about long-time girlfriends. They are the people you can ask things that you might not ask of anyone else. You can turn to them with the big dark questions like, "Is there something different about my child?" "Am I satisfied enough with how things in my career are turning out?" "Is my marriage on the right track?" and they will help you frankly and lovingly figure things out. Your other choice, of course, is to simply ask yourself such questions in the dark of night while rocking back and forth and sweating profusely. I find the asking girlfriends over cocktails route preferable.
Suffice it to say that my friends and I had an awesome time. It was kind of like a TV series about girlfriends, but starring us. There was lots of laughter, several deep conversations, some figuring out of dilemmas, and even a zany soundtrack (provided by the pool's sound system - heavy on Lynyrd Skynyrd). I like to think that I was played by a young Meg Ryan...
The only major downside has been that reentry has proven, shall we say, challenging.
Turns out there's nothing quite like returning from two days at a spa, where people are offering you cool cucumber slices for your eyes and rubbing your feet on demand, to a houseful of children under four, where people are shouting at you constantly for juice and repeatedly throwing train cars towards your head.