My friend sent me a present via Etsy – a cute stack of handmade soaps on a carved wooden dish. I read the printed labels, smelling each bar as I went. Then I saw the black soap and I blinked – surely it isn’t BLACK soap… right?
Nope, it’s black soap. Activated charcoal it says on the label, which only confused me more. Charcoal? As in chimney sweep charcoal? As in left in the ashes of a fire charcoal? Weird! My friend emailed me (we live on opposite sides of the world) telling me how much she loves activated charcoal soap, how good it is for her because it doesn’t irritate her sensitive skin. Cool but still weird, I thought, and left the pretty soaps on my sink to remind me of my caring, awesome friend.
Every time I brushed my teeth, I saw the soaps and thought of Tay. Remembered the fun we’ve had when we see each other in real life (two times and counting!) Whenever I’d put on sunscreen or moisturiser I’d see the soaps, and be reminded of all sorts of things about Tay in particular, and friends in general. Like how distance can be shrunk down to the screen of my laptop as I read friends’ emails, and how sharing my life with a good friend – wherever they are in the world – makes such a huge difference in my life. I have friends who send me funny cards or gifs, who recommend books and movies, who share their tears and disasters just as much as they share their celebrations and cheesy puffs afternoons.
I don’t make friends easily, because I am weird, introverted and past experience makes me wary. To add another difficulty level to friend-making, I also have anxiety which complicates all sorts of situations and relationships, especially in my own head. So the soap in some ways wasn’t a big deal (it’s soap! Just a present! Say thanks and move on!) but it was also a huge, fantastic and wonderful reminder that there is an enormous, brilliant world out there, and I have friends in it, no matter where I am right now in my head.
Weeks later, I decided to use one of the soaps, and decided on one of the two activated charcoals. I slipped the label off, and my soft “Ohhh…” crept around the tiles. Pressed into the top of the soap was an embossed pattern, a contrast to the slick, shiny face of the soap. But pressed into the smoothness was this: Thou Art Lovely.
Thou art lovely. How gorgeous is that? Thou art lovely. No question, all statement. Thou art lovely. You are literally on the other side of the planet, but you matter to me. Thou art lovely. I look forward to your emails, your Instagram posts, your rants and worries that you are doing terribly. Thou art lovely. You’ve had nowhere near enough sleep, but here you are, staggering into the bathroom to face the day. Thou art lovely. Remember to breathe, to reach out to your friends, to challenge the spiky fears in your head. Thou art lovely. You are special. Thou art lovely. You are incredible, complicated, talented and precious. Thou art lovely. Remember you are wonderful.
Thou art lovely.