Noting the Self: Vignettes on Many Floors

Maybe an entire life is just an embroidered patchwork – a technicoloured tapestry – rich with scattered notes to self.

First, accessibly, there are the piles on the bedroom floor; the visual to do lists, in 3d art installation. What else can two sealed bottles of rice bran oil mean, but that I intend to make a leave-in hair conditioner quite soon? What is a pile of 573 books by the bed if not a chartered foray into a future mindscape? A single coin, in the centre of the floor; a reminder to go to the bank. Some installations last longer than others, and are relegated to the periphery; placed one day, they are swept away the next. Yet I abhor clutter if the environment is one in which I am meant to be productive, and though a life well lived requires colour, I crave clear space. In reality, this just means things are pushed outwards. The centre stage of the carpet, if nothing else, is clear and capable.

Every thought has an action and reaction, and we are all in constant dialogue with ourselves. Forget Descartes; or at least, let’s modulate him: I am because I have ideas about the future, and think I’ll be in it. We leave notes to our other selves across time. Whether we are writing things down on paper, or squeezing hot-pink and yellow paperclips as bookmarks onto particular pages of choir music (so that our future self will whip decadently/efficiently back to the right page during a concert for a repeat section [assuming we actually take notice of the Dal Segno Al Coda for once, most likely since we have circled it in pencil three times, as well as occasionally marking in capital letters START SINGING HERE]), we have plenty to say.

And sometimes (often) our own voice can surprise us.

A friend and I find it quite exciting to find differences between us, being so similar (I had never experienced this before with anyone). There are differences, but usually complementary ones, and much between us is the same, even down to silly mundanities (not a word, apparently; but this is my blog and I’ll neologise* if I want to), such as our shared penchant for keeping lists over the years on our phones (using the same app, and the lists having much of the same content); one difference is in our journaling style; my friend prefers to leave notes as voice recordings to herself, whereas mine are visual (written). Across different time zones, we took to leaving each other recorded voice messages (her suggestion; I found it strangely nerve-wracking at first, and had to overcome the hurdle of confrontation with the sound of my own voice), ‘speaking’ (not really in inverted commas; it is actual speaking, though perhaps more akin to soliloquising) most days. This is quite an interesting experience. The journaling (quite publicly – even to an audience of one) is done in real time, and as such, creates an externally-existing thing (a voice recording) which cannot be unheard or retracted once sent. What we both found is that we (secretly, until we mentioned it to each other) quite enjoyed re-playing our own messages after we’d sent them, in the interim between replies. You learn; learn to listen to yourself. My friend takes this further, and deliberately has multiple accounts on this messenger app, so that she can essentially have conversations with herself, pinging thoughts back and forth between digital selves. I think this is quite ingenious as an idea; that you really do learn what you actually think when you hear yourself say it (this is one reward of those who adhere to the ubiquitous-in-creative-circles ‘morning pages’; unfiltered, unhesitant outpourings of words/thoughts on paper, oft prescribed to those who consider themselves ‘stuck’). And then you can mark change, listening back later; did I really used to think I’d make a terrible mother? Or, what good advice I gave about […]!

Then there are the notes we keep on our bodies. An image or an idea takes our fancy and wants itself attached to our skin and bones, and you think hard, find ways for it to fit forever. You question your reasoning; why can this image suffice as a picture on my wall (even one placed by my mirror), but this one must sink in deeper, be in my very body. Sometimes tattoos are reminders; notes from your old or current self to your future self, or from your ‘higher’/best self to any future flailing versions. There’s something you want to hold on to, and never let go.

Like dreams, the best tattoos speak through symbols, even if they are innocent or mundane graphologies you have made into symbols over the years. Symbols can better shock us into action or new thought than simple words; they can acquire layers, and keep space for an infinite number, if that is what you want them for. Once I dreamt I had two bodies, and have never forgotten the calm violence of it. I knew what it meant, afterwards, and over the years, when I recall it, I understand it better and better, and feel more urged towards necessary reaction.

But after paperclips, and dreams, and coins, and tattoos; or before them all, there are the original notes to self; the guiding principles and moments danced out as the people we meet, or have chosen to meet; soul notes. Sometimes when you meet certain people, even those who seem unlikely or surprising, you have a sense that you have met them for a reason. The fun comes through discovering, in whatever time frame, what that note to self was about; what you might do for each other and where you’ll take each other.

*Not a word.

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