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  • Writer's pictureMathilde Fongen

I recently had a conversation with my counsellor which sparked a long train of many thoughts. We spoke about two very distinctive types of conversation and it reminded me how much I love them. I have touched on this before. (see the post "Conversations With Strangers" from a while back!). I suppose paying someone to have conversations with me is quite a telling factor in my love of deep conversation.

First, we spoke about lego blocks. These are conversations where each sentence is thought out before it is spoken, at least to a certain degree. Some of us (myself included) are not great at completely thinking through things before we say them, but for the sake of the analogy, lego block conversations are thought out. They are conversations where you’re telling a story or relaying information. I often find myself in these descriptive lego blocks, we all do. Small talk falls under this category, but so do most other communication.

Photo: Fredrik André Fongen

The opposition that came to my mind when speaking to my counsellor was watercolour. Mainly because I’m quite terrible at painting with watercolour and therefore find it out of my control. These conversations are explorations rather than dialogues. Sentences are made as they are uttered and cohesion is seldom a factor. The first word may have nothing whatsoever to do with the last. This is where we truly get to know each other, and ourselves. Rather than telling a story, we explore experiences in the space that is created. The colours run into each other and blend. That doesn't happen with lego blocks. Unless maybe melting is involved, so let's not go there.

Lego blocks come with instructions. Watercolour, at least for me, starts out as an idea in my head and the colours on the paper look nothing like it. In conversation this happens in the most wonderful way. Lego blocks are necessary, but to me, so is watercolour. We need to know how to build, but also how to express freely. We need structure and fluidity, at least I know I do.

Watercolour conversations are challenging and painful by nature. That is what happens when we delve deeper into ourselves and each other. They often occur after one too many whiskies around dawn, when sleep might seem like a better idea. They are the catalyst for change. Deep explorations let us learn each other and teach us who we are. Sometimes in that space we even change our minds about things. It is in these conversations I've experienced "Oh yeah, you're right, I never thought of it that way." The hardest decisions in my life have always been made easier through these conversations. My choice to travel, my choice of study, my move to Scotland, my break up, and everything that has led to the happiness I currently feel, I owe to watercolour conversations.

My family moved a lot through my childhood, and I have continued to do the same in my twenties. Home has therefore been a difficult concept for me to grasp (something I may come back to in a later post), but I do feel at home in watercolour conversations. I will cling to them until our eyes hurt from FaceTiming for five hours, until the bottles are empty and we fall asleep on the sofa and until my friends tell me "right, we really need to go to bed now."

Mess, unpredictability and discovery. It is where I find my closest friends. It is where I found love. It is where I find myself.

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  • Writer's pictureMathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

I just logged into my Wix account (my website editor) for the first time in months. Many months. And I had a read through what I wrote in my "About" section" when I first started this project. Musician, writer, Millennial, traveller, knitter. Those are words I use to describe myself. Of course the Millennial thing won't ever change, and I doubt the others will either, but in the past year those parts of me have been harder to access, travelling in particular. But I also feel more like myself than ever.

Before the first lock down, a relationship ended. A relationship in which I moulded myself to fit someone else's narrative. In conversations with my counsellor, I have found that I've been doing that for most of my life. For a long time I wasn't really myself, but rather a version of myself that I thought people wanted me to be. The version that would cause the least upset, in my mind. This strategy failed me and resulted in depression after depression. Suppressing yourself is uncomfortable and awkward. It is soul destroying. A bird is not born to be caged, as it turns out.

I don't think I'm out of the woods yet, but I do see the clearing ahead. Back in March 2020, I discovered that I needed to be true to myself. As much as that sounds like an inspirational Instagram post (insert photo of bare feet on the beach) it is what saved me. And hey, I love being barefoot on the beach. So I moved. And after six weeks of filling a friend's home with bin bags full of my possessions, I moved into an unfurnished flat. A clean slate. A blank canvas. A year later, I sit on my colourful sofa, surrounded by my plants, books and instruments. I was able to fill this space myself. That seems so banal, and obvious, but what happened was that I created a space I love. I don't think there is a colour not represented in this place.

I created a space that I love in a lock down. I'm a Millennial. We share things. We love to share things. If it's not on Instagram, did it really happen? This space I've created has hardly been seen by other people, and to me that is a special thing. It means I have done this solely for myself. That is a big deal for someone who has spent over 20 years people pleasing. I sit here, a year on, feeling so grateful for this space. And feeling grateful that it exists for me. Realising that I exist for me.

This is the most I have written in a long time, this blog post. I define myself as a writer, so not writing for an extended period of time feels wrong. But as much as I love writing, I am still myself if I don't write. Writing that felt weird. Especially as I have, time and time again, written "I feel like myself again" in journals when I've come out of a non-writing period. I don't have to write to have value. I don't have to produce things to deserve my life. I don't need narrative to exist.

What I will do, is produce things, write things, create things, because doing so brings me joy. (Also dread and fear and despair and confusion and self doubt, but that's another blog post for another time.) I have written new songs in the last wee while and with it, I've found motivation and inspiration. I'm finding myself more and more comfortable in my own voice, and in my own skin. Music has also been difficult in lock down. I play bass, which is pretty lonely when there's no band to play with. Safe to say, I will never again take live music for granted. Nor playing with other people.

Words can be wonderful, but also limiting. I've always leaned on words, on narrative, to make sense of the world, and myself. Who am I? Words like musician and writer have answered that question. Sometimes I can't find the right words, or I run through a labyrinth of words to find a sentence that fits what I'm trying to say. Sometimes I will be unstructured and sometimes my point won't come across. But I'll write and talk and create regardless. I'll be myself independent of the words I have used to define me. I'm done editing myself to the point of getting nowhere. It is in that freedom that I feel free to create for the joy of creating. It is in that space I am free to exist.

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  • Writer's pictureMathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Very often, when I see cruelty, whether it's on the news, online, in person, in my life or in the lives of others, I think "Why can't we just be kind?". Whether it's violent, rude, subtle or passive: "Why can't we just be kind?". It seems like such a simple principle to live by, but at the same time I feel naïve whenever I think it. I feel even more naïve when I say it out loud. In the strange, frustrating and scary times we currently live in, I've found myself thinking about kindness and what it means to me.

We're seeing the best of people and we're seeing the worst of people. We are seeing wisdom and ignorance, cruelty and kindness. I'm seeing the best in myself and the worst in myself. I used to think that as long as I acted with kindness, everything would be fine, but what I forgot to do was define "kindness". The result of this thinking is more often than not that I fail to live up to my own expectations, whatever they are, because I never actually defined them, and I fall down that emotional black hole I know so well.

Lately, I've realised that what I've been acting on is quiet, outward kindness. I've tried to stay out of the way and to people please. I rarely raised my voice. My opinions remained my own and my views remained my own, and to an extent that's fine, but I sit here now, feeling I took it too far. Because what I've realised is that I am much happier when I step into a louder type of kindness. A louder more authentic voice. And when I turn my kindness inward.

It is not kind for me to sit in my privilege and feel heartbroken for the world. And it certainly is not enough. Movements are made up of individuals. If everyone thought like I used to and stayed out of the way, there would just be silence. And emptiness. And standstill. I'm not saying that everyone should scream if they don't feel that's right for them. What I'm saying is that silence didn't work for me. And I think there are a lot of people like me, who stay quiet and out of the way, mainly out of fear.

I was speaking to a friend this past week about our shared fear of being loud and vocal. Most of the time I feel like I'm lacking in information and that's a reason not to speak up about something. But isn't it then up to me to educate myself? Like so many have posted over the last wee while, it's not enough to not be racist, we need to be anti-racist. Silence is violence and me staying out of the way and being quiet isn't helping.

I'm a white, able-bodied, bi cis woman and only recently have I become clearly aware of my privilege. And I know I can never fully understand what it's like to be unsafe in a world where so many people are prone to be cruel to you because of what you look like. To be unsafe in the world. Sometimes we don't need to understand, often because we simply can't understand. Sometimes we need to listen, to educate ourselves and to raise the voices of others.

I have been terrified of my own voice. I've been scared to raise it, to show up and to be loud. I suppose starting this blog was the start of stepping out of quietness. It was the first step out of fear and into something I wanted. I'm new to using my voice, so I'm working on me. I'm educating myself more actively and I've started being more unapologetic and I'm learning how to be inwardly kind. My hope is that I can live in the world as loudly kind and fearless and from there play my small, but fierce, part in changing the world.

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