Looking for a photo to accompany this post, I came across this one taken in Venice Beach years ago. Succulent. What a perfect word to describe women. So I turned to the dictionary, and sure enough: Full of juice, juicy. Rich in desirable qualities. Affording mental nourishment. Having fleshy and juicy tissues.
Trying to imagine my life without extraordinary female friendships is like imagining Earth's sky without rainbows, and only dim gray days. I've ended a friendship or two in this life, but for the most part every close girlfriend I've had since I was an infant or in kindergarten at St. Rita's Catholic School (you know who you are) remains close to my heart and we keep in touch. I'd be lost without them.
Today I turn 40 and my women friends who've turned 40 or 50 before me come to mind. How we cling in this culture to youth, and how silly that is from where I stand now, basking in a sense of boldness and truth-telling power. Older mentors glimmering with rooted splendor have opened the path before me, owning juicy, embodying full and rich, reveling in the exquisite fortune of being a female in this life, caring about their impact, sure, but not trying to be liked. Perhaps the next few decades will involve some aging pains but for now, I am enthralled with what 40 feels like.
Last night I celebrated with a circle of women friends at dinner, inviting us all to share our bold truth and how we want to be supported by the universe -- by our girlfriends, by God, by life. From the depths of seven women's fertile hearts uprose marvelous pearls of wisdom. More being who we really are, less being afraid someone will take it personally, more standing in our confident skin, less shrinking, more shining, less pretending that being a devoted full time ("stay at home") mother isn't the most glorious gift we could give to the future. We are courageous. Willing to be vulnerable. Ready to power-house-pour our adoring words onto each other when we question our worth or contributions.
I am grateful to so many women in my life. Mentors; big sisters; blood sisters; soul sisters; mother friends who text me photos of their children at the mail box finding a card from Tia Jess; toddlers and teenaged girls who've been my friends and teachers for most of their lives; my own fiercely graceful mother who stands by the bedside of pregnant, Spanish speaking, low income women with high risk births acting as their labor advocate and angel; my home birth midwife and her two assistants; midwives everywhere; Ina May Gaskin, who also celebrates her birthday today; my daughter's godmothers.
Like the ocean, a woman can host and birth life, hold rambunctious storms inside herself, move with inexplicably splendid grace, and reflect blinding light. Lately I can't help but envision a world where women stand in the fullness of our power. What stops you from standing in your power? I invite women to ask each other this, and commit to empowering each other to stand in our power. For each of us, this will look slightly different because each of us is a precious jewel. Let's stop pretending we aren't absolutely magnificent. Not arrogant, not inflexible, not right or better, just magnificent. Because every single one of us is.
To all the women who've informed my heart and mind in this life, thank you. I love you. Thank you.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.