“It’s too much drama!” My daughter complains as she spills the details of a squabble she experienced in the park. I am not a proponent of the word since it perpetuates the myth that young girls and women are unable to get along with one another. Much to my dismay, I’ve heard this word too many times in adult circles, among family, upset friends and colleagues. A certain element of consternation accompanies any meaningful relationship – conflict doesn’t necessarily equate to drama – it is a pathway toward a dialogue about why point of views differ. It might mean potentially finding middle ground or learning to honor each other’s opinions by not only preserving your stance, but also respecting differences.

I’ve leaned into strong women all my life. My mother insists I take the higher road – striving to forgive and letting petty grudges go. I don’t always agree with her, but her gentle nudge to let go always hums in the background. I also remember the days when I laid in my maternal grandmother’s lap and she stroked my hair and doled out random pieces of advice like always try to see the good in people and if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep quiet. The lessons are simple and I try to honor what they’ve taught me. My tribe extends outside of my family. I’ve had so many supportive girlfriends show up when I needed them the most. When I was at a particular low point, one friend did not judge my situation, but offered complete support without coloring it with her opinions. Other girlfriends have uplifted me in other ways – whether they are proud of my writing accomplishments, the way I mother or compliment how I look in a new dress or hairstyle. All of these affirmations are equally important – because there are plenty of places and situations where we already don’t feel enough.

Does this mean I haven’t intersected with women who tend to gravitate toward discontent? The ones who aren’t ever satisfied or feel more empowered by belittling other women because they somehow feel threatened. The ones who are towing the line between saying one thing, but doing another. The ones who will betray confidences or stir the pot because they enjoy the sport of it. The ones who see social-climbing as more important than enjoying the connection and company of a good friend. As I’ve gotten older, the red flags become more apparent and I’ve decided (as much as I can) to stand outside of this vortex. I’ve withheld trying to label these behaviors as dramatic, but to recognize these are not qualities which are a great fit for me.

Midlife is liberating in that you have the knowledge to sift through what is important and make choices. There isn’t the mask of youth convincing you to fit in or pretend or wade in something that doesn’t feel right for you. The genuine friendships will likely persevere and these are relationships where there isn’t the need to live in the land of political correctness and the fear of causing conflict – sometimes friends screw up, say things that aren’t pleasant or reveal truths in a state of vulnerability. These are the same friends that aren’t afraid to admit their shortcomings and aren’t scared of apologizing.

I am banning the phrase “too much drama” in my household because ultimately I want my daughter to know girls and women will show up, be present and help her grow and form her tribe. There’s nothing like laughing and sharing and loving women who will not only have your back, but will also appear when you need it the most.