We officially ended book club back in May. It was time. Three women have moved away, and the rest of us have become busy and distracted. The space between meetings grew from four weeks to six to eight, and even though we all had such affection for the group - for the idea of it - when the subject arose of calling it quits, there was unanimous relief.
We made it to just shy of six years. That’s much longer than we could have imagined when I tossed the idea out at my candlelit birthday dinner in 2008. I was a newlywed, not pregnant and not working, bored and lonely. The other three founders were all smarter than me - strategic, that was - and well read and interesting. Soon after, we added two more women and the six of us became the core group for years.
I’ve heard other people complain (or celebrate) that their book clubs became about drinking wine, or that the enthusiasm waned after just a few months. For the most part, our book club stayed committed to reading a variety of things and we would discuss the selection and whatever else was on our nightstand. We read things that were truly horrible and we read things that surprised everyone. At first I hated, and then I loved, reading out of my comfort zone.
After we were done dissecting why we loved or hated or felt meh about the book, the conversation always turned to our lives. We were different races, different religions, different political parties, and in different stages of family and work. As a group of friends, we didn’t see one another much socially. Our long Saturday mornings became their own trust bubble. Between this small handful of very dynamic women, we made marriages, babies, moves, job changes, movies, novels, and enlightenment treks, each meeting bringing some form of tears or toasts, or both.
I’ve long credited starting a blog and starting a book club as the two tangible things that saved my life in Los Angeles. Both things have opened my mind and my heart, my circle of friends and my creativity.
When I was in my early twenties, I had to break up with a friend. The details are dusty, but the gist of it was that she was a very negative person having a very hard time and I was barely smiling through my own struggles. I didn’t have the strength to prop us both up. Off and on throughout the years, as other friendships have more naturally waxed and waned, I’ve wondered if I made the right decision back then. Should I have given her more grace? Were my words selfish? Does she forgive me now that we’re older and understand more about hurt and seasons?
Unequally, I have people in my life that all wisdom says I should have excised a long time ago. I can’t, for whatever reason, so instead I’m trying to learn to love who they are and am crossing my fingers that they give me the heaps of grace I’m incapable of.
Then there are those who have made these decisions for me, friends who have done their own cutting and to whom I am a casualty. It stings, but I get it. Relationships can’t survive on nostalgia alone. We had a good run for the most part and I am filled with affection.
Maybe I’m just paying attention more, but it seems like a lot of women my age are talking about friendship. Back in early June I was struck by something someone said about the difficulty of nurturing friendships with people who don’t connect with your passions. Just recently I was part of a conversation where I left with the permission to treat friends unequally, that it’s okay to play favorites, something I’ve irrationally fought against since elementary school.
We age out of certain friendships, that’s the freeing and disappointing truth of it. I’m sentimental about things, and thrill at the discovery of a long lost acquaintance online, and clutch with desperate and white knuckles to connections that have years ago slipped their grip. I’ve hurt people this way, not letting either of us go or grow. It’s damaging not to know when it’s over.
No one was sad at our final book club gathering around my kitchen island. We pulled bar stools across my checkered floor and ate croissants and let ourselves in and out through the laundry room door with a familiarity that only repetition can bring. One woman announced she was moving back to the east coast, another that she was having her first baby. As a new era of our lives start, it was a natural conclusion. It was a warm closing. If only they all could be.