While Barbara Kennedy may have first met Susan Collins and Rachel Schulson through separate professional endeavors, it didn’t take long for these ladies to recognize the outstanding love and support one another offered. In time, Susan went from being a colleague to a confidant and helped Barbara navigate the ups and downs of being a working mother, while Rachel bonded with Barbara over shared interests and life events that have now spanned more than two decades. Now, this trio has cultivated a unique support system where differences of opinion are valued and life’s successes are celebrated.
What are some valuable traits of the other ladies that make them such an integral part of your support system?
SC: Barbara is smart and extremely capable, and she has one of the most fun and witty personalities of anyone I know. She’s calm in times of stress, and she’s wonderful to her friends. Her presence always makes any situation better, whether it’s a fun occasion or one that requires a steady hand or a word of sympathy. And I’ve always admired Rachel for her commitment to doing the right thing and her efforts to actually make a bad situation better.
RS: Barbara is calm and thoughtful. She can look at a situation with many moving parts and see how they can go together in a way that works for all parties concerned. She is not quick to judge, and her fascination with people is what makes her both a great conversationalist and companion. Susan is one of the most well-read people I know. Many of the recommendations she makes and books she loans to Barbara make their way to me. Susan’s broad taste in books has exposed me to many kinds of people and perspectives.
Why do you think it’s necessary to have a support system in place?
SC: Oh my, how could you not? Now that I am alone, my friends are my tribe. Since I was widowed in 2018 after 28 years of a wonderful, happy marriage, my friends have helped me survive as a single person for over four years now. I learned a lot about self-sufficiency from Barbara. She has helped me stay busy and positive.
RS: Having the benefit of other people’s perspectives reminds me that what may seem obvious to me is not necessarily how others would view a situation. An honest friend offers, not just a shoulder to cry on, but a different take. Of course, I appreciate when they commiserate or celebrate with me, but I also appreciate when what they say is not what I want to hear.
BK: As hard as it is for women of my generation to admit it, we can’t do it all. We can try, and believe me, I have, but it eventually takes its toll on a person’s mental and physical well-being. A support system helps take the weight off of whatever the load may be that one is shouldering, provides balance, and helps create a healthier perspective.
What’s the most important thing you’ve taught each other since meeting?
SC: Barbara has taught me a lot about being self-sufficient and speaking up for myself. I hope what she may have learned from me is that you never have to feel old if you have the right attitude. I love that she thinks of me as a fun big sister.
RS: I can’t say what I’ve taught Barbara, but she’s taught me that acting quickly is not the same as acting decisively. She is thoughtful without being overly cautious, and I have learned from watching her approach.
BK: Having a support system was revelatory to me. Susan and Rachel have taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable and forthright about fears and feelings. They are also very good about being attentive to the care and thoughtfulness that is necessary to nurture relationships, and I think I have gotten better at that thanks to them.
What are your favorite ways to bond and lift each other up?
SC: We often meet for a walk and discuss all the good and bad things that are going on in our lives. We also bond through trading good books, and I love when Barbara calls out of the blue and asks if I can help her with a project she’s working on at school.
RS: Barbara and I bond through honesty and humor. There’s something about talking while doing something – a jigsaw puzzle, or in our case, walking – that makes the conversation flow more easily. When the conversation includes the willingness to be vulnerable, you get more from it, and it enhances all the other areas of your life.
BK: The bond is there and is tight, so just touching base with a quick call or texting is a bright spot. If it’s sprinkled with some sarcastic humor, that is always fun.