I have some exciting news to share. I have a new friend. “Well, good for you!” I hear you cry, “We’re totally thrilled. Just in case you hadn’t noticed we’ve got a pandemic and a million other things to worry about.” But I wanted to let you know because making a brand-new friend at my time of life is quite an achievement, wouldn’t you agree?
After all, we are hardly going on playdates or spending our free time hanging out wherever the cool kids meet nowadays, are we? Or for that matter, we are no longer making Mum-friends at the school gates. And we’re not meeting other Mums through our children’s extra-curricular activities or from being on the parent-teacher forum and so on. Those days are sadly but very firmly in the past.
Most of us are retired and so making friends through work is yet another avenue which has closed. The opportunities for striking up new and casual friendships and for occasionally forming deep and lasting bonds with other people seem to become fewer as the years go by.
Which makes it even more wonderful when it happens. Out of the blue and when I was least expecting it I bonded with my new friend at Poetry Group. But let me explain… the Group Bore was in full flow, boring everyone into a coma as usual. We are invited to bring along two poems to share with everyone else but as usual the Group Bore had brought along five. And as usual she considered it her God-given right to plough right on through all her poems. One after the other without any thought for anyone else. Groan.
Like the naughtiest girls in the class our eyes simultaneously met across the table, together we raised our eyebrows and imperceptibly shook our heads. Bingo! A bond was instantly formed and confirmed later over coffee. And believe me, in the backwater where I live, once found a potential new friend is to be nurtured.
I already have a set of fantastic friends and I wasn’t particularly in the market to make a new one but Liz bounded unexpectedly into my life and made her presence felt in absolutely the best kinds of ways. Clever, funny, dynamic and talented she has quickly become that rare treasure, a confidant and a soulmate. And a fantastic friend.
It’s lovely to have someone to bounce things off, someone who ‘gets’ your sense of humour and appreciates or is exasperated by just about the same things as you are. Not an echo chamber, of course. I am really not interested in people agreeing with me all the time. In fact, I love divergent opinions when they can be openly and politely discussed and I am perfectly happy when people disagree with me. But I guess that the points of agreement and sharing must outweigh the differences to make progress in any new relationship.
Liz is someone who has lots of life stories to share, too. Stories which are all original and interesting and yet which somehow resonate with my own experiences so that getting to know each other better has been both revelatory and joyful. With lots of laughter thrown in for good measure. For me at least, a shared sense of humour is increasingly necessary when it comes to spending quality time with someone. Because of course now, unlike during our working lives, we have the luxury of choosing with whom we spend our precious time.
Men, needless to say, have a hugely different take on friendships. My husband is happy to have friends without ever seeing them. No, that is probably a little unfair but meeting up once a year for a bar lunch supplemented by a greetings card at Christmas seems to be enough to sustain his friendships over many years. Since lockdown began the occasional chat on ‘Zoom’ or similar appears to be all that is required to keep the machinery of male friendships oiled and in full working order. It all seems very distant and rather lifeless to me but there you have it. Yet again Mars and Venus demonstrate their differences.
I celebrate and love all my friends dearly but there are one or two people whose friendship has been truly transformative and who have proved to be completely irreplaceable. Speaking personally, I know that without one wise, strong and loving friend I would never have emerged reasonably intact from a very toxic divorce. This friend is my ‘irreplaceable person’. She was resolutely there by my side and pushed and pulled me through what was a most difficult and painful time. You know who you are and I owe you a debt that I can never repay. I think most of us have experienced and been incredibly grateful for these wonderfully supportive, life-enhancing friendships which stand both the test of time and everything which life conspires to throw at us.
But it has been quite thrilling to form such a close bond so quickly with someone new and we have been lucky enough to have sufficient friendship ‘history’ to see us through lockdown. And now that lockdown is thankfully easing a little, I cannot wait to renew my friendships both old and new in real life. A big thank you to ‘Teams’ etc but it really is time to get back to the strong connections and lasting joys of female friendships. Coffee in the garden, anyone?
More posts from Border Belle can be read here