I don’t remember our first meeting. But I’m sure you do. You don’t forget anything. I always wondered how your brain filed away every single detail and retrieved it years later without a hesitation. You’ll tell me someday, when we meet again. You remembered that S used to sing “Tum ko dekha” to me and make me cry everytime, two years after the event.
I do remember this drawing you made for your dad – the hanging of a cigarette, to encourage him to stop smoking. What brilliant imagination! It was the beginning of my admiration for you. I think we mostly got to know each other during the summer camp – the first one I ever led. Then of course we met at the board game club every week.
You used to say to me, “Ms.P, speak in a girl’s voice. Please Ms.P.” When I explained that I couldn’t change my voice. You’d insist “Please try.” Though I was bullied all through my childhood about my voice, your comment amused me. You made me smile, the earnestness with which you asked me to try. You truly believed I could change it if I wanted. In a way you altered my childhood memories about being bullied into something that made me smile. For that I am grateful to you.
You know that’s not all I am grateful for. You understood the depth of the loss I felt when G the cat died. You would ask me every week for months after if I was sad because I missed him. Then you’d see the tears in my eyes, come close to me, look me straight in the eye and say “Don’t be sad.” There was so much care in that gesture.
When I was leaving you said to me, “When I miss you, I’ll look at your photo.” There was something about us you and me, our relationship, was effortless from the beginning. We understood each other. This time when we met after 2 years, you were quiet at first, observing me from a distance. Then we spoke a little. I didn’t have much time and we need time you and I to start talking. When I was leaving you said to me, “Ms.P, Don’t go this time.” It broke my heart, that look in your eyes. I really didn’t want to go.
I miss you B. And I look at your picture and the card you made me and sometimes I cry. But I know we’ll meet again. Soon. And you’ll tell me about our first meeting?
I have always found hope somewhere between the darkness of the night and the coldness of the dawn. Sometimes its just faith that the sun will rise again, birds will chirp again, trees will bloom again.
Lately hope is more elusive, hiding in the dark clouds, its harder to find solid ground to rest and relax. Almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, the world will suck even if I begin to feel better. Of ‘How can I feel better if the world isn’t?’
Realising that each of us feeling better is part of the world healing. Everytime one person finds hope, an imaginary tree somewhere holding this world together sprouts a new leaf. And everytime someone loses hope the tree loses a leaf. The world is a delicate balance of finding and losing hope, of our continued search for hope. Driven sometimes by our hopelessness and despair and other times by our faith.
The heart & soul in this conference does not cease! Today starts with a wonderful Venezuelan woman Dr.America Bracho quoting Paulo Freire “Consciousness increases in the presence of contradiction.” She spoke of the fragmentation of knowledge that Universities bring. They prevent us from seeing ourselves, an issue, communities, another person holistically. We learn, practice, perfect looking through one single lens we proudly call expertise, that our personal identities should be separate from our professional identities. Talking about the importance of inclusion and representation of communities we work with in the work we do she said, “Being something, means something.” She emphasized the power of the personal.
Today, like yesterday the language used in this conference impressed me. So many words and symbols I value were referred to. Here’s a list to ponder:
Today was day 1 of the conference on Narrative Practices called ‘A Room full of Stories’. Most conferences in Psychology talk of research in epidemiology, prevalence, diagnostic criteria and intervention, this conference was almost entirely made up of stories, stories of individuals- adults’ and children’s lived experiences, their values, principles, hopes and dreams. It was a space for vulnerability and authenticity, where therapists acknowledge their own while valuing it in the people they work with. Storytellers on stage were tearing up, the audience was emotional, it was conversations that were all heart and soul, redefining concepts of mental health and therapeutic practices.
Learning and unlearning, shaping and reshaping, questioning the knowledge of the therapist and validating experience and knowledge of the people we work with, challenging mainstream ideas of mental illness. These 3 days of workshop and conference have been for me like that feeling when you read a book and the writer has managed to say in words and concepts something that has always been on your mind. It feels like someone reached out to hold your hand, or give you a warm hug. The fact that Van Gogh’s ‘Starry, Starry Night’, quotes by Foucault, Derrida, and numerous other writers and philosophers drove narratives around the therapeutic practice is only a small way in which this conference moved me. They spoke of magic and mystery, imagination and wonderland, of strength and meaning. I was moved to tears during several presentations, feeling for the first time as if I was in the presence of therapists whose ideas and thoughts brought meaning to the work we do.
Below are some of the concepts, ideas, phrases, quotes, that moved me during these interactions:
‘We were as children, singular magicians.’
‘Exercise people’s meaning making skills’
‘Therapy is a micropolitical act in furthering preferred stories.’ (vs dominant stories)
And this quote that summarises beautifully the intention of narrative practices:
‘Which of my feelings are real?
Which of the me’s is me?
The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic and crazy one?
Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed and tired one?
Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.’ – The Unquiet Mind