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The pen can bring you home

Jun 28, 2020

Not many people know this, but before I studied to be a Physiotherapist I qualified as a journalist from Liverpool John Moores University. I had dreams of reporting on and holding accountable the people responsible for the worst atrocities around the world.

I read everything Kate Adie wrote and looked up to this incredible woman that roared in the face of in-justice.

Well it turns out, that this wasn’t the path for me, but the urge to write has stuck and I regularly find myself starting to write, then stopping or not finding the time or just losing the motivation.

Writing was always something I just did. I used the medium of writing to nurture my creativity as a child and wage great wars on the in-justice of being a 7 year old in world made for grow-ups. Why couldn’t I writ e great novels and investigative pieces from my bedside desk?

I always had at least one subscriber – my Dad. He would read and edit everything I wrote. He would critique and and question why I was writing it and what I wanted the reader to feel. One day, I asked him to help me write a book. Now anyone that knows me well as probably heard me itch at least one book idea to them…In my head, I’ve a library full!

Technostalgia-My First Computer | San Diego Seafood Info
Who doesn’t want to see a 90s computer? such memories!

Anyway, on this occasion, and I must have been about 7 or 8, my Dad was in and what followed was weeks of collaboration between a father and his daughter. An adult and a child.

We had a computer that was really high tech for the 90s but I had a Dad that was built in the late 30’s so, I typed, printed he edited, then I typed and printed.

Anyway, we created a small novel about a donkey called Trotter that worked a hard life on Blackpool beach and then escaped on his adventures making friends and saving other animals from the hands of cruel humans (we probably could have predicted the veganism…)

But you’re probably thinking – “why are you telling me this?”

Me and my Dad. He was just wonderful.

Two reasons, one I want to tell this story of my dad. It’s a very early memory of him that I have and it brings me a feeling of being cared for very deeply by this man, whom I lost nearly nine-years ago.

The other, is that I’m reflecting on this great need to write that I have at the moment.

Since March when news of the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread and it’s impact on my daily life and our global economy began to be felt, I have written. I must say this was stimulated by a facebook group led by Linda Crawford, an Occupational Therapist that works with people experiencing pain.

Poetry and short fictional texts as well as short expressions and explorations of my own experiences have been an experience in navigating my own experience of these COVID-19 restrictions that have stimulated my writing voice again.

Of course this has come with many memories and thoughts of my Dad who always dreamed of being a writer I think. He once wrote a note-pad full of scenes and sketches based on his experiences as a patient with TB during the late 50s early 60s. He would read it to me when I pulled it out of the bureaux and talk about how he had sent it in the BBC once, but they didn’t reply. The thrill of being ‘nearly there’ enough to satisfy his voice within and motivate him to support his ambitious child.

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So as I pick up the pen and start tapping away on my keyboard again, I am struck by a feeling of my worlds knitting together and a clarity in seeing the world in a way that can be observed as well as experienced.

This is what narrative approaches bring to the clinic. It brings a technique and space for understanding the narrative, or journey, of another human as they move through their life with pain.

Giving permission for the suffering and the difficulties to enter the therapeutic space, as well as the wins and the joys, means that we are able to communicate and meet each other with a rich-level of empathy that is too often missing in the traditional approaches.

Introducing works of art produced by others and facilitating the space to explore them together, relating to the experience of the pen- or brush-holder in a way that expresses our own understanding of our world can be a very moving and connecting moment between us.

We find ourselves in the art of others, and we bring our ‘self’ into an observable view when we create. Our most painful and difficult memories or experiences become a subject to discover and express. It gives us the freedom to see our lives as not only meaningful but important. Important enough to look at. To watch. To study. To love. To be loved.

If I were a painting, would you look at me?   Would you stand for hours studying one tiny corner of me?  Stood in the echoey room of a museum, your shirt tucked into you belt.  Arms folded as your eyes dart around my canvas, consuming the twists and turns of colour, the undulations in my texture the competing forms moving, jostling for your attention. Would you make a comment about the skill it took to make me up.  The time and attention needed to create this example of whatever it is we call art today.

Laura Rathbone
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