In the last week, I’ve listened to three people: one with a past trauma, one with a recent trauma, and one with whom I experienced the immediate aftermath of their trauma.
The sudden death of a parent, the discovery of a second, secret phone, the terminal diagnosis of a child, sexual assault – there’s too long a list of bad, traumatic stuff that can thrust itself upon good people at any moment.
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner
A friend recently mentioned that it didn’t sound like I’d dealt with my own experience of trauma a few years back. She’s not the first to have said it, and it’s made me consider what that would look or sound like – to have ‘dealt with’ it. The default, as I understand it: something bad happens, time latches on, and, little by little, the bad thing shrinks into a tiny moment we can mostly forget about. Minimum effort; tonnes of patience. We release emotional pressure, like bleeding a swollen gum, and, eventually, take our first steps toward something better.
Then, I saw this on Facebook: (full BBC Stories episode here)
The ‘five stages of grief’ always sounds too routine, and calm endearments for things like death – kicked the bucket, pushing up daisies, passed away, popping their clogs – are odd. We try to hide bad or sad things, but even the thickest theatre curtain doesn’t end some scenes. The monster remains, and it doesn’t like to be ignored. Eventually, it’ll find its way and creep back out.
Artists have adopted quite the opposite approach and exploited their grief and loss for centuries, from taunting triptychs and love through cracks in the wall to a “rending scream that spoke for all” and a cry for no more war.
What made me tweet and write this blog post, then, was the psychotherapist’s use of doodling in the video. As moments pass us by, they set in stone. Events written in permanent ink. We may later choose to look at them differently later on, but the basic structure and stain remains. So, seeing her describe that scribble as something that didn’t simply minimise and disappear spoke a lot of sense. We’ve not gone full-on Black Mirror just yet.
& would we want to?
Instead, in the video, the scribble, in the circle that represents our life, stains. Parts fade, blur, while others remain solid, so instead we gain more by acknowledging and decorating around. There’s something so accessible by using these simple doodle methods.
It’s like using metaphors. I love metaphors. Stories, big or small, drop our guards so we can let the lessons in without raising our fur in fear. Doodles fall into the same category.
Those scribbles made sense, so I made some of my own.
& I hope they’re of some comfort to the people I spoke to.