The first two decades were spent pretty much in transit. As a doctor’s daughter we were on the move a fair bit to wherever the next hospital placement would be.  From America to Wales and onto South London, my friendships were often short lived in those early years.

I tried to avoid getting too close to too many people, as in the back of my mind I knew that at some point I may have to say goodbye.

So instead I chose to invest all of my time and energy into one or two BEST friends and perhaps two or three other really GOOD friends. 

They were the ones who I giggled with at school, passed notes across the desk to, practiced dance and make up routines with at home, went shopping with, cried on their shoulders over various failed relationships and told all my inner secrets to. They provided the fun, the laughter and the drama which most of us I’m sure will have experienced along the way. 

Now I’m sure I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs, that I unfortunately lost one of these really good friends, in our last year of university. The effect of that sudden loss, has haunted me to this day.   

It further compounded my cautious nature. I constantly avoided becoming too close to people, because the fear of losing someone else or having to yet again say goodbye, was too much to bear.

Thankfully, not long after that, I met my husband, who became my best friend too and slowly through 26 years of marriage, he has helped heal a lot of my wounds and given me the security and the courage to branch out, reconnect and trust in my female friendships again. 

I grew to understand that saying goodbye and losing people dear to us was sadly just part of life. Something that didn’t just affect me obviously, but anyone and everyone.

In my married life and through our children I have been fortunate to make some really wonderful girlfriends along the way. 

I still have my inner insecurities providing a voice in one ear warning me not to get too close, but I have become a lot better at trying to ignore that voice and live in the here and now.  After all, none of us have the luxury of knowing how long a friendship or indeed a life will last.

The power of female friendship cannot be underestimated. Girlfriends come in all shapes and sizes, and we choose to have them in our life to compliment our own personalities – like little missing pieces of a not quite finished jigsaw puzzle.  

There will usually be a few fairly obvious stereotypes in each group; The confident, popular, pretty, outgoing one who will always be first on the dance floor and never without a boyfriend. The shy, quiet, understated, sensible one we all go to for advice.  The comedienne whose job it is to entertain, leaving us permanently in fits of giggles, the gym bunny whose figure you can only ever dream of and makes you feel guilty every time you reach for that slice of cake and the one who is full of insecurities, and lacking in self confidence, who slots in somewhere in between them all!

So often we hear the phrase ‘friends are the family we choose for ourselves’.  But for me, if I’ve learnt one thing along my journey into midlife, it is that there are friends, there is family and then there are friends that become family. 

The latter are exceptionally rare to come by. And when they do, hold onto them tight and never let them go.  These are the ones that know you inside and out, warts and all, through thick and thin. They will forever support you, lift you up, go to the ends of the earth to be there for you and will always have your back.

I will never forget the opening line of my father’s speech on my wedding day.  He told a packed room full of friends and family that he was a very wealthy man – there was an audible gasp in the room at his arrogant opening statement. Thankfully, once they allowed him to get to the end of his sentence, they soon realised they had been too quick to judge.

‘My wealth’, he said, ‘is like a tightly-woven tapestry. It can be measured by the intricately intertwined patterns that represent a life full of good friends and family.’  

It took me a few minutes to understand where he was going with that opener, but now, when I look back at my own life so far, I can totally relate to where he was coming from. 

The only difference for me is that I like to look at my tapestry as a shawl that has similarly beautiful patterns woven within it. 

Some may be faded and in places gone for good. But I know they were there.

And the ones that remain I will take with me and continue to wrap myself in, as I step into the next chapter of my life. 

So ladies, forget about diamonds being a girl's best friend. As far as I’m concerned, best friends are more precious than any gemstone that may come your way!

After all, he had been marooned in the loft for over an hour and counting, desperately trying to figure out why we had no wifi and I’d given him strict instructions not to come down until he had sorted it.  Can you imagine the scenes – NO WIFI (heaven forbid!)

So while he was getting increasingly annoyed up there, Bobbie boo boos (boozies for short) and I swiftly left the house to meet up with 3 of my girl friends as well as Tily, Flossy, Bamba and Archie (yup you guessed it our little pooches) for a walk and a catchup.

The last day of glorious sunshine smiled down on us, as we grabbed our takeaway coffees and merrily trotted through the green and pleasant land that was the local park, chatting away about…. well our work, kids, husbands, life the universe and everything!.

Ok so to any passer by, I’m embarrassed to say, we probably looked like a typical group of very suburban, middle class, middle aged women with our matching white/beige cross breeds; cavachon, cavapoo, wichon, shitzpoo (or pooshit?) and poochon, but I didn’t care.  If I could bottle that hour and prescribe it to myself once a day for the rest of my life, I would be a very happy and healthy lady.

Whenever you hear a Doctor talk about the importance of good mental health – usually involving walking in nature, you sometimes wonder if they are just quoting a load of obvious phrases to pay you lip service.

Well it seems I may have made a hasty assumption, because that hour this morning, not only cleared my head and put a smile on my face, but also reminded me that it's the simple things in life that make us happy.

There really is nothing quite like walking in the sunshine with your girlfriends and dogs with a coffee in one hand, laughing, crying and basically putting the world to rights.

And weirdly enough, as I swiftly returned home to the chaos of builders and kids moaning about the lack of food and wifi in the house and faced with a pile of washing and ironing, somehow I didn’t mind seeing to it all nearly as much.

So next time you are feeling a bit frazzled, no matter what the weather, grab a dog, grab a friend, grab a coffee and get out there and walk and talk, then come home and see if life feels just that little bit brighter!

But whatever you do, just remember to make sure you let your husband out the loft – did I mention I’d accidentally knocked over the ladder on my way out this morning?! OOPS.

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