I’ve had my problems with the word ‘recovery’. So it was with a little reticence and trepidation I arrived at the Raging Calm ‘Flight’ workshop at St Mungos Broadway’s ‘Recovery’ College on Kings Bench. It didn’t help that I appeared on crutches ‘recovering’ from a smashed up leg and wearing a Star Wars air cast boot and looking every bit the theatrical part.
I take responsibility for my ‘driving’ in the past. The lack of self-esteem and self worth, which sat with my demons and secret sorrows in the front seat, have long ago been shoved into the boot. But since being made homeless, the three steps, lose your home, lose your money, lose your ‘family’, in my case all in one week, the road back has been bumpy. But in the last two years, major theatre appearances, a couple of films, a new music album, and a return to teaching and journalism, did I really want to ‘recover’ the past still groaning and moaning in the boot?
I found myself looking around the other participants and, to my horror, being judgmental and assuming, who’s the alcoholic, who’s the smack head, the manic-depressive, etc.? When my old teaching mantra kicked in ‘Assume Nothing!’
We started writing and performing straight away, always a good sign, short episodes pulled from our dreams, our lives and dramas from our imagination, or flights of fancy, as I liked to call them. Then came the difficult part. We were asked to write individual letters to our 16-year-old selves, one hell of a secret sorrow of a demon for me.
While, the others’, “themes of regret and loss emerged… encouragements that the dust has settled… assured themselves that things would be alright”. I had nothing not even an assumption, while they sang, I barely whispered in the wind at the futility of visiting a capricious past. Except that by witnessing the others, came the realisation that it had been cathartic for us as a group, it made us into a community what ever our own particular individual experience of it had been.
Our facilitators, a strange word for fellow human beings, Jeanette, Che, Michael and Vicky, helped us into something resembling a drama company, and to direct us, subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, towards a structured narrative. I remember muttering to myself an old expression I had used when I had been in their place, “it must be like herding cats.”
The chief theme, among many, was the judgemental nature of our society, which emerged through scenes with various characters and text played out individually and together. Best summed up by the two final lines of each workshop, “I care not” and “I am someone,” both will resonate with me for life.
Not wishing to disappear up my own personal preverbal semantic, to recover means to go back and get something, extremely difficult when that something no longer exists. It’s far more important to look know where you are going then to be always staring in that rear view mirror. What made the ‘Flight’ experience and performances magical, as a non-believer in everything and a cynical sceptic I use the word sparingly, was a vehicle more concerned with the future road ahead than the past – magical!