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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Haesito in Medio [5 of 5]

<-- part 4

5 Getting Unstuck

This time I applied some dovetails before twisting a bandage around his hand. I managed a decent 'X pattern', considering my efforts to touch Justus as little as possible. 
As soon asI was done, Justus went back to his work and checked his mask meticulously. Satisfied his mask was alright, he turned to me. A teasing laugh came into his eyes. “You're worse than I thought. How can you stick to your place when someone needs help? Don't you care?” 
“My heart went out to you. But my body wouldn't. I turn into stone in situations like this. And I
cannot always undo the spell.” I had reached the workbench too. Nervously I let my fingers run over the edge I had been carving into the plank. My fingertips alone could tell the irregularities of my cuts, I didn't need my eyes for that. These were aimed inward, were I was fighting a battle. My shame against the wish to be honest about this problem I had with being helpful to other people. “You know,” I placed the plank straight in front of me, “That's why I planned to burn a drawing I made recently, into the center of this plank. A ewer, a basin and a towel. Reminds me of that passage in the bible where Jesus washes the feet of the apostles.” 

Justus face had relaxed ever since I took the initiative for this 'self exploration'. Now he sat down again on his work stool, putting the mask at a distance.
“It's not that I don't want to be nice to people. I remember giving things to my friends, or helping them accomplishing tasks. I got scolded terribly for it at home. My education did not deal with being kind to others … But I don't think that that's the cause of my problem. Already at kindergarten,” we smiled simultaneously. It obviously was kindergarten day today, “my teacher asked me to comfort a crying classmate. I asked her how I should do that. When she suggested I'd put my arm around the girl, I walked off. I was not going to touch anyone.”
“How about your home? You said you took care of your mother when you were a small girl. How did you do that?”
I laughed for a second. “I was only keeping her company. She was phobic and didn't want to be alone.”
“How ...”
I raised my hand signaling Justus to be patient. I knew what he was about to ask. “I felt horribly lonely and afraid.” I tried to recall the feeling. “Like there was some indefinite bad fate looming over me. I was not allowed to have playmates around, so I used to carry a toy with me, to help me feel brave. Usually a dog.” I winked at Loba, on the once-white rug.
Justus nodded. “I remember you said that being nice meant disappearing, becoming invisible. Could that be related to the loneliness you felt while comforting your mother?”
Maybe. I thought about it, my eyes locked into the sky again. It seemed logical, but somehow it missed a decisive 'click'.
I managed to look Justus straight into his eyes as I continued. “That's not what I meant when I started talking about the towel and the basin. I have sensory processing disorder,” -Oh dear, did that sound formal- “which means in my case, that I'm sensitive to light touch and to movement. My most used expressions were 'don't touch me' and 'put me down'.” I could see the corners of Justus' mouth curl up. He could well imagine me saying those things.
“Whenever I heard the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet... well, I knew what the story was supposed to say. But I couldn't help thinking, that I wouldn't pick up the basin either. For a different reason. Sometimes I even wondered whether Jesus would understand why.” I could relax when Justus smiled at me. I no longer felt teased or put down. “I only thought 'who would want me to touch him? Let alone wash him?' ” Auch, that thought hurt.
Justus grabbed my hand with his one good hand, preventing me from pulling away. “Does that hurt?”
I blushed heavily. “Not physically. But it does upset me.” He didn't let go. Wanted to know what I felt exactly. I had to concentrate to identify my mixed up feelings. “Part of me likes it. Some other part would even like to return the favor. But most of me wants to dash out and hide behind a tree. Where I would probably try to rub off the feeling.”
Now he laughed. “So you're not used to it. Better practice more, lady.” I pulled my hand free. But Justus immediately extended his hand to me, beckoning me to take it. “You said you wouldn't avoid pain or embarrassment. Now I'm making you stick to it.” Sheepishly I took his hand, eying his face from he corner of my eyes.
“It might be easier if you looked straight at me.” Justus really was making me go through feeling hurt and embarrassed. But I've said I wouldn't run. So I gritted my teeth and looked in his eyes. Was he teasing me or not? I couldn't make it out.
“This doesn't feel bad to me. Why would you think people don't like your touch?” After a playful wink he continued, “Not bad at all. If I had all day, I wouldn't let go.” He did let go however. In a reflex I rubbed my hand 'clean' on my jeans. “Thank you very much,” Justus mumbled.
“It's not just touching. It's more than that. When people are together, at a party or working on a project, whatever, doing things for eachother, I just cannot get myself to do my share.”
“You turn to stone. But why? What do you imagine might happen if you do spontaneously serve someone. ”
I sighed, what if … “It is crazy. By not serving others, I imagine their anger or contempt. Which is actually a realistic idea. But the thought of me asking others what they want and giving it to them... I imagine people will be bothered, annoyed by my presence.”
“So you really think people don't like you. And your habit to petrify, which others won't understand, makes it a self fulfilling prophecy.”
I sighed, wondering how I could break through such a circle.
Justus picked up the conversation again. “You have a very belittling image of yourself. And that is probably why you let Randy get as far as he did. If you had more self esteem and confidence, you could have stopped him when he started. ”
I remember how Randy slunk out of the cabin. His personality was not as formidable as his build. Justus was right, I probably would have managed to put him off. I shouldn't have let him think he could have his way, for so long. My fault, again.
“Don't blame yourself,” Justus voice broke my train of thoughts. “There are enough conditions in your background, that brought you into this plight. Nonetheless ... you are now responsible for getting out of it. Not that you have to do it on your own.” he hastily added, “People will help you along, but you have to be the driving force. That takes commitment.” The word was a cue for me to look at the woodcarver's eyes. Or rather, look into them. This time I did not see them as funny blue marbles, almost popping out. They had depth, honesty and helpfulness. “I know that you can commit yourself if the commitment is your choice. And I know that you have the stamina to go through failures. You didn't run from all the challenging situations you faced here. Neither have you in past your life. You just tightened your stomach and walked past scolding schoolmates. Or clung onto your toy dog to stay with your mother. Now grid your teeth again and help JoAnne.” Justus got off his high chair, leaning on my shoulder. That was at least not light touch, I did not feel the reflex to retract. But he left his hand there... “I hope I have given you today at least the necessary belief in yourself. That you are worthwhile. Because... you are.
Those stupid tears welled up again, blurring my vision. I wiped them away with the back of my hand.
“Now which other tools are you going to use to carve out the real JoAnne? The one who is not tough and cynical and who does not stay petrified.”
“Awareness and practice. Awareness of the gap between what I do and what I want to do. And practise, to collect positive experiences to replace my silly fears. They should make good tools to carve out the real me.”
“Great. I mean it.” Then Justus' sly smile, complete with the tiny wrinkles beside his eyes, returned. “Because it is way past lunch time. And I would love to work some more on 'Jack Daw' instead of having to cook for us.”
“OK,” I accepted the chance of doing something for him. But a basic fear must have shimmered in my eyes. For he said 'comfortingly' that he would be working with his back turned to the kitchen anyway.
“That part of the floor is yours now.” A good thing it was. One of the first things I did was pull out the drawer with cutlery too far out of the kitchen counter. The crash was tremendous and the floor filled up with spoons, knives ad forks. If I ever felt like a nuisance... “Sorry,” Justus jelled over the noise of the clatter, “I forgot to warn you that the stop of that drawer is broken.”
“Is that what it was? I thought the drawer was too short.”
Justus sniggered and continued his work, while I cleared up the mess. At least it was a good icebraker. After that I dared make as much noice as I needed to, 'and then some'.
There was not a wide range of food stored up, but when it comes to cooking, I'm a great hand at improvising. As the smell of soup, with white wine in it, filled the cabin, Justus could no longer keep his back turned to the kitchen. “Is it ready yet?” he asked.
“Then hurry up, woman, I'm hungry.” Justus walked over to the kitchen sink to wash his hands. To do so, he took off the bandage and the dovetails. I checked if he needed any help with that, but obviously didn't. So I continued cutting bread and laid out several kinds of cheese on a plate and invited him to the table.
As soon as he was seated, he held out his bowl for soup. I noticed that his hand had healed perfectly. The old strict Justus returned for a moment, as he raised his eyebrows to stop me from asking the wrong question. We ate our meal with a lively discussion, moving to and fro between verbal battles and whole hearted agreements. But the meal came to an end and so did my stay at the cabin. Justus finished the edge around my plank for me, while I washed the dishes and cleared his kitchen. He wrapped up the plank when he was done and put it in my backpack.
“Before you go, let me draw you a map to show you the best route to a bus stop.” He used a folded up piece of paper for it. “You walked through a nudist area this morning. Lucky for you, the guests arrive late on Sundays.”
I couldn't help laughing. “I guess I would have been a bit overdressed for the occasion.” In spite of the heat I wore jeans, a shirt and gilet.
“Just a bit, yes.”
I imprinted the map in my head and put the paper in my pocket. Then we walked to the door together. Justus assured me I would be taking the right road from here on. My heart always had been speaking up in time, but from now on, I would be able to recognize its call sooner and respect its value. With this reassurance, he hugged me. Just for practice, he said. I'm glad he didn't kiss me goodbye. After a kiss I would not have been able to leave. Because I sensed I would never see my woodcarving teacher again. And was not allowed to ask if I was right.
I turned to look back a last time when I reached the road. By then he had already disappeared from the doorway. Half sad, half satisfied at this special day, I started my walk back into my own life. From my pocket, I retrieved the map Justus had drawn for me. It was the paper on which he had written the invitation to help myself to some coffee. I decided to keep it, to reassure myself all this had really happened. I unfolded the paper completely. On the inside, was printed:

JALF is urgently looking for an 
 who will transform the wishes of the Soul into Reality
 and build a bridge connecting the deep Self with the World. 

Experience is not required. 
The candidate must have 
  appreciation of Modesty, 
  aversion of anything related to Pomposity or Convenience, 
  inexhaustible Patience,
  a Rock-solid Conviction during Stormy Weather and 
  a Sharp Eye for the distinction between Acting out of Fear or out of Love. 
The Animus is not easily intimidated. 

Required language skills:  
  fluency in telling the Truth, and 
 a good working knowledge of 
   Symbolical and 
   Metaphorical speech. 
Or willingness to learn this. 

 For more information please contact JoAnne Lakefield.

© september 2011

JoAnne Lakefield

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