Monday, December 19, 2011
Tales for the journey: The place beyond the wire - (Resistance to healing)
I awoke and opened my eyes at last. I looked about me in the gloom and I could see the soft bed, the warm enclosing walls and the high window. The bed was warm as I lay on it and dreamed many dreams where I was falling, skating downhill, missing trains and trying not to drown. The high window was beyond the reach of my gaze, and I often wondered what I would see if I looked out, but I didn’t.
The prison was small but there was enough for my needs. I had my books and the TV, and some pencils to write with, and I read stories, wrote stories and told stories to my friends who were there on the other side of the wall. Sometimes I wished I could see my friends clearly, but always there was the wall between us. Sometimes there was a crashing and screaming and I did not want to hear, to see, or be seen. I stayed silently inside my warm prison, glad that I did not have to be involved. For many years the crashing went on, and when it was silent I waited for it to begin again.
Then there was a long silence. I waited, imagining what may be going on in that silence, what terrible things were being planned against me. But gradually I begun to wonder if the silence was simply silence, and nothing to be feared? I noticed the door. It was in the gloomiest corner, and it was closed. I lay in bed and wondered what lay beyond the door. I stared at that door for a long time and heard voices - gentle voices - outside.
One day they called to me, with soft tones and whispered words that I did not let myself hear, for outside the door was terror and mayhem and chaos and I was safer here inside my familiar prison with its comforts and warmth! The voices outside the door became louder and more insistent. I heard some angry voices saying I must come out, and other voices saying they understood why I felt I had to stay inside. I heard songs and stories that were not quite distinct, and the voices of people I loved and wanted to be near to.
I began to want to open the door! I walked right up to it, dared to touch it, dared to see its outlines and the way it was closed against me. I began to rage against the door, against the smallness of that space! I knew that there were others outside, unafraid, and if the door would only open I could be with them. I began to speak to them about the door, about how it felt to be locked in, unable to get out. They were waiting for me to do something but they never said what. I knew I must do something but I didn’t know what. There was no one to tell me how! I became so angry that I had never been shown the way out of this door!
I was terribly lonely in my tiny cell, and the stories lost their appeal, they were a place to escape to but they were not real freedom. How I longed for freedom! To be out there with all the others, able to feel part of them, with them, and to feel the warmth of their presence and really get to know them and see myself with them.
I began to rage against the door, to flail against it with my fists, weeping and crying. I was so angry that I should have to be in this tiny prison where the air was dank and the window so small.
One day I became aware of soft voices speaking to me: - the same words again and again. I was afraid of what they were saying, and blocked my ears to their words. They were saying, “Open the door! Open the door!” but I did not after all want to open that door, because I was afraid of being outside where I didn’t know how to behave, or how to be myself. Gradually I learned to listen to the voices, because I came to understand that they were my friends, that they wished me no harm.
As they spoke to me gently, I came nearer and nearer to the door, until I could place my hand on it, and feel the cold steel under my hand. After many days I put my hand upon the latch and dared to turn it. I was very afraid but the soft voices continued, insisting that it was safe, and that I was held in mind while I tried to do this thing.
I dared to push, and I pushed with all my strength against the door but it resisted. It was locked. Then I became truly enraged. How could they do this to me: lead me to believe that I could open this door! How can one open a door that is locked? They were stupid; they had let me down! They were evil, exploiting me, with my wish to escape; planting ideas of freedom in my head that I could never have!
I sulked for a long time. I wouldn’t listen. I lay in my bed and returned to my dreams, but they had a different quality now. They were about walls, bars, fences and barriers. I longed to get out but I couldn’t. How I longed to be free!
At the high window I heard someone singing. The song got into my heart and woke me up from my dream. It was a song about a key. A key that lay in a dark corner for years and years but was found at last. How I wished that someone would come and help me find that key! How I wished that I could be found: - that someone would come and find me in my tiny cell and set me free! Yet in the deep places of my heart there was gladness that no one had come, that I had not been found, for were I to be seen, to be found, I would have to go out into that fearful place where people may try to exploit me again.
One day I saw the key, there in the corner of the room. I wondered how I had never seen it before. Maybe I had seen it, but ignored it. It was hard for me, picking up that key. I waited a long time before I even touched it. All the time I held it I sang the song to myself, about the key that can open the door. I could not remember locking it, but perhaps someone had locked it for me, believing that it would keep me safe. Maybe my mother had been here in this prison. Perhaps I had been born into the prison and had known no other life.
I did place the key in the lock. I did turn it. I did open the door and step out into the arms of those who had waited for me so patiently. Without them, without their encouraging words, understanding my hesitation, understanding my fear, gently letting me feel my own power to decide, I could never have done it.
I stood in an unfamiliar place, where I needed to hold tight to those who had brought me there. It was smooth, and there were huge open areas, and I could stretch and run and grow stronger every day. I saw the sky, the clouds and all the people around me, also running and growing stronger, smiling with the joy of being free! For a long, long time I played there in this space, with the hard, smooth ground secure beneath my feet, and the high, blue sky above my head. As I grew stronger I wandered about in that place to find the limits of it, but no one spoke of very much about the outer limits, except for dark hints and sideways glances.
Then one day I saw the perimeter. It was made of barbed wire, in a terrible tangled mess, all around the edge of the space where I was, the wire was strong and twisted. The barbs were cruel and spiky. I did not dare to touch the wire lest my skin be torn. I simply stared at it for a long time. The wire was so thick it was very difficult to see what may be outside, but I was filled with fear at the prospect of what may lie beyond. I became afraid of looking outwards and instead looked inwards to the space where I was growing stronger every day.
I was able to see my former prison in the centre of the space, and knew that I was in the prison compound. The floor was smooth concrete, not living earth. Again I was trapped, even though there was plenty of space and people were happily playing, living their lives there in the compound, each trying not to think about what might lie beyond the edge.
I listened every day for a voice from beyond the wire. I yearned to hear a song, a story to encourage me, a voice to draw me onward, outwards towards the wire. I watched, and thought, and calculated what to do. There were three ways to get past this barrier: first I could lay a ladder against it and climb over, but where was the person to provide the ladder on the other side? There was no one there.
I decided to tunnel beneath it, and this seemed a good idea. I worked hard for many months to dig a secret tunnel under the wire; hoping that if I dug up enough dirt there would be a clear way through. But strangely, (or perhaps not so strangely, for I was afraid), the tunnel kept collapsing, and the more I dug the more I was trapped in the tunnel, away from the fresh air.
It was late evening when I found the wire cutters. They lay on the ground, available for anyone who noticed them to pick up. At once I knew that they were for me. I would cut the wire, strand by strand, until I had made a smooth path through! And look! I would allow others to come through with me and we could be together in the place beyond the wire! I held the cutters close to me all night long, dreaming, wondering how I would see my way, for beyond the wire was a place with little light.
In the early morning I used all my wisdom to create a small torch, and lit it. I stepped out boldly across the compound towards the wire, in the dark before dawn. The wire loomed over me and I was afraid, but I kept walking and stretched out my hand towards the wire. I was prepared to risk tearing my skin and bleeding badly, if I could only be free! I held up the wire cutters as a talisman before me.
To my surprise, the wire gave way under my hand, and as I walked into it, it began to dissolve away. Then I knew the truth, that I had made the barbs on the wire out of my pain, that the wire was meshing me into my old imprisoned life. I stepped through, now understanding that I had made the wire out of my fear of freedom. Now I was making my own way through the space where I had imagined it to be.
I held up the torch I had made and its tiny light showed me the road a little way before me into the dark. As I stepped forward into my future, I felt hands upon me that were familiar, but which I could not see. Their gentle touch was enough for me to contain my fear and walk on.