K has invited you to join a Facebook Group.
Only one or two names were familiar to me in the group of nearly 1,000 women, but I was intrigued by the invitation, so I joined. It’s a group of women from Omaha, Lincoln, Chicago, Seattle, Iceland, Tokyo, and I suspect many more know each other than know me. The women live all over and their lives have been all over. Some of the posts make me wonder if they sometimes feel like life is over.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a 22 year old single mom, worrying about how I’m going to pay the heating bill or put diapers on the little one.
I don’t know what it’s like to plan an intervention for an alcoholic father.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a lesbian in a conservative city.
I don’t know what it’s like to experience assault at a local bar, only to be ridiculed online and shamed for reporting the situation.
My life looks very different from that of many women in the group. My parents modeled frugal living, faith clinging and practical decision making, and for the most part, I’ve walked a similarly stereotypical straight and narrow. Some might call me boring.
Some might call me lucky. Some might call me privileged. I can only call it grace.
I read posts and pleas for help about learning to love your body, about celebrating college graduation while working full time, about babies and bras, about favorite lipsticks and homemade skin care, about abortion and abuse and atheism, about feminism and faith and what’s for dinner, about fighting through misconceptions and bias, about pets and parents and postpartum depression. They’re all posts about being a woman, about life.
Many women offer advice and helpful suggestions and encouragement. In a world where women are often our own worst enemies, this group is a bright spot. And I enjoy participating, I do. Need ideas about what to give your mom for her birthday? You want options for what to do with your new food processor? Book recommendations for Christmas break? I’m your girl.
But the rest of it, I come up empty. I’ve got nothing to offer in terms of advice for most of these girls.
So I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to pray. I’m learning to offer sympathy. I’m learning to cheer on.
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. That must be really hard.
You matter. Regardless of how this situation turns out, know that you matter and you are deeply loved.
I’m proud of you.
These are the lines I’m practicing over and over. I’m learning to simply offer grace. And if I’m honest with myself, I’m learning to see individual faces and strong, beautiful women where I’ve sometimes struggled to see past a stereotype or circumstance or bad decision. I’m learning to see these women.
I don’t know what it’s like to be you. But I know you’re teaching me to love more freely.