I'm Not Good with Titles, Either
After my last art class in middle school I vowed to never take another art class again. I suck at art. There was a slight breaking of the vow in college when I took a class in oil pointing, but only after much begging on the part of my roommate. Our second real painting assignment was an abstract, taken from object(s) we found or observed. Mine was the lame rose with falling petals that became tears. It was like my artistic self never grew beyond being thirteen. It was awful and it might still be in my parent’s house, available for mocking.
Tonight at peer supe our check in was an art activity. We were take colored paper, an assortment of coloring utensils, ribbons and some glitter (but no glue!) and express what would help us in another year of hotline work. I had nothing. Nothing. I did get as far as thinking a bunch of glitter would somehow represent optimism (my new fallback for anything requiring hopeful thought). The glitter had nowhere to go. I couldn’t even make a paper snowflake. The sort that first-graders make, that I made in first grade but can’t do anymore. I was the lamest. That was okay, I just made a pronouncement that “I suck at art” and that “a bunch of glitter represents optimism”. Seriously.
What I realized (again) tonight is that I do not do well with the tangible. I’m abstract. I express myself best in sounds (not well translated into words on a blog, by the way) and random ideas. Not so much with the ribbons and colored paper. Not so much with well-organized words. Photography might be the closest thing for me, but I’m by no means a photographer. Coming close for me is still really far for the general population.
I like overarching themes and poetic phrasing; I even like metaphors and some logic. But sometimes the straightforward coherent essay or tangible art project do not suit me best. I clearly cannot do any real grammar, though there was a point where I could write a well-thought out essay. I could do a thesis statement with supporting paragraphs and a conclusion, but those are clearly not my preferred modes of expression at this point.
But tonight I also realized where this helps me. I can say “I don’t know” on the hotline. We talked a bit about calls where we are asked question we simply cannot provide cut and dry answers to. Questions like “When will this be over?”, “When will I feel better?”, “What can I do to help my friend/son/daughter/parent/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner?”, “Why did this happen?” I am okay with the abstract and with not being able to give something concrete and tangible. This doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could, I do; but unfortunately it just not possible. There are no easy answers, there is no set remedy, and oftentimes there is nothing physical that one can do.
Tonight was a little emotional for me, having been there myself. Having asked the questions and had to step by step get to the answer that there is no answer. There are no pretty metaphors, though well-meaning loved ones might try to make one up. There are just overarching themes and abstract ideas and there certainly is nothing tangible. The way at least I eventually came to heal is more metaphysical than it is tangible. You just keep breathing, you keep letting yourself feel the pain (when you get to the point you can), or hold it for a while for someone else; until eventually with time and work and grace, it abates. You find yourself or your loved one able to really consciously live again. And there is no timeframe, there is no set order. There are responses we can let callers know are normal, but there is no clear path. What I have found is that in time you do not “get over it” but you do find yourself going on. And that is what I am okay telling the callers who ask the questions you can’t answer. That I wish I could give real answers but I can’t. That there are no cut and dry solutions; but that healing is possible. That even by just taking the often difficult and brave step to call they are doing it.
I like having my abstract and intangible with a dose of hopefulness. And I am grateful that sometimes I can pass that on, that sometimes someone else can take that for themselves.