So, how was your Valentine’s Day yesterday? Hopefully a card and maybe a present if you’re that way inclined about it as a celebration, or perhaps a day just like any other if you’re not?
I’m somewhat too British to really go for Valentine’s Day in all its schmaltzy grandeur – though I’ll admit to being deeply touched by the cards and chocolates I received from my lovely little family, orchestrated by my husband. That melted through the stony exterior of my heart.
Our eldest has a little boyfriend (well, husband actually but we’ve told them they have to wait till they’re older) at school and they made cards for each other so, as with Christmas, experiencing it through a child’s eyes can help you to see it a bit differently. A bit less world-wearily.
However, I think that the most interesting re-working of a pretty stodgy story about a Roman martyr in recent years has come from two American comedians and best friends, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. If you’ve ever watched the hilarious sitcom Parks and Recreation then you’ll have heard of Poehler’s creation, Leslie Knope and probably also Galentine’s Day.
It’s a celebration of the women in your life and specifically female friendship – because it’s ace. It’s been 9 years since it was invented and it really took off as a way to celebrate the supportive female networks that women build between each other. It also gives you a chance to tell your besty that you properly love them, which is nice. No wonder it’s gone far.
So, this post is a pretty short one about female friendships and how necessary they are. If you’re a bloke, please swap out girls/women/ female for the male equivalents – I’m sure it’s the same with you guys.
Recently, I read about the underground networks between trees, the Wood-Wide Web. A web of fungi and roots in the soil connect trees to those around them and pass messages (most often distress signals) between themselves: Do Trees Talk?
What was fascinating was not just that they ‘talked’ but that ailing trees would be sent sugary sap by healthy trees or other minerals that they needed. Without anthropomorphising too strongly (though it’s always a risk), the trees created a self-healing community around them that strengthened itself through its inter-connections.
In an almost seamless segue, I’m not only anthropomorphising, I’m also calling my friends a bunch of trees. Lovely trees.
“Just thought I’d text to see how you’re doing.”
“Hello Mrs – how’re your winter blues?”
“Can I pop round on Monday for a chat, if you’re in?”
All of these are recent messages to me from friends: the human equivalent of sugar sap. Something you just naturally do to cheer up one of your number because you feel their low mood, you want to help and you know you’d get it back without question if you needed it. And, my word, don’t you need it sometimes? I appreciated all of these texts and acknowledged the little mental hug I got from each one.
At about the same time, one of my friends was brave enough to send out a distress signal asking for emotional help. I say brave because actually admitting that your mood is not just low, but dangerously low, is strangely hard to do. The natural reaction to someone asking how you are is not to be too much of a pain, not to want to put anyone out. You’ll say ‘Oh fine! Can’t complain!’ or ‘Not too bad, yourself?’ when really you want to have a bit of a cry. Moreover, if you feel yourself sinking into depression your very first instinct is to pull your duvet around you and hide from people, especially anyone who might be about to interrogate your feelings.
There’s also a residual fear that if you do talk about your feelings, honestly, to someone who doesn’t know the geography of depression, then you’ll terrify them into calling the calm men in white coats. Don’t worry, we’re not about to do something drastic, we’re just feeling pretty awful.
If you can catch it quickly enough, sometimes (and only sometimes) enough fresh air, fun activities and love can just about pull you back from teetering on the brink of a full plunge into the pit. So that’s what we in our fungi network did: a theatre trip out, coffee, funny group messages and offers of other events to attend. It all helped.
A couple of us went on a little day trip to the Shrewsbury Market Hall to ‘have a mooch’, midweek. It was a really buzzy place and although it looks like a 1970s carpark (you’re right, Sarah), it’s got enough going on there to satisfy a much bigger town. A Gin Bar, plenty of small craft traders, a spice merchant, a Chinese dumpling stall, Indian streetfood and two veg stalls selling onions as big as a baby’s head as well as rainbow chard and unusual mushrooms!
I had to give a special shout out to the Bird’s Nest cafe who served a Korean Bibimbap (no, I’d never heard of it before either) that was so crammed full of zesty veggies, spice and rice that I literally felt more healthy as I was eating it. Mix that in with good company and sunshine and what have you got? A very much cheerier little Plummy Brummy.
I’d had my sugar sap shot straight to the veins and it’s carried me along all week despite some pretty trying times. United we stand, me and my lovely bunch of trees.
At one and the same time, our local county radio station was promoting a new idea: Gratituesday. A way of saying thank you to people on a slightly larger scale than normal. I tweeted the host, the inestimable Jim Hawkins, and all of a sudden there I was on t’airwaves. And here I am, if you care to listen…
Thank you, ladies x