A tortoise right now, in all its hibernating glory, is probably still aware deep in its cosy coma that there is a tonne of Christmas hype going on right now. There are more fairy lights than there are school children, cinnamon is the smell of the day, and fake snow is lining the streets of London everywhere you look (except Islington because the road is flooded).
It’s impossible to deny that joy and laughter and mincemeat are everywhere and deep inside my stomach are butterflies, and anticipation, and excitement. But Christmas isn’t the reason why.
It’s because not just one, but two, of my best friends in the entire world are COMING HOME.
When you grow up binge-watching FRIENDS you are fooled into believing you will start living a life full of giant coffee cups and dream apartments and best friends who live next door. I’ve written about this reality check before, HERE, when it dawned on me aged 25 that life is less about skiving work to drink coffee with your mates and more about having no money and getting your hair caught in a toaster. In that blog I mentioned that I have friends who live abroad, who I don’t get to see very often, but who feel like they’re right here with me all the time anyway.
Now I’m sorry if this blog is totes emosh. It’s the first day of my period and as a consequence my hormones are seriously limiting my ability to behave and feel like a strong, independent woman. Instead I’m thinking a lot about baby penguins, trying to cuddle my stapler, and I’m one stifled sob away from asking a stranger to stroke me to sleep.
I’ve had a bit of a tough month or two recently. Anxiety has crept back into my life because losing someone close has tipped the rationale scale, upped the dread, filtered in the sadness all over again. Grief is also super tricky to navigate a) because it feels so unfair and b) because real life is still a thing and c) my appetite is broken and I’ve temporarily gone off croissants. But every cloud has a silver lining, they say, and if this cloud can even possibly glimmer it’s because I’ve discovered the people who matter most.
Two of which are my best friends, who may or may not read this because I won’t ram it down their throats when they’re trying to drink as much decent tea as possible again before leaving the country.
I feel very lucky to have a circle of friends who truly care. And so much of getting through everything has been down to my friends propping me up. My friends at work, who took me for tea on the day it all happened, or sent me pictures of baby seals on email. My best friends IN the country, who sent me flowers and cards and messages to brighten my day.
And my best friends, who live miles and miles and miles away, but still found the time to talk it through. The only reason I’m not saying your names is because, unlike me, you guys both have a sense of privacy online. But you know who you are. And you are everything.
Long-distance friendships might not be as demanding as with a relationship, or your family, or even your dog (mine is super needy on Skype) but they aren’t simple. There are time zones and social lives and all the more important people who need attention to consider. But there are also houses abroad where you can stay – hello holiday. And just because someone lives abroad doesn’t mean the fun has to end.
Girls nights in are replaced with comparing old bras on skype, girls nights out are replaced with drunk Facetime. It’s still possible to watch Orange is the New Black in sync, or get ready together. One of my favourite things about my friend living in Australia is the simple comfort that they have already experienced Monday and got through it.
About six weeks ago my friend who lives in France messaged me to say she’d bought me a present but I’d have to wait for a long time because she ordered it in French and didn’t realise it was coming from China. Six weeks later, my present arrived, and on opening it we discovered it was one of those epic mermaid tail blankets. The ones you can fit your entire body in while you’re watching Pretty Woman.
Unfortunately, and this is the reason she’s one of my favourite human beings in the world, she ordered it for a baby. It’s the size of probably one of my longest socks, and I could maybe wear it as a knitted fishtail tie if I wanted to. Nothing in the last six weeks has made me laugh so hard, and as she apologised for not being around in person to give me a hug, it clicked.
Friends don’t have to be in the same place as you to matter the most. You don’t have to see them in person to know they care. You don’t have to hang out every weekend to have the most fun. They can always make you laugh the most. I treasure my long-distance friendships, not only because they bring me treats home, but because they are worth so much. Time is precious, lives are short, and these people count.
So I’m excited for Christmas for the food, and the carols, and family walks in the countryside, but most of all I’m excited to hug my girls. To eat cake, and drink tea, and be a cliche. To laugh until we cry, complain about our clothes and hair and faces, doubt ourselves and love ourselves, stay up all night and get high on ice cream.
Wishing all of you a very Happy Christmas – with lots of hugs with the people you love most, and immense food babies too.