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Women and friendship

Gemma explores the importance of female friendship in all stages of life.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

In the 90s, we watched the friendship between Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda from Sex and the City. They were young, career minded, and stood by each other through personal and professional storms. Together they discussed men, work, health, and cried tears of joy and pain, as they navigated their way through issues that are pertinent to women, regardless of age, country of origin, race or colour.

In 2018, I am watching Grace (played by Jane Fonda, now 80) and Frankie (played by Lilly Tomlin, now 78) which traces the lives of two women in their 70s. Their friendship slowly develops at a time when they are dealing with divorce and need to begin a new chapter. Even though their future is uncertain and age presents a barrier, they move forward slowly. All the while supporting each other while learning to respect their differences and celebrate their victories.

In both shows, what shines through most is the laughter and camaraderie that comes when women develop bonds of friendship. In our own lives, friendships come in technicolour and high resolution. They are complete with flaws, imperfections, and scars, which help us as women to thrive and move towards a more fulfilling future. It’s also the honesty, the heartache, the rages, the occasional betrayal, subsequent forgiveness, and the opening up to possibilities, which add to a friendship’s spice and flavour.

Even more importantly, it’s the joy, standing united in mutual admiration with dignity, courage, humour and love. It’s the knowledge that together anything can be overcome and much can be accomplished.

The power of female bonding

I am now in my 50s, and as I get older I have come to realise what a blessing and also a necessity it is to have my female buddies to hang around with. With age comes the possibility that more can go wrong. There are things that you just don’t see coming and in truth you wouldn’t want to. But when heartache descends, hanging over us like a black cloud, it is comforting to have our friends close by. It’s not always about talking it through; sometimes it’s enough that they are there with a tissue, a smile, or a hand placed warmly on our shoulder. Illness, divorce, unemployment, death of a loved one and so many other issues can cause pain that only time and friendship can help heal.

I am reminded of the time after my father’s funeral. My close friend who I had known since primary school, hugged me so intensely that our embrace spoke louder than any words she could have uttered. She was my rock and I have always remembered that moment with gratitude.


Sharing pearls of wisdom

More recently I gathered with a wonderful group of friends at a restaurant. On that mild night as we sat outside, we laughed out loud, shared stories, some wicked and others sombre. We listened as one member informed us she would be attending her cousin’s funeral, who died suddenly and tragically. We shared stories about our mothers, children, travel, impending events and so much more. I am always inspired and comforted by how women can share so many pearls of wisdom in such a short time.

The fact is that with real friends we can speak our truth. And we can be listened to regardless of whether it’s smooth and easy to hear, or at times just a little bit sharp and harder to swallow.

It’s evident that what is important to our wellbeing is our connection with our gal pals. This is the doorway to us thriving and having a fulfilling life. Now more than ever, we need to sow the seeds of companionship with other women who will help us in times of crisis and success. Life will bring beautiful moments but also opposition and hardship, which is part of our spiritual and personal growth.

Over the years I have lost a few friends to illness. In our youth, death seems distant and not something to dwell on. When you have sat at a dying friend’s bedside, you realise that life can be cut short at any moment. The best investment we can make is not just in brick and mortar or career. It’s in taking the time to develop and nurture friendships. For even when things don’t go according to plan, our friends can steer us towards renewed optimism and will lift us up when we can’t do it for ourselves.

To quote Carrie Bradshaw, “They say nothing lasts forever… dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.”

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