The Nicest Thing To Say

I did an interview with Songs and Sonics not so long ago in which one of the questions J-bot posed was “what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you”? I answered:

I love you.

But that was a cop out, an easy answer. Of course when someone tells you they love you, and they mean it, it is very, very nice. Hopefully you’ve all been told many, many times “I love you” from the moment your parents first laid eyes on you to today. What I actually first thought of when I read the question was:

I’m not uncomfortable.

It didn’t seem like there was the space or time to explain that so I went with the easy answer. I’ll tell you now.

I was on a plane from Winnipeg to Vancouver after three days of Aboriginal Music Week, exhausted, in need of a shower, a little hungover and very much looking forward to getting home after an intense, heartening and bewildering (yet all things considered fantastic) time. The plane was packed and I was stuck in a middle seat. Often the coping strategy in such situations – crammed, tired ones – is to ignore the people around you. But in the exchange of hellos with the man headed for the window seat as he climbed over me and Mr. Aisle became a flight-long conversation, the kind of honest conversation that seems destined for strangers stuck in places. The kind of unexpected, funny, moving exchange that makes me love people, and being surprised by them.

I had told him about my biggest heartbreak. We talked. I told him that it wasn’t the first heartbreak of its kind, 2006, 2010… He slumped in his chair saying “ooooooooh!” to which I quickly offered, out of (the oft described as Canadian) habit ,”I’m sorry!”.

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because that story makes people uncomfortable.” And it does. For the most part people are made awkward, nervous, scared, or apologetic themselves (and all of the above are at best) when I tell them that story. It makes it very hard for me to be honest, most of the time.

“I’m not uncomfortable” he replied.

And he meant it. And it warmed my heart to no end to hear it, like I’d been waiting for someone to say that for months. For someone to just be okay with the truth. It was the nicest thing anyone had said to me in awhile.

If you asked me today “what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?” I would answer:

I’m in no rush.

Recently, while talking to a friend, I was flustered, distracted, and keeping them waiting. It was another occasion that I said “sorry!”, worried that they would be frustrated or disappointed in my lacking attention, focus.

“I’m in no rush” they replied.

And they meant it. And it warmed my heart.

I’ve been very busy lately, working like mad, and will continue to be so and do so for the next six months. Often hurried, sometimes losing the plot with too many balls in the air – even, at times, mixing metaphors when I’m really showing signs of overwhelmed ; ) – and trying very hard to be mindful of other people’s time. To not be late, to not ask for too much. To not keep them waiting…

I feel I’ve a zillion deadlines and I’m anxious that I’ll only meet half of them, but more than half seem Oh So Important, and maybe a few of them even truly are Rather Important as far as matters of work and art are concerned. Releasing a new album that I care deeply about is exciting, but terrifying too. I’m trying to pull a lot off within my resources of time and money, and friends, so the idea of don’t worry, take your time, I’ll still be here was a reassuring one to say the least.

It’s a busy busy world and our days are buzzing with things to do. What’s the nicest thing someone could say to you now? Tell me, but take your time – I’m in no rush.

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