If a younger woman were to ask me for advice on living a happy life, here’s what I would tell her: find yourself a friend, or a few, who you can be yourself with. It doesn’t much matter if they are an artist or an engineer, if they go to work or stay at home with babies, what they look like or what they wear, who they vote for or even where they live. What matters is that they know how to show up. That they love themselves enough to offer you acceptance and grace. That they love you during the times when it’s hard to love yourself.

It might not happen right away. It might take months or years to get to that level of trust and belonging. Good things take time.

Look for the women who know how to laugh until they cry without making it at someone else’s expense. Who know how to laugh at themselves, too. Who can listen with compassion to your worst parenting moments, who you can turn to when you get the diagnosis or the devastating news. Who will hold space and pray (if that’s what they do) when your marriage is falling apart or your parent is dying or you worry that your child will never graduate from high school, or learn how to read or potty train.

When you find that person or those people, show up for them. Be brave enough to share your deepest vulnerabilities and listen tenderly when they share theirs. Do what it takes to leave your partners or your babies once in a while to be with them, no matter how many lists or carpool arrangements or babysitters it takes. Go to their baby showers and their parents’ funerals. Promise to love each other and show up for each other even when your children grow up and your parents are gone and you are sinking into wrinkles and pains and the creeping grip of old age.

Love these friends as hard as you can as often as you can and let their love for you carry you and crack you up until you wet your pants. Let their love for you – imperfect, filled with grace – be further proof of how beautiful this one wild, precious life can be.

p.s. I am the luckiest to have soul sisters from many stages of my life. A few of them came to visit this past weekend. My cup runs over.