Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
In a year of turmoil and loss, the biggest gain was friendship forged in fire
The most treasured takeaway from 2020, a year of terrific tumult which has spilled into the early days of 2021, was friendship. Not just any friendship, but several of them, and all of them with Black women fellow writers.
One of those friendships, which was cut on the crucible of George Floyd, flexed and strengthened during that terrible summer, was forced to expand or contract based on shared values and tentative trust. All this was done by phone and email. We didn't just make it. The trauma and the challenges created a bond for which I am beyond grateful. For it was through her eyes as well as those of other Black writers that I had a very different bird's eye view of how the events of the year touched Black lives, especially those of talented women writers. Mothers, all of them, whose children's lives they fear for every moment.
By the end of the first difficult months of that BLM summer, I was ready to leave Denver forever for Oregon.
My new friend, a PhD in psychology, a brilliant writer of many books (as am I, but I'm not brilliant) and a fellow survivor of childhood sexual assault (CSA) was also getting ready to sell and move to be with her PhD husband in New York. I drove down to spend an afternoon with her to cement what was becoming a very important connection. I wanted to distill my connection with her in person. We spent hours, with her tall, quiet son moving around the house in the background.
A son, to whom she says, as does every Black mother I know, "Be careful."
Code for "come back home alive."
By the end of the year we were starting a work partnership. As someone who has spent decades working in diversity, many more years working with and developing women's businesses, we had met at a perfect time.
She needed what I could offer in terms of expanding her business where her skills could be most useful. And frankly, as a rape survivor as well as a CSA, I needed her. For she is a transformational coach, having done the deep work to walk the road to inner healing from the kinds of pain that people feel when their families betray them. The deeply personal book she wrote on the topic has caused me to grow, in all the ways that growth is both deeply painful and exalting, in that way only Deep Work can offer.
She is flexing into an entrepreneur, as her primary work has largely been in academics. Also not easy, but in different ways. Such exchanges are what make friends, and the hard work makes for deep connections, when an even harder year created a wholly different opportunity for understanding and appreciation.
These days with my friend settled in New York and actively building her retirement home in the Southwest, and my finding my (for now) forever home in the Pacific Northwest, we remain joined at the hip. We speak every week, and I am deeply honored that she calls me as needed and my calls are welcomed any time. Those weekly talks have been a lifeline, a sanity check. We've both had bad days. Bad weeks.
Many might look back at 2020 with pain and regret. In some ways, I do too, as my business tanked, being built on adventure travel. We've both had to regroup and refocus. However by the end of the year we had each other as part of the inner circle of people whose opinion matters most, whose feedback is most important, and whose support and understanding are what bolster us through the worst of times.
I'm no stranger to allyship, nor am I a stranger to close Black friends, as this is how I grew up. However, during times when we face such difficulty around topics of politics and race, it is extraordinary to find those very friendships among the most meaningful, fruitful and educational of all the people I am fortunate to call "friend."
Without them, 2020 would have been a very different year. With them, it was a year that bore diamonds.