I once said in a response to a compliment “that is nice”, the Israeli man I was speaking with looked at me and said “my dog is nice, you are beautiful.”
I worked on a site-specific dance project a few years back. We spent 10 days in the harsh mountainous wilderness of New Zealand creating short pieces within the stunning but severe and changeable environment. The small crew was made up from dancers and cinematographers from the US, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. We departed on the first day to walk up the mountain with everything required. Once we arrived at the base hut we made home and gathered to talk. These daily talks became a source of wonder. In the first we discussed the faults that teach of us had and how this might impact the work. The resounding flaw of mine that was raised was that I was, and I quote, ‘too nice’. I was bemused as to what to do about this seemingly negative trait.
We worked hard, in fact on the first day as we ascended to the mountain peak I was not at my best (at this time I was struggling with several undiagnosed auto-immune diseases) yet I made it with everyone else to the peak and we danced in an almost ridiculously dangerous gale force wind. This wind returned on another day to which myself and another beautiful dancer performed a near naked a duet. It was both insanity and stunningly sublime. The entire time we filmed I was aware of this statement that I was ‘too nice’. I thought because of this that I was a periphery to the work. It wasn’t until the final edit was released and shown publically that I realised I was equal to everyone else and in fact that I took a starring role in most of the final cuts. Again when it came to submitting our diaries for the website my work, although raw, featured significantly. This project taught me something about being ‘nice’; it is a part of me. It is not something I can shed and if that were the only thing these dancers who knew me intimately could come up with as a ‘negative’ then, well I am fine with that. I was in contact with the producer of this piece (editing some work he was writing) about 10 days ago and he had joked whether I was still being ‘too nice’. I assured him resolutely that I was.
This past week I was seriously challenged. I questioned my self, my deep self, that part of me that is kind and ‘nice’ to all in my life (except those I feel intuitively uncomfortable with and I generally have a very strong intuition). I thought seriously about changing who I am publically. I saw this week (once again) that my perhaps my true self is best kept under wraps and muted, when I let it out invariably trouble finds me, as it did this week. Yet a single comment from one person who I deal with almost daily yet do not feel ‘close to’ made me realise the futility and stupidity of this idea. She said, “You can’t change who you really are and you my friend are implicitly nice, you are beautiful. If anyone ever tried to do what that man suggested I know that there are easily a hundred people here in this work place alone that would stand behind you to be sure that either it never happened or if it did that he paid a very heavy price. That smile of yours is a blessing and I know I am not the only one who would fight to the death to make sure that smile is always in the world, unchanged.”
I am going to keep on being nice like that Israeli mans dog even if it means I get kicked occasionally because apparently there are more that see my light than those who wish to extinguish it.
Words and image by Errant Satiety