The other day I found an old, brown napkin in the pocket of my winter coat.
It was a folded memory from a cold winter’s eve, a dinner at Jah Bar with my good friend Pete. A night of careless enjoyment – of life, red wine and a seemingly endless stream of delicious tapas being brought out from the restaurant kitchen. Pete’s suitcase was tucked underneath the table. He had just arrived from some faraway Neverland, and was to stay with me for some days. Or weeks, who would know. I had a home to offer – a renovation site turned upside down but nonetheless a home – and we were both excited to be spending some quality time together.
Pete is a visual artist. A photographer and creator of crazy things. When words catch his attention he likes to visualise them. We talked about life, love, dreams, ideas. He soon grabbed a pen from his jacket and started scribbling down some of my words on his brown paper napkin. I talked about how I wanted to feel, and he drew a cross on the napkin and entered my four words in capital letters, one in each square. As the evening came to an end and we left to head home, tipsy and happy, he stuck the napkin in my pocket. “You keep this one”, he said.
I have worn that winter coat on many cold nights since that evening two years ago. I’ve felt the napkin in my pocket, but never really looked at it. I knew the words. I did not have to look.
I’ve been mid-year reflecting, and the theme of 2017 so far seems to be ‘home’. I’ve been recurrently going home. Home to Sweden, home to mum and dad, home to past. Home to me – my sometimes uncomfortable truths, my fears and wants and needs. But also home to future, home to a new family, home to love. I found the one who gently cracked me open without letting me break. I got him as a birthday gift! Standing in the bathroom of a Hong Kong hotel a week before the big day I finally surrendered and asked for love. Staring into the eyes in the mirror I asked myself what I really, REALLY wanted. “To spend my 40th birthday with someone who loves me”, was the unexpected reply, and a stab in my heart confirmed it was true.
He arrived four days early, running towards me with excitement. Bravely putting his foot in the door. Staying with persistence. Wearing his heart on the sleeve. No, he was not the perfect picture I had painted. I resisted, I wanted to run, but my heart kept saying “stay!”. “You cannot ask for love then slam the door when it three days later arrives at your doorstep!”, it said, and so with panic in my eyes I took a leap of faith and followed him to Vietnam. I spent the strike of midnight of my 40th birthday in a breathtaking rooftop bar in Ho Chi Minh City next to a stranger in tuxedo, feeling…loved.
Now, nine months later, he is no stranger. I still feel loved, more so than ever, but I also feel safe – safe to speak my heart and mind without risking to loose that love. Safe to be fully me in all my irrational complexity. Relying on that he will capitalise on my best interest. Knowing that I will capitalise on whatever is best for him. That is trust.
I am proud of our love. It inspires me even in my most self-critical moments.
It’s July, and winter is holding Sydney in its arms. For a few weeks crisp clear skies are forcing the temperatures down to single digits during the nights, and my winter coat has once again a prime position in my wardrobe. As I was getting ready to go out the other night I found the old napkin and put it on my bedside table. Yesterday, whilst cleaning, I picked it up, unfolded it and read the four words Pete wrote – “SAFE, INSPIRED, PROUD, LOVED”. Four sides of the same coin. Turning it over, there was a quote: “We’re just expanding – Johanna”. Then, as I unfolded it further, I was astound to read two more words in capital letters, words I had no memory of ever saying: “ACCOMPLISHED SINGER”.
Did my heart silently remember those words as it told me to follow a stranger on his way to Vietnam to perform?
As I started this blog early last year I was petrified of judgement – not of strangers but of those I love. Petrified that their love would turn out to be conditional, that the honest me would make them turn away. Petrified of hurting someone with my feelings. I had blogged before, but always hiding behind ‘funny’. Pushed forward by an invisible hand I found myself diving into the raw core of the uncomfortable feelings I feared would leave me abandoned if expressed. Like a child testing the boundaries of love. Finally. I guess at some point in our lives not trusting becomes more painful than abandonment, than rejection, than the fear of loosing something we in that case never had.
It’s been a long time since I posted regularly. I’ve written hundreds of texts and poems, then lost the feeling and left them hiding for no-one to see. Now, feeling safe, proud, inspired, loved, my old craving for acceptance is no longer the driving force. Now, feeling safe, proud, inspired, loved, what is it I want to share and why? Where is ‘home’ for my writing? Where are my words not just adding more noise to an already screaming world?
Truth is whatever was felt for a second, and it stays true although that second is gone. I need to remember that when I no longer relate to my words and want to toss them away. That they are still true. What’s noise to me may be a melody to you if you’re tuned in to the right radio station.
This is where I am right now. Sitting with the feelings that belong to love, but also with those that belong to change. Both comfortable ones and uncomfortable ones. Taking one step at the time. Slowly, slowly going home. Home to SAFE, PROUD, INSPIRED, LOVED. Home to an accomplished singer and his two teenage daughters. Home to expansion – through challenges and uncertainty and brave leaps of faith.
Home to all that was written on a folded, brown napkin in a tapas restaurant on a cold winter’s eve.