It was a hyperventilating work colleague cc-ed on my email who with her hand on her chest pointed out to the ‘tone’ of it. An email I shot off right after a major stakeholder meeting to reiterate it was Sue (not me) who had dropped the ball on the project. Realising I was genuinely baffled, she mansplained (to the construction manager in me) that it wasn’t what I had written that was problem, it was how I wrote it.

It’s appearing to me that in my mid-30’s adult-ing life, much of life is in the tones of it. As opposed to my late 20’s when adult-ing was around hard-core tasks like just trying to pay the bills. Now it’s more like paying your energy bill before the due date to get AGL’s early payment discount. Like suddenly life’s significance is now more in the layers of things; in the fine print of my credit card’s 55-days interest-free policy, in the minuscules of lint on my black t-shirts after a thoughtless throw-it-all in the same wash, in the fleeting whiff of saffron in a paella which whispers to you how long it’s simmered for.

I mean by any other name, pink is pink, right? My hate for it wouldn’t change. But not for my wedding planner friend whose final payment and customer satisfaction depends on them getting the exact shade of the bride’s pink right. Mauve, salmon, fuchsia, baby pink, rani pink, hot pink…their business literally depends on the right tone of pink!

Come to think of it, would you even know who Mr. Sheffield was if it wasn’t for Nanny Fran Fine’s voice which automatically shrills in your ears the moment you hear his name?  (I bet you even read it in her voice!) More so her voice, it’s actually the tone she says it in! That cringingly reminds me of the nasal tone my own voice takes when I’m on a stage giving a talk. Bit like Ali Wong’s telephone voice in Always Be My Maybe and the kind only my siblings know is not how I speak normally. I reckon my body unconsciously reflexes that nasal tone to sound intelligent when really I have no clue! Though a large part of people wanting to slap Donald Trump’s face off, probably doesn’t have anything to do with not speaking within expected presidential boundaries – it’s the tone he says things in. I mean if Barack Obama said “it’s all gooood” – we would all go to bed with happy nappies on!

Speaking of boundaries, I’m not sure most of us would have known where to start with self-care had Brene Brown not ever talked about setting boundaries – “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” And for someone who has spent a large part of this year taking care of herself, let me tell you the importance of setting the tone of your boundaries. And I only share this because I’ve spent a significant amount of time setting up and being in a boundary that was unkind.

Sometimes when we set out to keep negative, life-sucking humans out of our lives, it’s rare that once you’ve setup those boundaries to keep them away that that negativity and unkindness stays away as well. I’ve found that they actually remain inside your boundary, inside you and brew. Because let’s face it, setting up any kind of boundary to keep someone in and some out…is never nice. Then be it cows in the the free grazing cattle stations in central NSW or dolphins at the Safari World show or humans in the detention centre is Nauru.

Hence the tone of your boundary is of utmost importance. The coming of your self-love cannot be from the very thing you set to keep out in the first place otherwise, what did Gandhi say about an eye?

Keep your boundaries kind, Dear Reader while you deal with your pain and exhaustion because boundaries (any kind; fences, baby cots, neighbours boundary peg in Viti) are never permanent – life won’t let you be in one forever – if there’s anything I’ve been taught by my wandering one! One day you’ll have to go back to it all – go back stronger, happier & kinder.

Sue still stayed on for the rest of the year on all my projects. While sampling different sauvignon blancs across country NSW at the end of project meetings, we’d often compare the citrusy, melon-y undertones of the wine to the tart tone of my telephone apology after that email!


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