Friendships

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“Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?

You’re everything, everything I wish I could be.

Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle,

For you are the wind beneath my wings,

’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

Bette Midler ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’

I have been thinking a lot about friendship. Recently, I visited a close friend in Brighton we spent the morning together, I kept drifting back to the days we first met as students. It felt like only yesterday that we were sneaking out of college into the North Lanes for the first time. At the time, we had convinced each other that the Spanish lecture would go more smoothly and our tongues would be lucid if we had a couple of rounds of tequilas just before the lecture. Though, I’m not sure we ever made it to the lecture that day.

Another close friend of mine was going for surgery. Both being Jewish, I felt it was important to drop in some chicken soup (as of course that cures everything) and their favourite biscuits to her the night before, and ensure that they got to their appointment safely and on time the next morning.

I was suffering with ill health and I was able to text a friend to get me some essentials to make me feel better: lemon & ginger tea, lemons and chocolate. I have a very sweet tooth especially when I’m not feeling well.

I found it hard to find a definition for friendship that I like, I most liked how the Urban Dictionary (online) Defines ‘Friendship’: “Something that is much underrated in our society. Friendship is actually a form of love (here I’m not talking exclusively about erotic love). It’s not a lesser form of love than erotic love, only a different form of love. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a word, “phileos”, more or less equating to fraternal/brotherly love (friendship).”

At times where during my coming out, I relied upon my more solid friendships to be there for me. Whilst I waited for my family to accept my being gay, it was these friends that today I refer to as my extended family.

Friendship is an essential part of my and perhaps your human existence. Sometimes, when we change or develop as individuals friendships can fizzle out. I always feel sad when this happens, but on a more positive note this allows for new people to walk into our lives. More recently, I have started to develop better quality friendships, some of whom have surprised me by just popping up in my life and letting me know that they are there.

Good friendships that can go through troubled times together let us know that these are resilient enough to survive the worst of times. So friendship is also essential to support us having good mental health.

Though, from my own experience living in a big City like London I know how hard it is to try to keep up with busy work schedules and finding time to catch up with our friends is no easy task. I have taken a bit of time out to ensure that I can create a good work life balance, to ensure that I have time to spend with the special friends and my family in my life. I don’t feel I have time in my life to celebrate my friendships enough, so to find peace and love in this crazy world, my suggestion to myself and you would be to find time to celebrate your friendships.

If you find making friends difficult, here are my five top tips:

  • Be genuine. Friendship is built on honesty so just be yourself and people will respect you for that.
  • Join social groups and find activities that you enjoy. There is more to life then the clubbing or bar scene. There is now even a gay bridge card playing group.
  • Become a volunteer. In this economic environment there are many charities that need volunteers. It can feel wonderful to give something back to the community, whilst gaining new skills and can be a great way to improve your social skills and create new friends.
  • Good body language. Good open body language, use of eye contact and remember to smile. Let’s new people know how available we are to speak to in social situations.
  • Listen to your friend. Listening is the number one glue of friendships. Though, respectfully do remember to keep what they say between you. Gossip is one of the top things that break friendships.

Some organisations you might find useful:
Out Everywhere for gay and bisexual men: http://www.outeverywhere.com
Quest for gay and bisexual men: http://www.thequestawaitsyou.com
Ginger Beer for lesbian and bisexual women: http://www.gingerbeer.co.uk
London Friend, LGBT Charity has various groups for all of the community and volunteering opportunities. http://londonfriend.org.uk
Action for Happiness is a movement for positive social change: http://www.actionforhappiness.org

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About Author

Joel is a qualified counsellor and psycho-therapeutic supervisor working with both youth and adult clients. He has worked in the LGBT community for over 14 years working in the fields of health, social care and youth work. This has included working in HIV prevention and supporting adults and young people who are living with HIV. Since 1999, Joel has delivered training and workshops in the voluntary and statutory sectors around the themes of sexuality, homophobia and sexual health.

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