This year three of the women dearest to me have been through the kind of deeply distressing events you hope never to land, and when they do they feel like they may never end.
Two of these have had to do with grave threats to the health of children, and the third was a potentially soul-destroying professional situation. One of those "I may never sleep again" jobs.
It’s no use trying to cover up how you are really feeling to dear friends, they want to be involved.Credit:Stocksy
Each of these women has been in my life for decades and I would trust each with my life. This goes without saying in long-term friendships that have seen plenty of wear and been through enough tear to rip off any last shred of artifice.
With these close women friends, the temptation to try to cover up how you're really feeling, so as to keep things light and bright, has long since worn off.
Fear of sapping energy from the other has also gone by the wayside; it's no use trying to disguise some vulnerability they could help you get through, or to cover up a hurt they could soothe. They see through you and they want to get involved, as you would for them.
A newish friend, a fr-olleague, or a school gate or book club or F45 or choir friend you feel close to at the time, but don't really have that spiritual-sister something with, need not be bothered with too much detail. You can enjoy each other and never go too far beyond the surface.
But the women who know you to the core will X-ray any "good thanks, how are you?" play-acting, when some of it is not good, thanks. They will want to dive right in and if you lock them out, they will be justifiably cross. This is what any friendship worth the heartbeats is about.
I don't know if men have these kinds of friendships, but judging by the lovely relationships I can see my sons developing with steadfast, really thoughtful young male friends, I am hoping so.
These, no-metaphorical-makeup, friends show you that room in their heart where the cement is wet. It's a given that you open that door in yourself to them, too, when your sodden heart needs a blast form the industrial heater.
Yet, despite the years of mutual support, highs, laughs, hangovers, heartbreaks and hardships on a scale of 0.5 to 11 that we have shared, enjoyed or carried each other through, this year each of these three wonderful givers close to me, while in the teeth of life-course changing stress, has said something like "sorry to be a burden" at some point.
This burns my ears; despite the fact I have said the exact same thing, at some point, to each of them, and others (plenty of times).
It strikes me as strange and noteworthy that while some people you hardly know will happily unload on you, when someone you would run into the flames to retrieve is going through a life crisis they could think the chance to support them would be anything but a gift.
Being trusted, allowed in and permitted walk beside them, even if you can't help fix whatever it is –but can just be there for it – is a high privilege.
When I am in pieces, I turn to these people and a small number of other darling friends for the glue. The bottles are bottomless.
So let's clear this up, once and for all; in these precious relationships, when one friend in is suffering that's when for the other friend the rubber, most sincerely and energetically, hits the road.
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