The past month has been about awful difficulty punctuated, and ameliorated, by acts of love from true friends. From the four close girlfriends who text me regularly to see how I am, and how the move is progressing; from my best friend way up in Scotland, with whom I had a fabulous two hour phone conversation this week; from another lovely Hibernian friend who sent me a keyboard and is always there for me; from the lovely local friend who takes me on walks when I am loathe even to get out of bed and understands my woes so well; from the other delightful local pal who takes me to music events, makes me laugh like no other and has introduced me to American Football; from the friend who gave me tickets to a wonderful show, took me out and generally cheered me up – and all the others who have commented on blog posts, texted and emailed me and made life a place where hope hovers even amidst the deepest fear and despair. It is clear to me that true friends are a gift of far greater value than the fattest of bank accounts, the largest of houses and the most enormous collections of designer gear.
With true friends, I can be myself. Totally. If down in spirits, I can cry openly. If angry, I can vent safely. If worried, I can express myself inarticulately and still be heard. If happy, I can laugh and frolic and dance and sing. My true friends give love and companionship and the magic of themselves. Through them, I travel to new places, learn unexpected things, rediscover hobbies dropped decades ago, share joy and tears, grief and success, food and drink and long, life-enhancing conversations. I am changed in the crucible of their influence – and they in mine, for it is a two-way process.
With true friends, I flower and become the Alienora I once was and, increasingly, am returning to – but with elements added which reflect the sanding and polishing, the cutting down to size, the building up and the sheer joy of connection which all real friends bring to our lives.
Ritual magic, sacred places, music, drama, laughter, exercise, festivals, plays, concerts, food, drink, other countries; these and more, far more, have been brought into my life as a direct result of my true friends.
On the train journey that is our lives, some fellow passengers will stay for one stop only. That is fine. We exchange news and views, open up some of the trunks of the past and then part without deep grief. Others will be less positive fellow travellers – and their disembarkation at some station or another will be greeted with a sigh of relief. But our true friends will stay on the train for the duration. They may not always be in the same carriage as us. Weeks and months may go by without us seeing them. They may gravitate to other conversations, spend time being with other people – and this is healthy and right because no man can claim another as a possession. But we always know that they are there, somewhere, on our life’s journey – and that they will not leap from the train and leave us weeping with loss and grief. They may die before us (and some, inevitably, will) – but, until that happens, we have the wonder of their friendship glowing in our lives and warming the very cockles of our hearts.
There will be quarrels and down times; there will be difficulties, jealousies and misunderstandings – but we know, with true friends, that the bond-love is more important than the fleeting wash of insecure feelings and the sharp flint of harsh words. We know the value of making amends. We know the power of apology. Our love means more than momentary peeve.
True friends are gold. We cannot buy them. But, if we are careless and stupid enough to lose them, our lives are hugely impoverished by their absence.
Yes, they are there for us even when it is not convenient – because true friends understand that there is no right or wrong time, and that the river of love flows on forever.