I set up my study a few weeks ago, finally turning our back dodgy ‘sunroom’ add on into the study it was always supposed to be. A place to work brings the motivation for work, right? I’m not sure about that but it has been nice to have the piles of research papers off the floor in my bedroom where they have lived in various houses over the past twelve months.
In the process of unpacking a total of five large boxes of writing, personal essays and memoirs I came across a piece of butchers paper that I have always known was there and have avoided for at least nine years now. On that piece of paper is the results of an exercise I did during an ‘ego dissolving’ class when I was studying acting at drama school. We used to do these classes under the premise that for us to be the best actors that we could be, we needed to start as a blank canvas, without ego, without hangups and baggage. I was too young to understand any of that. I was far too vulnerable to be able to embrace it as fully as I should have.
It was a hot Melbourne afternoon and I was sitting in a bright studio with my class mates, in our blacks, armed with large sheets of paper and sharpies. We were told that we have a set of inner voices that put us down. The voice of the negative child, the positive child, the negative parent, the positive parent and the adult. We were asked to write all of our inner voices and what they say on that piece of paper. We were told that none would see them. We were given all afternoon the delve into the depths of our minds and pour our inner secrets onto the page. At the end of the day we were asked to pin the pages up on the walls of the studio for everyone to see.
I pinned mine up and walked out.
I don’t remember how I got it back, I suppose it was put on my locker the following day… but here it was now, sitting on top of a box, ten years later and I was terrified to read it. Terrified of reading all of the things I used to say to myself. Terrified that I wouldn’t understand them. Terrified that maybe they hadn’t changed.
I pinned the paper up on the wall of my house, glad that Bo can’t read yet and for a week I lived with my own voices. I was relieved to find I’m not nearly as unkind to myself now as I was when I was nineteen. I’m not nearly as insecure. There is lots of good in growing up isn’t there? We get kinder to ourselves.
I had a fever after that (not because of it) and found myself stuck to my couch for days on end, thinking. All that time thinking isn’t good for anyone… especially for an over thinker like me.
I went to work, I took Bo to daycare, we did the grocery shopping, I ran orientations when we had them… but besides that we stayed home, hiding from the rain, meditating on tea and
worrying thinking about the state of the world and those who inhabit it.
When I emerged from my house I realised that my neighbour who I don’t even know, had mowed my lawn, in the pouring rain. The simple kindness cracked me open and brought me back to the surface.
A few days later Bo and I got up early and baked an orange and blackberry pound cake. We pulled it out of the oven and complete with oven mitts and gumboots walked through the rain, down the driveway and around the picket fence to deliver it hot from the oven to a surprised neighbour and her kids at breakfast time.
Because kindness wins. Kindness to ourselves. Kindness to our neighbours.
Kindness wins. Every time.