In some ways this is the most difficult piece of this series. The past and future seem to be easy to write about. Somehow writing about Now feels hard. If I write about Now other people can recognise it. My friends know the current me. They were at the party I might describe. Or were in the car with me yesterday. They were probably not around 40 years ago. And may not be around in the future. So writing about the present feels more risky. The image I’ve chosen proclaims that Aylesbury is linked with a town in France, Bourg-en-Bresse, situated near Lyon. We are also twinned with towns in Poland, Germany and Turkey. I wonder what benefits any of us receive from this arrangement? But the point for me is that Aylesbury is connected to foreign parts. No matter how tenuously, we have these links.Although one doesn’t have to look far to encounter the “foreign”. As with most English towns there are any number of languages spoken other than English. And each language has its own links to somewhere other than Aylesbury. Two streets away I can find shops catering for the Polish community. Two more streets and the staff are Indian, talking to each other in Urdu or Hindi and to their customers in English. All this in the Here and Now. I am surrounded by the Other.
The same holds true in the inner world. there, too, I am surrounded by the Other. By parts of myself that speak a different language to the rest of me.If I’m driving and somebody cuts me up, a “foreign” part of me emerges. If someone takes to long in a supermarket queue, a “foreign” part of me emerges.My dreams reveal “foreign” aspects of myself. Except,of course, they are not foreign. They are an integral part of the community that is Terry Burridge. As is the me who is a teacher. The me who is a counsellor. The me who is a husband. These all make up the present Terry Burridge.
Many years ago I did my best to be a devout Evangelical Christian. (I was good at it! I needed to be. I had no other identity.) One of the unhelpful aspects of this way of thinking was that it saw one’s “foreign” parts as sinful. Aspects that should be fought against and over which one should exercise constant vigilance. What did not happen was much attempt to get to know these “foreigners”. To learn their language and understand their view of things. (This ,of course,takes into the world of -ism’s. Racism.Sexism. And the like. We fear what we do not understand. And from fear can come a wish to destroy what we do not comprehend.) I remember several conversations with staff at Broadmoor. I wondered how they felt about working with patients who had committed some unspeakable acts .The reply was always along the lines of “We’re not here to judge them. We’re here to help them.” They did just that. And the patents eventually had a chance at a new life. They were fully ware of their foreign parts. But had learned to make peace with them.
To return to the title of this blog. “Who lives here? The present.” It’s been hard work writing this piece. Which might be why it’s taken me longer than usual to post it. I normally write on a Sunday evening.It might also be that so much of my clinical work is about the past in the present. The future in the present .And, even, the present in the present. Sometimes.