Confession time. I'm a people watcher, and what fascinates me most is relationships.
In a restaurant last week, I watched three women arrive, embrace, and settle in at a corner table for an evening of food and companionship.
As their meal progressed and the laughter snowballed, other diners occasionally stopped to look. Straining to overhear what could generate such hilarity, and wondering, perhaps if wine was making it all a bit messy.
But there was no wine, just sheer delight in each other's company. As each shared their news, the other two listened as though it was the most riveting stuff they'd heard all day.
Watching from my table over the course of the evening, there was laughter, teasing, touch, tears, and companionable silence - all the things that reinforce deep connection. And it made me reflect on the importance of having such people in our lives. Those we know will love and stand by us, no matter what.
It seems that as society becomes noisier and more superficially connected, we are losing - in both quality and quantity - those friendships that sustain our wellbeing. How many people could you call, in need, at 3am, who would instantly be there for you? How different is your response from, perhaps ten years ago? Are there more or fewer such people?
The women left the restaurant at the same time as I did, and as we waited to pay for our meals, I asked about their evening.
'Oh, this is our monthly catch-up', they said. 'We met twenty years ago when we worked in the same office. We became a sort of sisterhood then. Now we live in different cities and talk almost every day, but this dinner is our favourite time. We realised we don't need wine to get us talking and the belly laughs top up our souls for another month.'
From these joyous friends, then, three lessons.
Friendships might start by accident, but they are sustained through intention. Distance is irrelevant.
Friendships grow when we really see each other, and when we allow ourselves to be seen.
Friendship and laughter fills our souls. Being drunk on each other's company is the best sort of hangover.
Nurturing relationships, friendships, is some of the hardest work we do and also the most rewarding. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'The only way to have a friend is to be one.' And, as with all things, it's the quality that matters.