So here we are, a whole brand spanking new year. I, like most people take time at the start of a new year to reflect on the past twelve months and set resolutions for those that lay ahead. We all have those specific years that we are delighted to see the back of but as I get older I strongly believe that no matter how tough a year has been, we can learn from it and grow stronger. Yes, in some situations it’s hard to believe that because the pain and suffering will spill over into the new year, but as I have learnt from my situation in the past few months, there is always something to take from tough times…the most significant being how lucky I am to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people that walk this planet!
We live in an age where the word ‘friendship’ is thrown around so easily, we measure it by how many ‘friends’ we have on social media and how many likes we get; but how many of those people are physically part of our lives? Don’t get me wrong, I love my social media friends, being able to see how school friends are getting on makes me smile and so many of them have sent private messages to me recently which have given me positivity and strength which has been so appreciated. Writing this blog has meant I’ve made connections again with people I haven’t actually seen in years and I look forward to following through with meeting up with them over the coming year.
I’ve been lucky enough to be brought up in a family that treasures friendship. There isn’t a time in my life when I can’t remember having ‘dos’ at home, packed full of the most lovely people. I have learnt from a young age how important friendship is and I count myself lucky that I have a group of people who I can call my extended family. Amongst my group of friends, the majority will be pleased to see he back of 2015, yes it had many happy moments but it was littered with some of the worst. Since being home my friends have rallied round and been the best support network I could have dreamt of. They’ve understood that I’m not home for a holiday, they’ve accepted I’m not my usual self and they’ve simply just been there. They’ve popped in and kept me company and given me hugs, they’ve phoned, text and kept me going – by being normal with me. Of course asking how I am and vice versa, but usually just with the conversations we’d normally have and of course not forgetting random debates about The Kardashians or what box set we should watch next! I think it can be easy to take our friends for granted but I can safely say I don’t. I’d thought about writing the sentence, ‘I don’t know how I can ever repay them for all they’ve done and how much time they’ve give,’ but actually, I know they don’t expect that. That isn’t what friendship is about. I just rely on the fact that they know I’d do exactly the same for them without hesitation because that’s what you do for the people you love.
I had a conversation with a dear friend recently about the importance of keeping things normal. Events happen in our lives but of course other people’s live go on and life in general is busy and we accept that but no matter how busy life is, how long does, ‘I’m thinking about you,” take to write in a text, or record on a voice message? Having a hidden illness has some similarities to some of the things my friend and other friends have experienced this year. When you lose someone close to you, you grieve but then you have to carry on with life as ‘normal.’ That doesn’t mean you aren’t still grieving or missing that person every moment, but people see your smile and your presence at events and assume you are ‘fine.’ I think it’s important as we start this new year to take a minute and think, is there someone who’s been through a really tough time lately that might appreciate a text, a call, a letter or a visit? Truth is, they’d probably like that very much. I’ve learnt so much from my friend this year, she’s shown so much strength and courage and approached things with such determination and positivity when I would have faltered so in a way, she’s been my inspiration for dealing with my illness the way I have.
When I moved to Dubai, I was nervous about making new friends, I’d heard about people making their own little Dubai families which initially I thought was quite twee. But actually, my Dubai family is made up of some of the best people and they have been my support network from day one. Anyone who knows me, knows how important my family are to me, they come first, I’d do anything for them, it’s an unconditional love, so it’s a comfort to know that each time I leave them behind at the airport (the most horrific experience each and every time) I have another little family waiting on the other side. I think this helps Family Green too and I know how much it meant to them when I first became ill, knowing that my Dubai sister was there looking after me. She was my rock, I will never forget her bundling me into a taxi whilst I was having an asthma attack. We stupidly didn’t know where our closest hospital was so she had her google map out (because obviously Dubai taxi drivers don’t know where hospitals are?!) and got us there…ok, it was a paediatric hospital but hey, she is one strong minded woman and got me what I needed and was quite happy to tell the nurses to stop hurting me! Over the course of the next week or so she was there at the end of the day to check in on me, give me cuddles and wipe away my tears without once faltering. She empathised but laughed with me, she fed me gossip and kept me going. So Dubai sister, thank you, you’re one in a million.
So many other people in Dubai have been in touch, too many to individually praise and thank but I can’t go without mentioning my Year 2 contingent! Some say that we are cliquey, we aren’t, we are just a strong team who stand by each other, have such a laugh and get the job done…but I agree, you probably wouldn’t want to mess with us 😉 They have kept me smiling, sending photos, stories and keeping it real for me…there’s no point in feeling sorry for yourself around them, they approach everything with sensitivity but with the most amazing sense of humour that makes me so greatful to have them in my life.
There’s a saying, ‘you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.’ Well, as cheesy as it sounds, I’m lucky enough to have my best friends as my family. There are no words to express how much I love and cherish them and the support they’ve given me. They are the people who know me best, they tell me how it is and they know I’m far from being myself at the moment. That must be frustrating and upsetting for them but they are just being supportive and loving and when the time comes, they will make sure I get on with things!
So, to round up, the main message of this blog is to make 2016 the year for understanding. Take time to understand what your friends and family are going through and if you don’t understand, empathise, research and then at least you can say you’re trying!
Happy New Year.