I often find it difficult to see the good in the world. I get plagued by existential dread to a debilitating state - I’m a domestic abuse survivor and a domestic abuse specialist by trade, so I’ve come to accept that these episodes come with the complex territory of personal trauma and professional activism. When they strike, they become all consuming and, particularly amidst the numbing hopelessness of a pandemic, I’ve found myself on numerous occasions succumbing to the hypnotising state that’s a combination of brain fog, hypersensitivity, and depression.
To remedy this, my therapist suggested I make a gratitude journal. I obediently went away and bought the most garishly joy-inducing notebook possible, a spiralbound flipbook adorned with iridescent sequins in the shape of a rainbow shooting out of a contently smiling cloud, with multicoloured pages in which to scribble down all the things that are so easy to forget day to day.
Writing in this journal quickly became habitual, and I go to sleep feeling somewhat better for it. Every night before bed I write six things, I’m grateful for: three of which have occurred during that day (a lovely weekend with my partner, a productive day at work, an article commission, or a sunny afternoon for example) and three things that remain constant. These are the things that are unwavering, never changing, secure. Over the months I’ve found that these constants have the most impact because they remind me that no matter how deflated and burnt out I feel, how disenchanted I am with society, or how doomed our political landscape looks, I’m extremely lucky to be able to write these three unchangeable bullet points every night. They’re the things I have faith in, that I trust will never leave or change for the worse. They’re my mum and brother (this may be cheating but I count them as one), my cat (you’re lucky I didn’t write this about her) and my best friend; Heather – whose longevity I am eternally grateful for.
We’ve been friends since nursery, so that’s... what? Twenty-five, twenty-six sears of being inseparable. It’s not something to take for granted. It’s a natural thing to evolve in a way that doesn’t necessarily align with the primary school friends when at one point in your friendship the only things you had in common were your postcode and your fondness of playtime. Not us. I often wonder what it is that went right here; is it nature/nurture, or should Heather and I be being studied by science for how eerily two unrelated people can be identical in every way that matters? It makes something so natural, so consistent, so easily taken for granted, exceptionally phenomenal. Our friendship is defined by its durability, its resilience, and its permanence. There’s not been a moment of doubt in almost thirty years of friendship and that’s bloody special.
Our friendship is full of excitement. From backpacking around Europe at 18 full of naivety and energy, to our ‘knobhead expeditions’. We hop in the car and just drive, deciding which lefts and rights to take in the moment until we reach a random footpath sign that inevitably leads to us getting so lost we return dishevelled, exhausted, and once again despairing at ourselves. And our latest adventure – moving in together! Having someone who is relentlessly spontaneous to plan more downright ridiculous adventures with has got me through this pandemic. Our friendship is defined by the many times the precursor to our conversations starts with, “remember the time when…” before tumbling down memory lane, reminiscing about the time when I went delirious after we got lost in black desert in Iceland, when we went campervan-ing in Cornwall and broke down innumerable times, or when we were missing, presumed dead by our hostel owner after getting lost (again) in a Croatian national park.
But with the excitement comes a safety I cherish. For a domestic abuse survivor, existing safely is the most fundamental thing I can ask for and our friendship is a home. It’s a metaphorical home. Recovering from trauma means these constants - the things you can have faith in after having your trust violated, the unquestionable when you’ve had your reality gaslighted, the security when you’re rebuilding your sense of self - are what you treasure the most.
When I have felt let down, betrayed and abandoned, I come home to this friendship as an instant reminder I’m safe, secure and loved. It’s a physical home, with beautiful, tiled floors and ornate fireplaces, the home we are soon to move into. It’s also an imagined home, a transportable home! One with thousands of multi-coloured balloons tied to its chimney, that transports us, two wilderness explorers, to the most beautiful destinations around the world. Unbound by borders and lockdown restrictions, our friendship is the home of future plans. Our friendship is defined by its abundance and it’s absence, an absence of insecurity, of doubt, of inconsistency. It’s foundations are unbreakable, and knowing that gives me an unspeakable peace.
I seldom write why I’m grateful for the things and people I jot down in my journal – there’s not much room amidst the sparkles after all – and we seldom shower each other in compliments and praise. We forget, as I’m sure so many others do, to verbalise the things you’re so certain that person knows to be true. But sometimes, they just need to be written down in a 1,000 word essay and published for the world to see - and what better time than on International Women’s Day in the middle of a pandemic? I just hope there are so many other friendships out there as historical, secure and adventurous as ours.
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