Two years later, my life was running on all eight cylinders. I loved what I was doing in my work life, and I also had an incredibly full social life. There were dinner parties, trips to New York, and - my favorite of all —spending time with my four closest girlfriends: my circle. We vacationed together, were in each other's weddings, threw each other elaborate parties, shared our most intimate moments, and held each other's deepest secrets. We even went so far as to swear our undying love to one another and made vows and promises I couldn't imagine breaking. My girlfriends and I were like the dude's version of a weekly poker group, but instead of playing cards, smoking cigars, and drinking beer our nights were more about sharing, processing our innermost feelings, and sleepovers.
My husband, family, and other friends outside this circle often played second fiddle. Belonging to this group of women meant the world to me. My identity and my ego depended on it. At the time, I was too caught up in the intoxicating efforts this group's popularity had on me. I changed so that I would fit in and then I suffered from a false sense of safety, seemingly less vulnerable to the perceptions of others. Perhaps this was my coping mechanism, developed as a result of the earlier days trying to shoulder the responsibility of being the queen of the school and my subsequent fall from my throne.
Now, let me set the record straight: I don't consider myself a wimp or a pushover. I consider myself a strong, independent woman, who has always figured out a way to forge my own path, even if it meant falling down to get there. I am usually a pedal to the metal speed racer kind of gal. But there was something about this group that rendered me a follower. There were storng personas in our posse, and as easy as it felt to be a part of the group, there waws always a part of myself that was hidden, not truly present. As time passed I stared to realize that the group resembled more of an incomplete circle, as I was not completely me. At the time, it didn't matter that I felt more like a member of an entourage, because I was happy to take a backseat, just happy to be in the coolest car in town.
Then, in February of 2006, I had a disturbing "reading" in which my trusted astrologer said that my circle was in for a shift. It wouldn't change totally, but the parts that were no longer working for me would undergo a visible change. I was alarmed. How could it shift? We were all so much in each other's lives. We had a bond that would not break. The results of the reading stuck with me. I would have much preferred, "You are about to come into a large amount of cash."
Soon after that astrological zinger, one of the girls had a birthday. I suggested a "group-gift" in which all of us could participate: we would give her five delicately thin gold rings, each one representing our individual commitment to her and the fifth band representing a commitment to herself. It was a ritual to solidify our circle. The gift was such a hit that we decided we would gift the rings for each of our birthdays that year. It was like I was marrying my friends. At the time, I felt overjoyed, and thought, My astrologer was clearly wrong, thank god. I couldn't wait for my birthday to arrive, when I would receive my five bands, symbols of our sisterhood. I couldn't wait to belong more.