With Valentine’s Day centered smack dab in the middle of this short month, it’s nearly impossible for February’s themes to be about anything other than love. And, I have to admit that this year I was tempted to lean into the sentiment around this over-commercialized day more than usual. You may remember from my New Year’s post that #5 of my ‘Playlist’ was to Double Down on Love. And I mean that in every way possible. Self love. Neighborly love. Friendship love. Partnership love. Family love. All of it.

But for this month, the people who have been on my mind the most, are the ones I miss the most right now: my girlfriends.

My closest girlfriends and I have a group text thread that has basically been keeping me sane for the past year. I’m sure many of you can relate. We reach out with hilarious memes, spousal and child-related rants, and do our best to schedule monthly-ish zoom calls where we can actually see each other’s faces. It’s enough to keep us going and connected, but not nearly the same as our many dinners out (Where nobody has to do dishes or cook!!), or long weekend getaways (Everyone magically chips in and life feels so easy because we’re all women who are used to taking care of everyone else!) where we get to laugh and cry and connect on an entirely different level.

Last week, one of the gals in my crew sent this article out to the group that basically nailed the sentiment I’ve been feeling lately around the role these friendships play in my life. The article also links to other pieces that have talked about the mental health of women during this pandemic. I’m sure many of you have become familiar with the The Primal Scream series on The New York Times where – amongst many other things – women can call into a hotline to just… scream. Or rant. Or say whatever they need to. And can we talk about how 100% of job losses in 2020 were by women? Disproportionately – of course – for Black and Brown women. I think we all know why. Because, in a crisis, women become the caretakers.

And that is also the role we also play for each other as girlfriends: We are are the caretakers of each other’s exhaustion. We give space for each other to be as loud or silent or sloppy or tired or enthusiastic or crazy as we want to be. For me, I find a release in the company of my girlfriends that occurs nowhere else. We dance under full moons, and call each other out on our bullshit. We remind each other of our superpowers, and encourage big dreams. We lean into uncomfortable conversations, and most importantly: we feel seen in each other’s company.

Being in a climate where the weather has prevented us from the few hangouts experienced this summer (in a yard, distanced, masked, but overjoyed), this season has been especially challenging. So, while I fully embraced the traditional sentiments of Valentine’s Day on February 14th this month with a nice candlelit dinner, I also really wanted to be fully embracing my girlfriends who I know needed that big squishy slightly too long hug that says “hold space for you, and I’m here for you.”

Of course, all struggles come with lessons, and I’ve certainly learned a few around this topic. Perhaps the most important of which is how much balance my girlfriends bring to my life. When I see them I can step out of the role of wife or stepmom, or even blogger or designer, and present my full self first and fully. Which has led me to ask: Is there a way I can do this for myself in my everyday life?

If there has been one message sounding loud and clear for me since the beginning of 20201 it’s that I need to spend a little more time loving on myself. Some days that looks like going to bed at 9pm even when there’s still work to do or dirty dishes in the sink. Some days it’s a bubble bath or an extra long shower. These moments should not be multitasking events (as much as an escape to the office feels luxurious!) but fully, intentional times of rest, quiet, or indulgence. And yes, sometimes those moments are me starting at the faces of my best friends on a screen, imagining the day we get to escape in person because it just doesn’t quite feel the same.

So, as this month comes to an end, I send you a (somewhat late) little mantra offering permission to treat yourself with the type of softness and support given to you by your sisters, your besties, your circle, your people. May we all be able to be with each other again soon.

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