We are five unlikely friends who have been together for 18 years. We’ve seen one another through three divorces, three marriages, the deaths of four parents, the near-death of one spouse, and the birth of four children and a grandchild. There have also been four big moves, to the point where only one of us now lives where all of us began.

Still, we get together from time to time. It’s usually been once a year in a Manhattan restaurant, but we’ve also met for long weekends in other cities. Mostly we are all there when we “call a meeting,” but as naturally happens, sometimes one of us is missing. Lately, the latter has meant the absence of the one who has been having the greatest difficulty finding her footing amid the demands of motherhood, the deprivation of insufficient income, or the complications of marriage.

This week there was a spate of emails born around the good wishes sent by one of us—the one who arguably has the hardest life, a single working mom who has been taking care of herself forever, it seems. In response there came a message from our friend who has been so absent, who is still suffering so much uncertainty and pain. And then, of course, the lifeboats were lowered, the helicopters dispatched, the provisions packed and sent. This took the form of emails from each of us to her with copies for the others to see.

Did anyone have a magic bullet for her? No. But all of us had some salve. The advice was to work, of course. Work at a job or work pro bono. Get out of her head with the help of a good medical advisor. Believe in the power of doing. Believe in our belief in her. Let us help. Let us talk with her and give her what she needs in the form of confidence from the outside until confidence grows inside.

As we reminded her of our credentials in the country of confusion, we showed our scars. Oh, how life has dealt all of us blows to dreams and to esteem at one point or another.

In a nation where divorce is common, it clearly isn’t an affliction for those with commonplace courage. My friends who have gone through it have particular adhesions of the tissue of terror and recrimination. Depression has knocked on the door of nearly every one of us.

A spiritual journey of “Lost Horizon” proportion has been the path one friend has taken and shared with the others. Lexapro saved another. Self-discipline through exercise is the choice of yet another at this moment. One of us knows a bit about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (commonly called DBT), another about writing as catharsis. All of us had a kind of poetry of purpose this week. The purpose was to give hope to our friend who is hurting.

And then today, another email. Brighter and with acknowledgement that in feeling connected, our friend felt better and lifted up.

As women of a certain age, we know a great deal about magic and miracles. How they don’t exist and how they do. The miracle of bringing someone out of isolation and encouraging her to give voice to her fears came clear to me this week. It seemed necessary to tell about it, in case there is someone suffering among your friends, and in hopes that you experience a singular and available heart-soaring grace — the kind that happens when you engage in the powerful simplicity of sharing your past pains and learned remedies, and marvel at how they have become medicinal and blessed.

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  • ylise September 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    your gift of words is always uplifting. thank you for this.

  • elaine gilbert September 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm


    As usual – you are right on the money! Our friends are the family we know will always be there. I can’t imagine how
    empty life would be without the company of our “sisters”
    and, yes, sometimes “brothers”.

    You always speak to my heart!