Friday, February 18, 2011

It's what I do

The job description reads something like this: Show them how to take things apart. Build a container for the pieces, so there's some safety and comfort in the knowledge that you're a kind of steward, an evidence locker, the links in a chain of custody. Provide a scaffold, a blueprint, the tools for putting things together again, probably in a far different way, maybe upside down, maybe using a different language or an imaginary body or the distant icy gravity-pull of another planet. In your heart, feel a genuine compassion, a caring that might keep the last strands of a time-frayed careworn rope from dropping them helpless into the bottomless night sky. Love them, but don't touch. Be what they want, be strong, be loved, but don't give away too much about yourself. Don't be a friend. Delve into the soul, but don't get too personal. When the time comes, say goodbye. A real goodbye, one in which you know you'll never again speak to each other.

Do this again and again.

There's my workday. I help explore fantastic worlds, epic confabulations, giant gleaming towers that stretch to the sky and bear the sole purpose of hiding the existence of whatever lies at their foundation. My clients,others, all humans... we build entire lives devoted to the avoidance of pain real and imagined. We make imaginary walls, false muslin-and-plywood sets with painted windows and doors, and we make them complicated. The very simplest defense is a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Our facility with language is a sword that cuts both ways. We can speak the truth to others, and with the same words we can hide meaning from ourselves without even knowing it. We think those muslin walls are the real thing. We have no idea what lies at the foot of the tower, even though we laid it there ourselves.

My clients often feel worse before they feel better. They feel vulnerable, exposed. They cast one glance my way and burst into tears. They walk into my office with a mix of anticipation and deepest trepidation. My office is often a vessel for the storage of their dark problems, stacked in the corner where they will wait for the return of their owners. With the right eyes you can see dusty shelves laden with history.

The deconstruction of a lifetime of defenses takes time, and it takes courage, and in some ways it is the simplest thing one will ever do. The release of a lifelong lie can be so much simpler than its construction. Brick by brick, layer upon layer, paint chipped to reveal older coats, other imagined colors. Sometimes you can let go all at once. Sometimes it takes the explosion of a bomb placed there by someone else. People will carry around the tattered remains of a defense as a way to prove to themselves that it once existed.

The best I can do is keep a box of grenades in my office, right next to the tissues. After the explosion, we build anew.

I don't get to pull the pin, though. That's your job.


  1. I forgot what a great writer you are...glad to be reminded.

  2. Thanks, Noe - what a lovely compliment! Keep reading... I'm going to try to keep the content flowing. Any post suggestions would be gladly considered. And, tell all your friends! :)