try a little stronger, for your friends

“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”

– Winnie the Pooh

I’ve talked previously about depression and negative thoughts, about pain and mood-swings.  That’s all okay, it’s stuff we go through and experience, it’s stuff we can cause other people to go through and experience too, by our actions and thoughts (or lack thereof).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today, the effect and impact we can have on other people.  I’ve also explained before about the fact that I’m so fed-up of being depressed and hurting other people with the way I am.

It’s one reason why what genuinely surprises me, after all this time, is that I still have any friends to speak of (or to!). And that’s what I want to talk about today, the gift of friendship.

I take my friends for granted, it’s true. I expect them to always be there, always be thinking of me and always ready to listen. I like to think I offer that to my friends in return, but of course, I don’t. There are times when I’m so caught up in my life and my troubles, that I fail to see one of my friends is hurting, or in need of help. And by the point I’ve noticed, it’s too late, I’ve already let them down.

For that, I am truly sorry. It’s so easily done, especially if (like me) you are rather prone to introspection and self-absorption. That’s not to say I’m a fair-weather friend, one who’s only there for the good parts in others’ lives. No, rather that sometimes I lose sight of the true nature of friendship: Love.

I love every single one of my friends, in different ways and for the different qualities and gifts they bring to my life. You can choose your friends, but in reality you don’t, you grow and evolve your friends as you grow and evolve too. What starts as individuals, like shoots in a forest, grow together until a support is formed, where, like a forest, the whole functions more effectively than any one individual. That’s how I see it at any rate.

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Personally, I think it’s lovely, and it always chokes me up to think back to points in my life before I knew a particular friend, and wondered how I ever coped before I knew them.

There’s Emma, who I met at college when we were both 16. We met for the first time, drunkenly snogging at a party, and it took a while to get to know her properly after that awkward(!) start. She now lives abroad (not because of the trauma of kissing me!), but we still talk regularly, and when we see each other, it’s like no time has ever passed, and usually we still get drunk as though we’re 18 again! Emma lives life according to her rules, and has never been afraid to try new things, to travel and experience new cultures and new ideas. I have nothing but admiration for Emma, and I love her like a sister (Edit: to my sisters, you know I love you too!).

There’s Richard, who I met at the age of 17, the brother of another friend. We clicked over music (Dodgy, the Dharmas) and became best buddies from that fun summer of 1994. He is the most warm-hearted, open and genuine guy I have ever (will ever) known. He has an infectious jollity and humour that spreads like wildfire. He never complains, never whinges. Just being in his presence can cure all melancholy, he really should be available on prescription! Richard is if anything, the brother I never had. My wife refers to our friendship (in good humour!) as “a bit gay”. Maybe it is, all I know is I wouldn’t trade his friendship for anything.

Richard and Emma were the “best man and woman” at my wedding, and two greater friends I could never hope to have.

There’s Kate, who I’ve only been friends with for a few years, but already feel such a connection with, that I know we are going to be close friends for life. We met through work, and now she is my boss (eep!). So while we have fun bitching and moaning about the trials of office life, we have much more besides. Kate, when she’s on form is the life and soul of the party, able to put a room full of people at ease. She has a confidence and self-assuredness that honestly, makes me envious. But behind the front lurks the compassionate nature of a truly caring soul, one who has near-limitless time to help others, and provides very good counsel.

And I think that (in a round-about way) is my point, a friendship is a support, a relationship that has to function for both parties. It simply isn’t healthy to maintain a friendship that is entirely one-sided, a friendship that is a drain on your soul, rather than nourishment.

So what am I? A friendship vampire? Bleeding my friends of all they have to offer? I hope not, but at times I know that has been the case.  I know what my friends give me, but I am not sure what I give them in return. The last 12 months I’ve given out a lot of heartache, I know that much. I also like to think I have given some laughter, some great cooking and some nicely painted little metal models too!

I know that there is nothing I would not do for my friends, if I felt could help them in any way. Who can see someone they care about in pain and do nothing? Sure, I’ll get it wrong sometimes and my attempts to help will appear misguided and even make a situation worse (really? me?), but they come from my heart, and the compassion and love I have for those in my life.

I started with a quote from the renowned friendship guru Mr Pooh, and it only seems fitting to finish in the same way, as it sums up everything I’ve been thinking about and inexpertly trying to articulate:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. i’ll always be with you.”

– Winnie the Pooh

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Captain caveman on April 24th 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Only a “bit gay”? Sir you forget that hot monsoon night in Kowloon at your peril. At your peril sir.


  2. […] skinny legs get the blues in hot climates My best friend Richard, who I’ve talked about previously, bought me a copy of the Tom Robbins’ novel “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot […]


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