I lay on on the yoga studio floor in shavasana pose (aka corpse pose), finally relaxing after a grueling workout. Sweat trickles down my face and every part of me is damp from perspiration. I feel the solid wood floor press into my butt, my shoulders and the backs of my hands. Being tired from a workout is the best feeling. I hate it and I love it. I am so so so tired but it feels good.
I try to clear my mind but my senses are heightened because my eyes are closed. I hear the tiny yoga instructor walking around me. I’ve nicknamed her Tinkerbell in my head because she is tiny and full of energy, almost to the point of being annoying. She was probably a gymnast or a cheerleader or a ballerina. Maybe she still is. She’s barely five feet tall, covered in tattoos and she wears those really cool black strappy bras that cost $50 or more. Her bleached-blonde hair is tied back tightly in a brightly multi-colored bandanna.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, I smell peppermint in the air or maybe it was tea tree oil. Something strong and pleasant compared to the sweaty guy next to me who smells like urine. Sometimes some of the yoga instructors fan you with a towel or open a door and let in the frigid morning air. It’s always a welcome relief from heated yoga and I smile and thank them silently.
Then as the class sits up and we go through our namaste/thank you’s, getting ready to leave class and go back to our individual realities, I notice a tiny note on the floor before me. I remember hearing paper being torn at the front desk before class. Tinkerbell had been hand-writing little notes to leave for us. Her bubbly writing gives away her age. Her youth and innocence suddenly wash over me and I feel so old and jaded. How long ago was it when I did things like this? How I wanted to make an anonymous difference in someone’s day with a tiny handwritten note. I remember leaving notes on people’s cars in the parking lot, daydreaming about how I might make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe cheer them up. I wrote whole inspirational movies in my head.
Her sentiment hit me right in the heart.
Day in and day out my mind is a diatribe of negativity. Of course nobody knows this because I try like mad to overcompensate for it. I am enthusiastic about life and projects and goals. I spin things and see the good. But inside my head it does get me down. Some days feel like slogging through mud. Some days are the trenches.
Her note made a big impact on me and I thought about it for the rest of the day. I thought about all the notes in my life that have made a difference.
Back in the days of being married, Toby hated notes. It was a peculiar thing about him. I don’t know why he hated them. Maybe it was all the type-A personalities he had to deal with at work who left signs and notes nagging this or that. He hated people who watched the clock and came down on him for being late. I think when I left notes for him it was just one more person nagging and bringing him down so I stopped leaving notes. If I had to leave and run an errand and he wasn’t there to tell, I just didn’t tell him. I left. It was okay. He never really missed me when I was gone. He was an introvert and loved alone time. I could be gone for days and he wouldn’t miss me. Of course he would worry about me if I was in danger but I think he liked the freedom of knowing or not knowing where I was. I think the lack of communication between us was something he liked.
Of course I hated it. I hated never knowing what was going on. I hated having to wait for him to show up, never knowing if he was an hour late or four hours. He’s still this way and it still drives me crazy but I don’t hold it against him. It’s just the way he is.
But one day I was really mad at him for something. I don’t even remember what it was. I took a sticky note, a small one and wrote a little note. I wrote, “What are you, four?” and I stuck it to the top of the spice cabinet door on the inside. It was a really tall cabinet door and the note was easily three or four feet above our heads. He never saw it. But I did. Everyday I saw it and it made me feel better. It was my passive aggressive way of getting back at him and it gave me joy. I’ll never forget that note.
Another note that I remember was back in US History class in, what was it sixth grade? Is that the year we take US History? I don’t know but I remember we had a teacher that I really liked. She was young and hip. It was her first year of teaching. She wrote everything on the board. Line after line of neat chalk handwriting on the board. This style of teaching worked for me because I love handwriting. Filling up page after page of notes was like creating art and I constantly tried to outdo myself in neatness or flourish. And I learned along the way. I think her stories were interesting, though I can’t remember a single one.
There was a new girl in class who sat in front of me. She was African American and it was kind of a big deal because I went to a predominantly white school with a handful of Hispanics. I didn’t know I was racist back then. I didn’t even know what racism really was because it never came up. I want to say that I’m not still racist but over the years I’ve come to understand my white privilege. For me my racism took the opposite form of what you might expect. I wanted to be this new girl’s friend just because she was black. She was strange and new. She talked funny and she was hilarious. Her style of speech punctuated her stories and made her even more interesting. She was quick and witty and called people out on things they did wrong. She did not like our teacher. And our teacher didn’t like her because she talked too much and was a distraction to the rest of the class.
One day this girl passed me a note and it said something like “Isn’t Miss What’s-her-name such a bitch.” or something like that. I don’t even remember what she wrote exactly but I know she wrote something mean because our teacher was kind of picking on her. I could see both sides. I felt bad for our teacher and I felt bad for the new student. The girl was being mouthy. I don’t know what should have been done. Maybe in the town she came from, the teacher would have mouthed back at the new student and put her in her place and she would have shut up and respected the teacher. But because our teacher was white and she was black it was an issue. Or at least it was in my eyes.
I took the note and pondered what to write back. I couldn’t defend the teacher, even though I partly sided with her because I was overjoyed that the new girl even wanted to confide in me. I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to understand her. I wanted her to like me. But I did like our teacher. I liked them both and I was caught in between. After several minutes I wrote back something about our teacher being new and folded up my note and passed it back.
Of course our teacher caught us and I was filled with shame as I brought our note to her desk. She read it quietly to herself. I died a thousand deaths inside. I had just insulted a teacher that I really liked. It was terrible. There was no undoing it. From that day onwards every time I got anything less than an “A” I wondered if it was because I had insulted the teacher. I wanted to apologize and explain to her that I was just trying to be friendly to the new girl but there was really no doing that. I had thrown her under the bus because I wanted to be liked.
And that was that. I don’t know what happened to that girl. But I’ll never forget that note. Not what it said but what it stood for.
I’m sure there are lots of notes that have come and gone in my life that have not been so monumental. But when you think about it, how many notes have you come across that have been? I’m sure everybody has a story about a note that changed their life. Notes can be powerful.
So I’ll keep my bubbly Tinkerbell note and save it in a special place in my journal. She’s right. I don’t know who I’ll inspire. Just like she doesn’t know how much she’s inspired me. I’ve thought about notes for days.
Tell me a note story.