It’s been medically proven that engaging in enjoyable leisure activities can lower stress hormones and blood pressure. An article in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal says that leisure activities can make you feel better all over and reduce your waist circumference and body mass index.
In the 2002 Warner Brothers movie release Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, based on the book by the same title by Louisiana-native Rebecca Wells, a group of women friends come together for a common purpose: to save the relationship of Siddalee Walker and her fiancé.
Siddalee is the oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, and in helping to get her upcoming wedding back on track, the flawed mother-daughter relationship between Siddalee and Vivi was saved as well. Of course, the “sisterhood” of Vivi’s closest girlfriends was involved in the process. Friends from childhood on to adulthood and into grandmotherhood, the “Ya Ya Sisterhood” had drawn strength from one another through each other’s triumphs and tribulations.
In a 4/17/18 piece in the New York Times, Debra Karin wrote about “The Era of Empowerment” for women. She explained how tour operators and hotels are now offering all-female excursions or programs. Like that’s a new thing.
As I write this, I’m on the porch of a friend’s lake house deep in the woods of Carroll County, Mississippi. I’m here with four other friends. There’s Beth, who lives in Ottawa, Canada. Brownie, who lives in Katy, Texas. Jonni and Leslie both live in the Madison area, as do I. We are connected through our collective love of books, which has developed into strong friendships. We also connect on our love of good food, so the above-mentioned article didn’t have us in mind when it mentioned a reduction in waist circumference and body mass index.
We have traveled together many times, from Maine to west Texas. When together, we hold nothing back, sharing our pride in our children, successes at work, as well as our struggles that include aging parents and boomerang kids. We’ve shared our hopes, dreams, disappointments. There is no judgement. Advice is given if asked for. Otherwise, each woman lends an ear to just listen. Sometimes that’s all anyone needs – to be heard.
I learned early on that girls’ trips are important. When my children were young, I was invited to go to the beach for a couple of days with girl friends. My immediate thought was “I can’t.” I can’t leave home. I can’t leave my kids. I can’t ignore my household duties. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. But the fact of the matter was that I could. And I did, at the encouragement of my husband. He picked up where I left off for a couple of days. My parents helped out as well, even though my mother didn’t totally agree that it was a good idea for me to go off and have fun without my family in tow. And what happened to me was almost a magical experience. I relaxed. I let go. I laughed. I listened. I commiserated. And I returned home, renewed, refreshed and ready to take on whatever life threw at me. I learned that time away from my family allowed me to be better present for them.
I’ve enjoyed girl trips ever since. Some have been trips with a purpose, like attending the annual Pulpwood Queens Book Club Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches, Texas. The book club I attend in Jackson, Mississippi is one of over 600 chapters around the country and abroad. The brainchild of Kathy L. Murphy, the book-loving, tiara-wearing book guru knows how to celebrate authors and books and throw a wonderful weekend for bookclubs (pretty much all women) to gather each year. It’s an epic road trip, and our club usually has at least four or five cars full of women who head west each January. At the event, women from across the country greet old friends, make new ones and learn about the new releases from favorite Pulpwood Queen authors while being introduced to upcoming authors. I’ve been going for nine years and love every minute of it.
The women I’m with this week at the lake also attend the Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend and we’ve enjoyed several Maine trips together. We do a good bit of sightseeing in Maine, and eating at great restaurants. But while at the lake there is no agenda. No programs to attend. No speakers to hear. No lighthouses to see.
It’s just a week full of blissful visiting, relaxing and when the spirit strikes, creating. Jonni dubbed it “Create at the Lake” last week, with a week dedicated to doing those creative projects we all want to do but don’t have/make time for at home.
Painting, mosaics, and writing. We did it all last year. But we also cooked, ate, laughed, kayaked, sunned, read, laughed, walked, watched TV, cooked, ate and laughed some more. We are doing the same thing this year, but add watching Mississippi State baseball, which adds a whole new level of fun.
Like another any other vacation, time away allows us to slow down. Smell the roses. Enjoy a beautiful sunrise. Or sunset. Or both. Experience new things, or appreciate the familiar. Being with a group of girlfriends often helps us see things through different eyes, with a different perspective.
I have a full calendar with a lot of responsibilities waiting for me at home. But the world will not come to an end if I push a few things off for a week. Those tasks will be there for me to do when I get home. Instead, for me, the world has been put on hold for a too-brief period of time, and my sole focus is relaxing and re-connecting with this wonderful group of women.
My advice to all husbands is to help make that pocket of time possible for your wife. Take on a bit more responsibility for a few days so she can escape her daily routine. I promise that she will return home in a great frame of mind. And to all wives (or girlfriends, or single ladies), DO THIS FOR YOURSELF. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your children. You can’t take care of them if you can’t breathe. A girls’ trip is like oxygen. It keeps you alive!
As I wrap this week’s column, I’m listening to the sound of a soft rain on the lake, our fishing crickets chirping in their cricket keeper, and the announcer of the re-scheduled baseball game broadcasting live from Omaha (Mississippi State is ahead 4 to 1 in the bottom of the seventh!). It’s the sound of promise all around of good things to come.