Ah Christmas. It’s a strange old time of year for me. I go inwards at Christmas, more and more each year that passes. Anyhow. It’s crept up again, as I was looking elsewhen. Usually I splurt out a Christmas Gift Guide on the blog, in memory of the days when I used to trawl the shops for newspaper or magazine guides. And, actually, I started popping images into a file a while back. Yet, funny thing, as I look in the file this morning, I find they are all of the same thing – friendship bracelets. Those little strings that started out as childhood or teen tokens of bonding. And I smiled…
What is a friend? How many friends have you got? How many friends do you feel you need? Does it upset you when a friend leaves you, abandons you, walks away? I’m not talking about lovers here but friends, just friends.
In the last week two very different people said pretty much the same thing to me: ‘If you stick with me, you’ll lose your friends.’
And my response? So be it. Because I know full well that I would never lose the people who really count. As for the rest? Let them walk. Because, see, I truly believe that if you can’t be who you are with people, if they can’t accept your true self, then that friendship is over. I am fiercely loyal to my true friends and I expect no less in return.
I think people come into our lives for reasons; I truly do. Yeah, even the crappy people (as discussed before). Friendships however come in many forms and I think that often we mistake the nature of some of them. Sometimes people come into our lives very briefly, just to give a message. Others stay around for longer; sometimes burning very bright and then vanishing – almost in a puff of smoke. And others are for life.
Recently I thought I’d lost a life friend. And that hurt. I tried to rationalize it. Let’s be honest, I haven’t been an easy-to-be-with friend this last year. Living half in other worlds, reneging on social niceties, absconding from the usual pleasantries. And yes, I’ve lost a fair few friends but, to be honest, that was just fine. It meant I didn’t have to keep justifying myself – why should I? Is that harsh? No, I don't think so. So often we keep up with friendships from habit; from expectation; from social mores, even when they have long passed their sell-by date. We grow out of clothes, we change our hair style, we move houses, we shift jobs - so why on earth should we keep friendships static, in aspic?
But this friend? Oh yeah, this one hurt. I could remember the first time we met, so so clearly. I needed a flat-mate and someone at work suggested her. For reasons too complicated to go into, I was expecting to open the door to a seriously trendy black DJ or musician. Instead there stood a small, very conservatively dressed, very small, very white lawyer. We shared a house for years. I screwed up her love life with a spell that backfired quite spectacularly – but she never blamed me. We laughed, we cried together; we mopped one another up after the usual life disasters. We used to joke that, when we were old, we’d share a house again and be mad bad witches again.
But then…silence. Long, long silence. And I figured, hey. Why would she still want to be friends with me? She was hugely successful; her career trajectory had soared in reverse proportion to my crash. But so be it. Anyway, what could I do? You can’t force people to be your mates, can you? Sometimes you have to let go...
And then, just a few days ago, when I was at a very low ebb indeed, an email. Oh. And I replied saying, softly, 'I thought I’d lost you.' And she replied:
“Baby I will always be here. Friendships like ours run so deep that nothing changes that. Nothing.”
And I smiled. And cried. And the world felt a little warmer.
You don’t need tons of friends. I suppose, if one is being brutal, you don't need any. But life is far nicer if you have a few people in the world who *get* you. Or – and this is the clever bit – you have people who don’t remotely *get* you; who haven’t a clue what you’re about…who shake their heads and mutter “bloody woman is barking nuts” but love you nonetheless. And I have a fair few of both varieties, so I am truly blessed.
Will they stay forever? Who knows? If they do, it is meant. If they don’t, it is meant. But for now, I’m saying ‘thank you’ to those who have stood by me and loved me even when I’ve been a very hard person to love. You know who you are…no need to name names. And so here’s my Christmas Gift Guide…a whole line of friendship bracelets. J