The Konmari Method: Unearthing Love, Part I

I began 2016 as I always do — randomly, and with force.

New Year’s Eve has always been my least favourite holiday. The hype, the expectation, the fact that you’re still recovering from the financial, emotional and caloric cost of Christmas — for me, I’ve always done my best to turn a blind eye as the clock ticks down and stubbornly remain in pyjama bottoms.

It never works. Inevitably, my subconscious takes over, driving me towards action and consequence with the kind of fervour that hasn’t been seen since — well, at least since the effort required to get Christmas lunch on the table in time.

Last year, New Year’s Eve brought about an impromptu first tattoo, which is about as far from low-key as you can get. As much as I tried to pretend that the end of one year and the beginning of another will not send me into a list-making, goal-setting, life-changing tither, lists are made. Goals are set. I imagine that my life will change. Fireworks explode and kisses are exchanged, and there it is, upon us once more. Action. Consequence. Beginnings.

This year was no different in either its randomness or its gravitas. Having been gifted ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ over the holidays and reading it in one rain-induced hazy sitting, I itched to get home from our holiday beach house and experience the Life Changing Magic millions around the globe have been swearing by for myself.

(It’s worth mentioning that I’m a cynical, optimistic hypocrite when it comes to any kind of popular notion. I manage to simultaneously mock the masses whilst jumping on their bandwagon. It was, in fact, the hot-wet-rice mockery of the Thermomix by the Katering Show that convinced me to become one of those Thermomix Ladies I ridiculed to my husband. I stand by my Thermomix purchase. And by my ridicule. Who has time to make yoghurt from scratch? But did you taste that beef madras?)

My husband and I arrived home tired and greedy to bunker down with each other for the last few days of freedom. Instead of snuggling into the couch, though, or even unpacking our bags, the itch kicked in. I walked into our messy bedroom, opened our cupboards and threw every item of clothing I owned onto the floor.

What followed was four days of shedding. Clothing, books, gifts, furniture. Piece by piece, my whirlwind of destructive freedom tore down and rebuilt every aspect of our home. At first, my husband steered clear, aware of the danger of placing himself in the line of fire. By the end, he was right there with me. Our home now feels lighter, more adaptable, free.

But the greatest surprise — and the biggest gift — of this process was one entirely unexpected.

I was fifteen when the golden age of MSN Messenger began. Launching those intertwined little blue and green fellows marked the end of each school day and the beginning of the blissful period of freedom only those in middle school know, when 4–9pm was the daily height of social interaction. I’d watch as my friend’s names and icons popped online, the order dictated by the school’s bus routes. MSN brought with it a whole new entry into the world of online flirting, when logging in and out multiple times was a surefire way to make sure your crush would know you were indeed online and available to chat. ‘Accidentally’ sending the wrong person a hello message worked well, too — just ask said husband. I pulled the wool over his eyes with that one more than I’m proud to admit, even now.

MSN was how I met Sam.

We shared a mutual, real-life friend, which was important in those days, when the concept of ‘meeting online’ made the eyebrows of those over 30 furrow with concern. Our first three-way conversation was a mess of coloured text, early emoticons and links to photos, posts, songs. From the first moment we met, our words tangled up in their own wonderful rhythm, beating out the melody of our experiences until it was all wrapped up into one.

It wasn’t long before my strongest habit was this pop-up conversation that would begin just after 4pm and carry on until 10, 11, midnight. We would linger in the message boxes, hanging out virtually as we carried on with the kinds of things fifteen year olds consider of the utmost importance (namely, curating our Tumblrs with unabashed vigour). Sam would tell me about his day, which had played out in another state, hundreds of kilometres away. I would update him on my progress with school, boys, writing, family. We would fall into whimsy and madness, a mess of ideas and questions, of song lyrics and inside jokes. Sometimes, the mood would turn from jubilant to unnerving vulnerability in the space of moments. That white space and the words we gave to each other brought freedom to speak with abandon. To let honesty have its way in a teenage world dictated by image. In those words, we were both full of wisdom and slack with naivety. Brimming over with hope for what each day would bring and undone by the new adult evils we grew into understanding as the months continued. Childhood innocence and grown-up responsibilities continued to weave our stories together as we each grew, encountered, yearned and faltered.

We met in the real world after six months of late-night musings. I flew to Newcastle with our mutual friend, full of anticipation and nerves. I struggled with the notion that the pause between keystrokes allowed for a much fuller, brighter version of myself than the real world allowed. I worried I would be a disappointment. Deep down, I told myself, you are not enough.

And then I stepped off the plane and saw his nervous smile and everything that had threatened the intimacy of our late-night space fell away. What followed was a week of love that pulled me into its arms with its generosity and carried me past the pain of a family that was breaking apart back home. He gifted me with laughter, with ridicule, with gentleness. I had been apprehensive about leaving home on the verge of the collapse it teetered on, to fly to a different state to live with people I’d never laid eyes on. What I found there was a cocoon, where the vulnerability that had been encouraged out in the form of keyboard strokes and black text on stark white screens translated into a relationship that would span time and space, always carrying with it gracious and faithful love.

Last week, as I cleaned and tidied and threw and donated, I unearthed the same gift over and over again.

Words from Sam.

Scrawled to me in a goodbye note tucked into my bag as I left after that first trip together, age sixteen.

Carefully planned and recorded on page after page in a notebook-come-playlist shaped and created solely for me, with notes of love under each song title and potent lyric, age seventeen.

Written on package slips which delivered gifts of love, goodness, strength. Sixteen. Seventeen. Seventeen again.

Etched onto notebook paper as I sat dreamily across the room from him in midnight reveries as one day rolled into the next, our conversation floating on tides of tiredness and enthusiasm.

Birthday cards where his text gets too small to read without a struggle because even after all of these years, he still has so much kindness to offer me.

And my favourite — a note left at our wedding, stark and simple, mixed in with the well wishes and blessings of so many voices of love and support. It was Sam’s that stood out, as always. Capturing in those few words the essence of years of growth, of pain and euphoria and hope and disappointment, of all the goodness we had shared and all the lonely nights made brighter by the other. Of everything we had learnt and everything we had encouraged each other to leave behind in order to pursue goodness — to continue to put one foot in front of the other even in the face of deafening defeat.

Every time I opened a box or rummaged through a pile of cards his words found me once more. Saved and collected over years of a friendship that saved me, once, twice, a hundred times over, day in and day out.

I am a lover of words and a wholehearted believer in the power of encouragement. I’ve often found myself scratching notes of hope, words of nourishment on blank sheets, scraps of paper, the back of receipts. Yet as I’ve grown older, it’s a habit that’s been challenged by pride. I’ve felt the urge to reach out, to make an offering of syllables, to strangers, to lovers, to friends. It’s the friends that are the hardest, those whom you trust until the layers are stripped away. Just last month, as I reached to pen a note of gratitude to someone who had played a significant part in shaping my last year, I stopped myself. The thought of that vulnerability etched out and concreted for as long as he deemed to carry it was too much for my pride. I put the pen down and the words remained unspoken. It was only when we spoke, weeks later in a time of crisis, that I realised what I had done — deprived him of the very encouragement he so desperately needed to continue. Encouragement which wasn’t mine to hold onto, but my choice to keep from him. I felt shame flood over me as I realised what I had done, that spirit which I had stifled.

As I sat on the floor, surrounded by remnants of this singular love, I felt the weight of both gift and responsibility linger on my skin. Perspective allowed me to retrace Sam’s faithful encouragement over years of the messy wonder that is growing into your own skin. Adulthood challenged the open spirit which had first birthed such beauty, telling it to be quiet when it rose up within me, to stay safe. But as I sat amongst such goodness and ran my fingers over each scrawl, I felt his message delivered anew.

Faithful friendship. No tricks, no shortcuts, no magic. Just a love that takes wear and tear along with the luminous.

It’s a message I will choose to deliver with unabashed commitment in 2016, one resolution I am happy to stake my claim to.

To be the kind of person who litters the path of somebody’s trajectory with pieces of their heart offered with abandon and with love.

To carry ‘with love, from Sam’ into the corners of people like myself.

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