Turns Out, I am Mr. Potato Head
Sometimes, when I begin a journal entry, I have no idea where it’s going. There’s no road map. What’s inside will come out. It may be the first I’m aware of it – the only pathway it’s found to expression, or it might be something I’ve thought about and repressed a hundred times. That’s the beauty of the writing that I have been privileged to do through the Creative Arts Program at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
When I began working with (NCCC Creative Writing Specialist) Marv, I had no clue what would emerge out of the dark recesses of my mind. I was struggling with processing my diagnosis and finding a way forward through it. As we spent more time together, writing became a way for me to label my deepest fears, to express the gratitude for the community that surrounds me, and to laugh at how much I’ve hated chicken noodle soup since getting sick.
Around the same time that I began regular sessions with Marv, I was also seeing a therapist. I wasn’t sure what it was I was looking for from either of them, but I knew that getting a diagnosis/prognosis like the one that had just been handed to me definitely merited some soul searching. The therapist attempted to work on my anxiety without really digging into the heart of my grief. Marv, on the other hand, coaxed out the feelings of loss, fear, anger, and all of the other things swimming around in my head. His questions, perhaps shaped by his vast experience with others traveling roads similar to mine, have always zeroed in on the very topics that are bubbling just beneath the surface. When I say good-bye to Marv, I leave feeling lighter and happier than when I arrived. (I have subsequently found my way to a therapist who is a better fit than the first one, one who shares Marv’s talent for asking great questions and hearing the most salient themes in my answers.)
As deeply grateful as I feel for what I’ve gotten out of the Creative Arts Program, I have to admit that I don’t always see the value in Marv’s coaching immediately. A few months ago, when he asked me this ridiculous question about what kind of toy I am (followed by what kind of toy I wish I was and what toy other people might think I am), I rolled my eyes as I picked up my pen…
…then was fascinated by my answers.
I hadn’t realized until that moment how hard I had been working to keep a positive affect/attitude in front of my friends and family:
“People think I am a doll – a face with a permanent smile.”
And I figured out why I had been wrestling so with what I was feeling from moment to moment:
“I wish I was a Rubik’s Cube, with a clear and organized solution; but I am actually Mr. Potato Head, whose emotions fluctuate constantly, and whose shoes always seem to be missing.”
Seriously. How do you reconcile a Rubik’s Cube with Mr. Potato Head?!?
I think you begin by naming it. Thank you, Marv, for helping me put the words to the things.