Today I am feeling the love.
It could be because I had a great evening at the theatre last night, but I think it’s more likely to be because I went there with my clever, funny, sparkling friend.
This glow is not a one off. Now, at the grand old age of forty-nine, I am ready to admit that my friends give me the kind of fulfilment that in decades gone by, I didn’t fully acknowledge or appreciate.
Have I previously neglected the wonderful women I’ve been blessed to know? Looking back, perhaps I have been remiss. Whilst my friends were always important, other things have inevitably got in the way. Establishing a life is a full-time job, and I suspect I’ve been guilty of taking my friends for granted.
In our teens, our female friends feel like they are everything, but at that age we are still puppies, scrabbling over each other to get to the teat of life. Teenage girls can be disloyal as they struggle to claim their place in the pack or secure the attentions of the boy with the fewest pimples. We love our friends fiercely, but don’t have the maturity to prioritise them above what our hormones scream for.
In our twenties we are a human collection of building blocks, constructing careers, homes and relationships. Our women friends support us, but often fall into the background as partners and jobs take precedence and nights out are replaced by cosy evenings a deux, or endless hours with our inbox.
Our thirties can be a hot mess of kids. Other mums are crucial for our survival, they are our colleagues and our confidantes, but most conversations are about the child, the colour of its poo, its ability to count to ten in Cantonese, and, endlessly, its schooling. Female friends are there, but their autonomy has been usurped by a tiny human who sucks their time and attention into a vortex.
Then our forties arrive, and whilst in some ways they’re the most arduous so far, (What? I’m meant to maintain this standard of living I’ve established forever? And who turned the heating up?) they are also our time to recalibrate, to become ourselves again. To rediscover what is really important to us.
And I’ve rediscovered my friends are really important to me.
One of the joys of having racked up a few years is that I’ve developed a kind of human sieve. All the people I’ve met over the years have been placed in this mental implement and given a good shake. The lumpy ones — those I’m incompatible with — are put aside, whilst the rest are sprinkled across my life, like sugar on a cake. (I wonder who’s put me in the food recycling…I get this works both ways).
Like sugar, these friends add something deliciously satisfying to my life, and I feel I’m now in a place where I can fully appreciate these bright and vibrant women.
Some of my friends are new: My writing buddies, met through festivals, retreats, even social media, have opened up a new world of inspiration and stimulation and I can’t imagine a life without them.
Some I have known from infancy. They know all my secrets and love me anyway. They add landmass to the rock which my family have formed beneath me.
Many came in between, creating bonds which I believe will hold fast until we sit together in our bath chairs in the nursing home, sucking custard through our false teeth.
I have known the friend I saw last night since our university days. There was a long gap in our contact, but we’ve found our way back to each other after the madness of the building block years. We share a love of Theatre and literature, of chatting and laughing and whenever I see her, I am reenergised.
Because good friends can do that. They plug you back into the grid and make you shine. I’m going to stop beating myself up for not always recognising this when I was younger and, instead, take great joy from the fact that now, in my late forties and going forwards, I have the time, the energy and the love to give to the hugely valuable women I have the good fortune to call friends.
Header image by Viandrra on Pixabay