Xeno Hemlock


#ThinkAboutIt - Can You Spend Time With What You Dislike?

Picture this. A 30-year old guy and a little girl, about eight, sitting by the doorway of a house for rent in one of the country's tourist destination. The starry night sky participated as a witness from above. The neighbouring houses were quiet. Everybody had fallen asleep except for those who were probably still involved in their bedtime rituals. A single light bulb hanged above the two, illuminating the painting book the little girl was showing to the guy. A jar of lengua, a local sweet delicacy, stood between them, two biscuits gone to the guy's stomach. The little girl flipped the pages of her book one by one, describing each painting on it or asking the guy to guess it. What a nice moment, you'd think. Humans. Stars. Art. Food. However, I only ate the lengua to avoid disappointing the little girl and I didn't like kids. I didn't like them.

Maybe it's the introvert in me. Hanging around with a group of adults drains my energy fast and even just one hyperactive kid can siphon my energy too. If not that, perhaps it's how nature wired me. I just simply don't like kids. I don't know what to do with them. I don't have a lot of patience around them. I want nothing to do with them. They're too foreign for me. How did I end up in that doorway scene with the little girl then? It was the horse. Blame it on the horse.

At noon on the second day of our vacation tour, we passed by a tourist area that offered horseback riding. My adventurous spirit pounded hard from inside my body yelling, "You got to ride a horse!" We stopped there. We asked the locals about the horseback riding and learned that the shortest ride they offered lasted 30 minutes. Not everybody in our entourage was interested except my friend, her daughter, and me but we took it, agreeing to split one ride in two.

With 15 minutes each, my friend and her daughter went first. I patiently waited for my turn by watching them from a spot and taking photos of them whenever they would pass by. When my turn arrived, I decided to have my friend's daughter with my ride so she'd get more than 15 minutes of fun. It was just a horse ride, I thought. The kid and I never really interacted that much before so I expected her to remain quiet throughout the ride. But she didn't.

She told me a story about a local film (which I had never watched in my life) where the protagonist could turn into horses. I had to show interest by asking questions to the point where I was asking the same thing because I wasn't really that listening. "Only 15 minutes. Only 15 minutes," I thought. "And then it would be over." I was wrong.

The tour continued and the little girl and I's friendship too. Something about the horse experience broke the silly ice between us. We dressed up in local costumes and pretended to fight with spears for the camera. We hiked through the woods and the mountain. We looked at each picture in a small, local art gallery, talking about them as if we were painting fanatics. Later that night we played "Guess the Animal" on her notebook. I drew an animal. She had to guess it. She drew an animal. I had to guess it. I probably took it easy on her because I lost. Perhaps, she just really outsmarted me. (Oh Xeno!)

Then the doorway scene happened. I initially went alone to get some "me" time. Less than a minute had passed and an uninvited kid decided to join me.

Right there at the doorway, a part of me thought, "What's going on? Why are you spending time with her? Why haven't you turned her away? Tell her to scoot!" I chose to ignore that voice.

As the little girl described to me each painting (or at some pages asked me to guess what she created) on the pages of her painting book, something clicked. A light bulb turned on above my head (cliche, I know). 

In my no longer innocent eyes her paintings were hardly masterpieces, far from being one. But her describing her paintings to me, talking about their origins, what animals were in it, or even what mishaps happened while making them,  reminded me so much of my very young self, back when I was a child. I drew stick figures and made paintings with watercolor that were no Mona Lisa too. But the masterpiece didn't happen on paper. It happened in my head, the behind-the-scenes of the unpicturesque drawings and the imagination that played which nobody else did see. Before I got to where I am today, I was just like her, drawing stick figures and making very simple watercolour paintings. How could I turn the kid away? That would be like me telling myself, "Shoo!" I couldn't.

That moment I asked myself, "Why do you dislike kids?" The answer still remains completely unknown but that moment must be put in writing. One day, my mind may forget about it but if I wrote it, I'd have something to remind me of it.

Sometimes, in spending time with what we don't like we find reminders of our true self, of who we are in our core.

Sometimes, in spending time with what we don't like we find life, beauty, and dreams.

Sometimes, in spending time with what we don't like we are reminded to always look beyond the cover.

Sometimes, in spending time with what we don't like we learn or re-learn something important to us.

Sometimes, in spending time with what we don't like we, ironically, we find the thing(s) that we like, or even better, love.

If you cross path with something you don't like, can you spend time with it?

That "something" I didn't like, gave me this parting gift (left in the photo) after our vacation.