Thursday, July 26, 2007

Room for Healing

The first door to the right at the top of the stairs is the entrance to the room where the Trauma Group meets. I had been asked and agreed to participate in a 16 week group that involves sharing the burden of my trauma with other trauma survivors. Telling our stories to each other will free us from the hook, the trauma, and hold of the perpetrator. Assurances from TGD make this an easy decision, after months of one on one therapy. In tandem, these two therapies will work to heal and fill the black hole the perpetrators have left.

It was an easy decision for me. TGD had taken me light years through a healing process in just a matter of months even though there are many months to go. This is just the beginning. No possible reason not to trust her. TGD is the facilitator to my freedom.

As I turn the doorknob. and open the gray metal door marked "Conference Room", I feel a strange resistance in opening. For a second I pause and think that it might be my own resistance I feel entering this room. No. Maybe last year at this time. But not now.

I step inside the room and hear the whoosh sound of the door closer behind me. No one has arrived yet.

I scan the room and see the clock on one of the four brick walls point out I am 14 minutes early. I planned to be early. It's my MO. Scope out the place to make sure it's safe. Still a habit after all these years. Find the best seat, preferably near the door for a quick exit if need be. Don't sit where you may have to walk by someone and be even more obvious and noticeable. Showing up is 3/4 of the game. Suit up and show up. On a good day sometimes that's all I can do.

I move away from the doorway to the circle of chairs in the center of the room. Eight arm chairs are placed close to each other with a white board with spindly wooden legs completing the arc of the circle. The arm chairs seem to have a dizzying pattern, but up close the pattern is clearly triangular shaped leaves in rows vertically running up and down the seats and backrest. The arms are wooden. Scenes of myself gripping the arms for support pop into my head. White knuckle grips they're called.

On the metal tray below the white board sit markers of various colors, red, purple, black, and green alongside the dry eraser.
From where I stand, behind one of the chairs, I can see the ghostly outlines of words that have been written and then erased.

I walk around the circle of chairs to the front of the room where 2 floor to ceiling windows peer out over Edwards Street and down at the steel girder from 9/11 implanted into the ground in front.

On one of the brick walls hangs a huge tapestry of a tree and it's roots.

This brick roomed firehouse screams words like foundation, safety, strength. All the things I didn't have.

Glancing at the brick wall that holds the clock I notice a triloogy of 3 pieces of art. From a distance they look like any other abstract work of art. But as I edge closer to stand in front of them, they tell a story.

All three are made out of very simple bed trays with handles at either end, each approximately 8"x18" in size.

The first one hangs vertically in a gilded painted frame, a piece of black boa outlining the inside of the "frame". Photos are cut from a magazine and are pasted into the collage. Photos of ceramic angels with arms folded, photo of 3 faced stone sculpture with the words underneath "Abandon all hope ye who enter here".
Small stone faces vertically arranged with the words, anger, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, and greed, the seven deadly sins.
The most provocative aspect of this sculpture is floating down the entire piece are 3 tiny pink babies, the kind that comes with a doll set. They are sitting on top of little red balls.
At the very bottom of the piece are four tiny baskets. The first, third and fourth are full of 20 or 30 gold coins. The second basket has 20 or 30 of the tiny plastic babies. Who boxed these babies in?

I move to the second in the series, which is horizontal, and the frame is silver colored with a red boa outlining the inside of the frame. On the top of the frame sits a white picket fence with wooden clothes pins blocking the gaps between the pickets.
Once again photos from magazines make a collage of various themes. A photo of a digital clock, two children warming themselves by a fireplace, a huge monster, the kind you see in Japanese monster films, overtaking a castle, and words cut from a magazine with statements like, "Nick of Time", "Sam the Man", "Down the Road", and a photo of a three monkey sculpture, "Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil." Reminds me of some of the people who could and should have protected me.
But the most captivating feature of this piece is a photo of a blonde haired little girl standing behind a wooden door enclosed by a wooded gate. Was she hiding or being protected?

The third vertical piece in the series comes across a little lighter with a shred of hope displayed. The frame is in it's natural wood state. A white boa encircles the frame with a gold speckled veil flowing down from the sides. A photo from a magazine shows women of color with arms interlaced with each other alongside the words, "Sing, Love, Dance, Live."
Three clothes pins with happy faces dotted on them adorn the middle of the piece alongside the quote, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." The bottom of the piece is lined with 7 violet teddy bears.
There is some sort of progression in these visual statements. There is also more healing to be done, for along the top of each piece of art is a mask with eyes inside cast downward. The mask to make us invisible so not one person gets through.

I glance at the clock and realize that I have about 5 minutes to take my seat. I walk to the center of the circle and stand in the middle as if I were the Ring Master of the Circus, but I'm not, not yet. I choose the arm chair closest to the door, the one I can use for the "quick escape."

As I take my seat I glance at another photo on the wall in the corner opposite my seat. It immediately reminds me of ne of my favorite dance troupes, Pilobolus Dance Theatre. The photo consists of two barely clad people, intwined, twisted and wrapped around each other and themselves. Once again, hard to tell where one begins and where one ends. Artistic, skillful and unique. Time to untangle and find where I begin and end..

At last the door opens and the circus acts begin to tumble in.

to be continued

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen & Children of All Ages....

Erected in front of the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven is a piece of carnage that was once a steel girder from 9/11. Thrusting out of the foundation it is cemented into, it emerges towards the sky as an unrelenting symbol of survival we all identify with.

The brown carpeted stairway winding it's way to the 2nd floor of the PTSC, which was once a firehouse, is adorned with a huge twisted metal sculpture suspended from the ceiling. Depicting someone's inner turmoil, it is creatively displayed and immediately understood. The gnarly metal with sharp edges is tightly coiled and tangled around itself. Diffcult to tell where it begins or ends, much like someone's tangled past which is raveled around itself with no seemingly way in or out.

Ascending the stairs, art work wraps around the brick firehouse walls and continues up the steps. Nine steps and a landing. A landing placed to take a breather and glance at someone's soul displayed on the walls. Another nine steps, another landing in which to ponder and wonder about the lives of the artful survivors.

Abstract works of art, scream at you with their clashing colors and jagged shapes and beckon your attention. Other works of art are drawn with child-like mindfulness, but the content is far from a childhood lived in peace.

One drawing depicts grave markers of dead soldiers with ransom like writing- RIP - on the tombstones. Fallen comrades, drawn and remembered by the survivors with names, places, and field of death.

One startling piece is framed in a glass boxed frame. Nails, nuts, bolts and screws lie in a heap at the bottom of the frame.
The title: Pieces of the Survivor.

The artwork is stunning and dark, yet a glimmer of hope resides in each and every piece.

At the top of the stairs is the Trauma Group meeting room.

In this room on the second floor are the current survivors of their own personal war. A war that was declared on them, and not by them. They too were called into battle on someone else's terms.

The people in this room are part of my current circus. They bring their own acts as I bring mine. Escape artists, clowns, mimes, magicians, trapeze artists, sword swallowers and 1 or 2 who consider themselves to be the sideshow freaks.

We have perfected our acts that have gotten us through life to shield ourselves from our abusers and our perpetrators and anyone else who tries to get "too close".

It's now time to take off the masks, costumes, cast away the titles we've been given and face our fears with the same courage that has allowed us to survive.

The Ring Master, TGD is waiting.

to be continued.