This year has been a wild and crazy ride, and it has brought home to me with painful intensity how reliant we are on our friends. They support, encourage and protect us. They pick us up and dust us off when we fall over. They wield the frying pan of perspective, when necessary, with love and enthusiasm. They are foundation stones for a happy and connected life.
Birthdays, especially those with a zero on the end, are a great opportunity to reflect on where we are, and who helped us to get there. Like some sort of cosmic poke in the ribs, they prompt us to celebrate our relationships, and to think happy thoughts about the people who take care of us in hundreds of varied ways, both large and small.
There are friends who are always willing to listen when things go wrong, and who won’t hesitate to pop open the champagne when there is something to celebrate. There are people who live on the other side of the world who encourage and support me as powerfully as if they lived next door. There are colleagues, past and present, who recognise my state of mind from a single greeting or chat message, and who are a constant source of reassurance and inspiration.
There are friends who swoop in, do what needs doing in a take-no-prisoners fashion, bestow hugs with generous arms, and swoop out again leave me feeling loved, cared for, and surprisingly in control. There are still others who quietly make life flow more easily. They smooth away many of the stumbling blocks in my path before I even see them, and they require no thanks or even notice. It’s a gesture of the greatest, most humbling love and affection.
It’s not easy love, but you’ve got friends you can trust,
Friends will be friends,
When you’re in need of love they give you care and attention,
Friends will be friends,
When you’re through with life and all hope is lost,
Hold out your hand cos friends will be friends right till the end
Friends will be friends – Queen
In times of crisis I know that my friends will be there for me when I scream, and that many of them won’t even wait for the scream. These are the kind of friends who make it their business to be aware of how I am travelling, and who are standing beside me with their arms out before I stumble.
There are friends who make me laugh in life’s blackest moments. While they will listen and provide sympathy, they won’t take tears for a final answer. It feels as though it is their mission in life to make me smile. To tickle me in the ribs with the funny side until I turn a fetching shade of purple and beg for mercy with my last wheezing breath. (At which point they will generally provide me with a decent breathing space to catch my breath, stopping just short of depriving me of oxygen entirely.)
I am incredibly fortunate to have a whole host of these friends in my life, and many more besides. I have found a workplace positively teeming with intelligent, caring, compassionate, and above all crazy people, and they have welcomed me with open arms. I have dear friends from school, past colleagues who remain beloved friends, university buddies who know me better than I know myself, and friends made in the most unexpected of places.
17 and a half years ago I married a man who personifies all of those types of friendship, and more besides, and he has stuck by me through more tears, trauma and tickling than I care to remember. He keeps me insane in all the best ways.
To my family and friends, to all the people who love and support me with breathtaking constancy and compassion – the greatest thanks I can give you is to return your love and support with every fibre of my being, and to be the best I can be – the person you enable me to be.