After seventeen years of no homework, it hasn’t been exactly easy to get started again. I love my new field of study–in fact, I love just the title of it–expressive arts therapy. This particular school uses the body as a road map for discovering-telling-integrating life stories, and our first month focused on the legs and feet. This was all well and good until I got to the homework. Among the drawing, dancing, and creative writing, the following sneaky question was slipped in: What do you want to take a stand for and how?
I instantly hated the question. It made me feel embarrassed that I am no longer doing something big and grand for the world. I thought back on all the times I had “taken a stand,” both in and out of professional contexts. They had all been so rigid, so exhausting. It occurred to me that I don’t really know how to stand for something without locking my knees and digging my curled toes into the ground. I was sure that was the kind of “stand” the question was asking me to commit to.
But, being the reformed perfectionist that I am, I sat down to answer the question anyways. The words that tumbled out shouldn’t have surprised me considering who I’ve worked with and the life I’ve lived. Needless to say, they did.
I’d take a stand for revision. The right to change your mind, your mood, your life. The right to keep reaching towards life even when it appears far away or others call you greedy for doing so. The right to be many things. The right to adapt quickly or slowly, whichever is more real. The right to people who love multiple versions of you, throughout the years or within the course of a day. The right to leave those who don’t, won’t, or can’t. The right to stand out in the rain until even concrete gets wet enough to melt. The right to invest resources in following whispers around corners or shouts off the edges of cliffs. The right to not feel guilty when you stop telling the old stories. The right to take generic advice until you know what you specifically need. The right to dabble at the outside until you’re gutsy and well-resourced enough to dive into the center. The right to fear and confusion. The right to pride and astonishment. The right to heart-stopping questions from unexpected places. The right to dismiss other possibilities without wondering, “What if?” The right to fail and make a giant mess. Revision. I have worked for this and will again.
My heart has been awake for some time now to the joy I have in helping people find their voices, but this was an update to that familiar theme. Not only do I want people to know, value, and use their voices, but I want to help them follow the changes to that voice, preferably as they happen. I want to sit next to people as they create, but also as they re-create an outgrown form.
The only part of the question I could not yet answer is ‘how?’ I’ll be getting new homework in about a week though, so stay tuned.