So, 2014, eh? Happy new you. I’m not one for resolutions, but I do like words.
Last year my word was ‘openness.’ I had put up walls that kept my colleagues at a distance. We lived, worked and sometimes socialised together. I wanted them to take me seriously in the office, to respect me, so I didn’t want them to see that I was a little crazy at home. I’m not crazy, I just sometimes have periods of anxiety and do things that seem perfectly justifiable to me, but might look slightly odd.
My housemate once stumbled to the bathroom at 3am, only to find me scrawling in my journal in front of an open fridge. I tried to explain that the fridge light was a softer ambience than the fluorescent kitchen light, and I had easy access to cold soymilk – the perfect snack. My housemate also happened to be my boss.
I broke down publicly once in September the previous year. One Friday I waited 45 minutes at the clinic only to be told the car that takes the samples to the city had already left, so I couldn’t do an STI test until Monday. Earlier that week I’d crashed my car into a kangaroo, I was homesick for Alice Springs, my Gran was sick and I was due to MC a film festival that evening. I called my boss in tears. She told me to go home, rest, that she’d take care of it. When we spoke later, all I could say was “Sometimes I get overwhelmed with feelings.” I left it at that.
I did not invite more kindness.
This isn’t a story about my journey to take control of my own mental health. This is about how I tried to be more open in 2013.
It took me until the year was nearly over. The big company boss was in town, to ask us all what we wanted to do with our lives. I drove him to the airport so that we could talk in the car. I struggled to articulate myself and got so frustrated that I cried in the airport car park. I clumsily verbalised my biggest fear for the first time. I was scared that my anxiety, my struggles to ‘be present in a moment’ would inhibit me from doing the kind of work I wanted to do – directing Forum Theatre. I was afraid to fail. Afraid even to start. Our next conversation was in the shade next to a lake. Still open, but this time, calmer and clearer.
9 years ago in an internet café in a tiny village in Sicily, I got an email with bad news from home. A stranger got me a glass of water, tissues and held me until I stopped crying. The next morning we went on a boat to an island. We parted ways and I have never seen him since.
People are basically kind. They want to care. By being vulnerable we give others an opportunity to care, to show their better nature. Tears aren’t always a burden, they can be a gift. They say, “Hey, I trust you, I’m letting you in. I’ve dropped the act, here is a real moment we can share. Here you go, here’s a precious little piece of me that no one else has seen.”
My word for this year is ‘grace.’
I want to be more gracious when things don’t go my way. I want to be more grateful when they do. I want to act elegantly, patiently, with everyone, especially people who I’ve hastily decided aren’t worth knowing.
Last week I went Dance Dating, and my balding dance partner told me I looked bored. I realised I have a ‘Fuck Off Face’ that I put on when I don’t want to encourage someone to continue talking to me, or even begin.
But that’s another story for another time…