Tuesday 23rd June: I have had a very lovely day at work, calm and relaxing with lots of discussions with my clients.
A long talk
Only one man came to the stroke group this morning. He wallowed in the attention, as it was the first time that he has had an (unplanned) individual session. He talked about his daughter who is twenty and interested in art, and about his son who is six and has just started school. We talked about how, because he has had a stroke, he can experience so much more of his son's childhood than he did his daughter's. For the first time, I believe, he saw this as something positive.
He told me about what for him is an unusual relationship with his mate in the workshop, because his mate is twenty years' younger than he is. We discussed what aspects of their relationship each one of them enjoys. I suggested that the younger man looks to him for support that perhaps his father cannot offer him. Again a light lit up in my client's eyes. I believe that he was beginning to see some of the more positive aspects of his present life.
He then went on to talk about the changed relationship with his wife, the swapping of roles since he had a stroke. He told me how it is still difficult for him to be the cleaner and the washer-upper and the baby sitter while he sees his wife carrying heavy crates of water into the cellar. He tells me how he tries as much as he can to offer her a third hand to make light of the work.
He asked whether, if his wife would like to talk to me, could she come to the group? I told him that the other clients often bring their partners or grown-up children, and they are all welcome at any time. It is important for them to know and understand what we are doing in our conductive groups. It is important for them too to ask me questions about how life can progress at home.
I talked to him about conductive upbringing and he asked me to tell him everything that I know, so he can learn quickly and get better for his wife! He wants to be able to mend the vacuum cleaner as fast as he can and help hang the curtains. To play football with his son and discuss important matters with his daughter.
If I was his wife I would be happy with a broken vacuum cleaner. It would mean a break from cleaning! But I understand what my client means. It isn’t about whether the vacuum cleaner works, it is about feeling a valuable member of his small community, his family.
Living in the slow lane
Sometimes it almost breaks my heart to talk to these people, I know from my own personal experience what it is like. But I also know the benefits of having a life in the slow lane.
I told my client how glad I am that I do the job that I do, because it means that all day long I live at a slower pace than do most people in the rest of the world. I am able to live life slowly and really appreciate everything because the people who I work with just cannot live in the fast lane. I love how the work now laps over into my life and I am able not to rush and panic but at the same time get lots of things done.
My client's eyes opened wide when I said all of this. Maybe for the first time he realised how lucky he has been in many ways to have been at home for most of his young son’s life, enjoying every minute of his early development. This is something that many Dads miss, especially those Dads who live in the really fast lane.
Receiving presents gracefully
Later in the day I was an art therapist.What a lovely part of my work these hours are.
I have spend the past six weeks building up a relationship with a young man who comes to me to paint for two hours each week. We are getting on marvellously and he is enjoying the time as much as I am.
He is an outdoor person spending many long hours in the forest collecting wood for the wood-burning stoves that his family use. He is autistic. This is his “work”.
Today I gracefully received four presents from him. They were not presents that had been previously packed up for me, or given any thought in advance. They were spontaneous gifts of something that he had in his pocket or in the car. Just as in my own pockets there are conkers, stones with holes, elastic bands discarded by the postman and washers, screws and assorted metal objects found in the street, so too there are in my client's pockets.
When my young client felt so happy with our work together that he felt the need to give me something, he dug a hand into one of his pockets and produced first a stone, then a small branch from a cherry tree. Later as we walked to the car he picked up a stone from the pavement to give me, and from somewhere or other he produced a plaster gnome that I am to look after until next week.
At the end of our session I spontaneously gave my client the four-leaf clover that I just had found outside my room while I waited for him to arrive. His eyes gleamed as he held it tight, apparently all the journey home.
The title of this posting is “Taking life easy” but I am not quite sure about that! By the time that my next group arrived I had already been at work for nine hours. I hadhad a thirty-minute lunch break at some time or other, I think.
Tuesday is my favourite day, however, despite or maybe because of the long hours.
Next came the “workers group”. These are the clients who come to me after their work. We are all tired, we all try to relax and we all enjoy each other's company. It is always a very enjoyable evening, not like work at all.
We all come together for two hours each week to do a bit of conductive living. We often cook, we learn new board games, we have quiz nights, we play skittles and we also manage to fit in a bit of the traditional 1-2-3-4-5.
Usually after this long day I jump on my bike, cycle the ten kilometres home, leap into a hot bath and get straight into bed with the Guardian Weekly. Probably not with the amount of energy suggested in this description but I am usually very happy with the day’s work.
Some Tuesdays, though, it is different. Occasionally one of my clients invites me to tea. We then sit “taking life easy” together with her Mum.
Also a nice ending to a lovely day.