There is silence, a void, as I first stare at the pink paperweight and then the small white clock on the low table. Glancing at the tissues I never use but often wish I could my gaze rises to the skylight. Only the tops of the distant trees are visible and the rain washes down the glass relentlessly, like it does on so many of these Mondays.
I’m distracting. I know she won’t speak until I do, but I don’t know what to say. Everything seems to have come before. There is nothing new. I am tired of hearing myself talk about the same immovability, the identical darkness which is as predictable as it is harrowing. Surely she must be tired of this too.
“I feel stuck”
She says nothing. She is allowing me to be stuck so that I realise something about the space. She understands that until I make use of it I will never find a way from it.
On one Monday she brings out a tray and some modelling clay. I have been searching in my childhood with no insight, no clarity and little interest. She asks me to make a scene from the past. Anything.
I am surprised at how suddenly it doesn’t matter how well I shape the soft clay, at how accuracy is unimportant. Something imperceptibly shifts for a moment. Months later, in hospital, I will experience the same thing when I am drawing a representation of how I imagine my life to be, and I will be surprised at how I have included a darkness which feels more bearable, and almost necessary. It will shock me, like this random model I’m making of my parents shouting in the kitchen at one another, shocks me now.
My eagerness to look for answers hides them from me. It is the questions which help me to move.
In those years I felt a void but I didn’t understand it to be a fertile one. A place where precisely the absence of anything was what gave me the priceless opportunity to create something new. A space between what was and what will be.
Years later I sit with a fellow student for an exercise. We are given blank paper and crayons and asked to draw whatever is in our minds. There are murmurings of discontent. To move away from structure and substance, and to cease the constant reliance on the logical and the rational is uncomfortable. But I no longer find this hard like I once did. Space is not frightening and, instead of a blank page representing nothingness, it has become a symbol of possibility.
When I wrote to my therapist years later, remembering my hours in that small room with the paperweight, white clock and the skylight, it was because I wanted her to know that, although I didn’t value the space she gave me at the time, I had come to realise it was the most precious of gifts. She allowed me to be stuck without judgement, without frustration and without pulling me on towards answers I wasn’t ready for. She taught me to appreciate the space between the end of one thing and the beginning of something else. Most of all she showed me the power of simply being with myself instead of sitting alongside where my presence is worth nothing at all.