Honza z Krkonoš CC
“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation." ― Wendell Berry
When I have been in despair and known not where it was that I belonged or who I could turn to, when I have longed to be, in such a wretched and broken state, just taken in and heard. That there have been such places and people, so hard to describe in ordinary language, whose mere presence made the difference. I know now that true miracles are ordinary and small. We carry a pain so huge it is sometimes hard to imagine that what is needed most is so uncomplicated that any one of us can offer it to each other, and in doing so, are we not both that place of belonging and the thing to turn to?
Howard Bacal writes of a patient who was so touch starved in her youth she herself had to provide what a parent should have: “she recalled how she ached to be held, even putting her own small arms around herself, pretending they were her mother’s. She remembered many nights of her childhood where she hugged the plaster wall adjacent to her bed. After a while, the wall absorbed and held her warmth, and she could pretend she was cuddled up to her mother.” The patient felt she could only heal if Bacal were to hold her, which, of course, he could not. This convinced his patient that he was as depriving as her parents had been, and that healing, for her, was just not possible. She would forever be left alone to wrap her own small arms around herself. Abandoned. Terrified. And in terrible pain.
But then, he “came upon a blanket,” that offered a warmth, depth and yield to the touch approximating the touch of a human body. He thought it possible that the blanket, if it were from him, might provide her with the needed experience of holding.
She was deeply touched to receive the blanket, and it made a difference, imperfect though it was to her, it was a touch of something deeper than anything she had known before in bearing her pain to another, and needing to be held in it.
What prepared Bacal for that moment was another with his teacher, Winnicott, who he turned to for advice in treating a three year old whose behavior had been described as chaotic and bizarre. Bacal asked Winnicott how he should begin the treatment, as he had never worked with children before and felt lost as to how to start. “Without hesitation, Winnicott answered, “if she holds out her hand, take it.” “I have never forgotten this,” Bacal says. “It became not only a metaphor for the responsivity that enabled me to be therapeutic for my little patient, but for my work with adult patients as well.”
I have come to believe that part of the reason why we create and share what we have made with each other is because we are all, on some level, looking for a reparative experience. We need to know we can make a dent in people. That who we are has some bearing on others, that we will be felt in deeper ways than the everyday, and that when we hold out a poem, a story, a song, or a hand: someone, somewhere, will take it.
Six years ago I started this journal because it was the place that I needed. Is it maudlin and saccharine to say that doing so saved me? Because it saved me. You have all been like that blanket approximating the needed thing. It is my hope that this space has been a bit of that for you, as well. Art is that place where we are heard, held, healed, ushered in to the “feast of creation.” From such pain come these things that we have made. Where in despair we go and find our belonging to something so hard to describe in ordinary language. And so we use extraordinary means to relay our story. But I believe it is simply this: that when someone holds out their hand, you take it.
Being for someone that small presence that makes a difference is, I believe, the work that we are each called to do. Never mind that from the look of things around us, it doesn’t always feel or seem that way. Reach deep for it anyway. Believe it’s there for you, because it’s there for you. Take the hand that reaches out to you as if it were your own. We don’t just need to know we can make a dent in someone, we need to know that we are not alone.
Surely, we are not alone. From such pain, this place we have made.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.