I remember years ago being told that the older you get the harder it is to form friendships, really strong lasting, rewarding friendships. I thought at the time that was true, that it was really important to keep a tight hold of existing friendships from childhood.
Now I'm seeing things differently I'm finding when I'm counting my blessings and being grateful that I'm saying thanks for the friendships I've made in the last few years with people who have only relatively recently come into my life.
Most of the friendships are with women and men fairly close to my age, a few have been with my interns who are 20 years younger than me, and some have been with women around my mum's age. And this is giving me joy.
I believed the advice I had 20 years ago about friendship, and I was particularly saddened with the tapering away of those friendships formed by my younger self. A lot disappeared when my sister was ill and then passed away while a few more disappeared into vapour when I was grieving and trying to find a new path in life.
Anyone who has gone through something traumatic will say how you discover who your friends really are during this time but few tell you how to make new friendships that matter.
For me it was about coming through those dark years and growing into a new, mature version of myself. I like myself more now, I think l'm a better woman for all that journeying.
When I started coming back into the light again I looked around and thought I should be more open to forming some new friendships. I discovered myself sitting next to women who had similar experiences of losing a sibling, each different in their own way, but all with the same well of grief within, each with the same acceptance that life is short and is meant to be lived, each having made the decision to remain here, now and to be.
It was like joining a secret group. Anyone who had lost a sibling at a young age knew what was involved. For many of us it meant becoming only children in our adult years, not something I recommend. It did feel good to belong. To be with others who understood that birthdays are now hard, that saying "I can't imagine what you're going through" is not a comforting thing to hear, it's isolating, to be with others who understood that grief knocks you sideways when you least expect it and you are left reeling.
Slowly I started to find that with these other women that I was forming healthy and strong friendships based on values and experiences that were pertinent to my adult self, to my adult spirit.
The more I learnt to live my new life the more I found myself in conversations with other women and men with similar values to myself but coming from different experiences. My life was being enriched by these budding friendships just as my spirit had been nurtured by the women who'd lost siblings.
I found by being active with both my businesses I had my own circle of friends constantly expanding. I found that the different cultures of my friends meant different ways of expressing friendship.
One friend's mum takes my hand and holds it between her own hands when she talks to me. Another friend's mum holds my hands when she kisses me on both cheeks and then tells me what is worrying her. Both women have made the hard journey of migrating to this land of mine and having to learn a new language and society. They have raised their children here and have watched them flourish with their own businesses.
I am a Skippy Australian, fifth generation on one side, seventh generation on the other. I am free settler and convict stock Australian and I'm coming to realise how lucky I am to be accepted by first generation Aussies because they are so warm and loving in their offers of friendship.
The daughters of these immigrates from India, Greece, China and Italy hold your hand when greeting you, telling you a story, wanting to share something with you.
Us Skippys don't do that, not with each other at least. I've found myself being very aware of my friends taking and keeping hold of my hand and struggling between liking and feeling awkward with it. I love that these friends are being so warm and accepting of me, that it's a beautiful sign of friendship. I'm just not use to it.
I see at the shopping centre little old Greek ladies walking hand in hand and think how sweet it is.
I see gay women walking hand in hand and think how proud I am of my city that homosexual women feel safe enough to express their affection for their partner.
I happily walk down the street holding a boyfriend's hand and without a thought for others.
But here I am, loving the friendships I've been so deeply lucky to form in the last few years with some truly amazing women that I admire, love, have big rambling conversations and enjoy raucous laughter with, trust with my business and family, and yet am challenged by holding their hand in friendship.
What an odd creature I am!
But isn't it wonderful that I'm being given these wonderful friendships to enrich my life and nurture me?
I'm getting to understand the true value of rich friendships. The friendships formed on shared values and honesty. And I love how the different cultures that make up this great country I love are nourishing me.
Friendship is meant to broaden one's experience of life, to open new ways of seeing things, to help us grow emotionally and intellectually and I feel this is happening in my life.
In conversations with other Skippy friends around the different ways of expressing friendship we have all agreed that being affectionate is lovely, we enjoy it even though it challenges us sometimes. That this could well come from our UK forebears being more emotionally reserved and how it's great to have our society changing in this warm way.
So I've started being the first to reach out and hold hands with my girlfriends, Skippys and all. And the results are wonderful, they take hold of my hand and don't let go. I'm feeling more connected to my friends and treasured.
Now I don't need to explain why I'm holding the hand and hugging another woman. Now I can soak up the warmth of friendship.
After all, what is life without friendship?