In the last year I’ve been in love, fallen out of love, moved out of a house, moved into a house, slid a wedding ring from my finger and cried a lot of tears over relationships. Despite the fact that this year has revolved predominantly around my changing marital status, if I had to say one of the main things I’ve learned? That by god, you need your friends.
I don’t always love the ‘attitude of gratitude’ approach. I’ve had days this year when I couldn’t face getting out of bed, or brushing my hair, or writing a text message. Being grateful? As if. It was hard enough just to force a cup of tea down, let alone take pleasure in every sip and describe why I savoured it. Because I am conscientious and have a habit of clutching at straws however, on some days I forced myself to write in my gratitude journal just because I thought I should, and I wanted to feel better. And on days when I couldn’t think of anything to write, I always repeated the same words. My friends. My family. Because even when I felt I had nothing else, I knew that they were thinking of me, rooting for me, pulling me through. Even on those days when I just hid under a quilt and cried, I still had friends checking in. “I know you’re not okay. But I’m here. I see you.” No expectation. Just there-ness. Always there-ness.
There is a time for thought, and there is a time for action. They know. When I took a leap towards a new kind of happiness, a ‘throw caution to the wind and jump right in’ type happiness, they grinned, and giggled, and asked questions and gave the benefit of the doubt, suspending their own concerns and putting their hand on my shoulder; letting me make my own choices but reassuring me that they would be there, if needed. And god am I grateful. I am grateful that I have friends that I can phone, crying at 8pm and say – “Please can you come and get me. I am scared, and I need you.” You might not feel it now, but you all need one of those friends. You need a friend who will come and collect you, bag up your things and drive you to their house (letting you stop on the way for chips in pitta with cheese, because they know that what you really need, alongside enduring and unconditional love, is carbohydrates). A friend that will never say ‘I told you so’. There is a time for support, and there is a time for tough love. You need a friend who will refuse to let you go back home when they don’t think you are safe. You need friends who will offer to drive hours through the night just to see that you are okay. You need friends who will ask you to message when you wake up, and when you go to bed, to let them know that you are okay. Friends who send you flowers, just because. And friends who pick you up and sweep you off (literally – when I’m sad I tend to cover myself in Nacho Cheese Pringle crumbs) and even though they told you it was a bad idea, they don’t mind having to coach you through the aftermath.
What a year.
My friends and family have been through a lot this year. From the earlier part of the year – the sadness, that all-encompassing “I can’t do it-ness”, the days when I had to go and clear a house, to sift through wedding memorabilia or separate belongings, they were there. And the latter part of the year, the “I’m fine-ness”, the days when I would promise that I was okay, and hide the fact that I slept with my inhaler next to me (for the panic attacks that I thought were asthma attacks) and had to up my anxiety medication. They were there. They were looking on the Find My Friends app and checking I had gone to work. They waited for me to find the courage – no, they gave me that courage. And when I crumbled, again, they picked me up. Brush you down, pick you up. My friends have got it down.
Sometimes I would joke about the fact that my friends were all eerily similar to my Mother. Opinionated, bossy, strong, independent women, who were equally loving, kind, thoughtful and fiercely loyal. Friends who would just as often tell me how amazing I am as call me out on my bullshit. But it’s not a joke any more – I need these women and I wouldn’t change them for the world. They teach me how to be strong, and they raise an eyebrow and nod kindly when I need to be weak (until it is time to be strong). They pick me up, they brush me off.
The gratitude journal comes more naturally now. Things… are easier. But one thing never changes. I will always repeat the same words. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my friends.