KATIE'S BLOG: Through thick and thin - the power of female friendship

As I stand here from my midlife vantage point looking back at five decades of female friendships, there is a recurrent pattern that has followed me throughout my life.

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!

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