I’ve been on the waiting list to join Rethink’s pottery class for several months and had almost forgotten I’d agreed to be put on the waiting list. Then a couple of weeks ago I had a phone call from my Rethink worker telling me that a vacancy had come up and asking would I be happy to go ahead with the group?
I replied that I’d be interested in meeting the group leaders and take it from there. Also, I told her that I was absolutely terrified about taking this next step and that I couldn’t agree to doing it until I’d met the group leaders and had a chance to size them up. So we agreed I’d show up the following week at the beginning of the class to be shown around the meet the leaders.
As I thought about the group and how scared I was feeling I realised that this is a HUGE step for me. Most of my activities are solitary activities. I’m a very solitary person, partly because I’ve had to be. But that solitary person doesn’t necessarily want to remain solitary and would like to be able to do things with other people but the sheer thought of having to interact with another human being is so scary for me that quite often it’s totally paralysing and so I carry on with my solitary life and solitary activities. In agreeing to try the pottery group out it means I’m going to have to be part of a group once a week which means I’m going to have to find a way through the terror and total lack of confidence I feel being in a group.
Another interesting dynamic is the memory of being unceremoniously turfed out of art classes as a 12 year old in my first year at grammar school because I couldn’t draw. According to my teacher I was useless and there was no hope for me because I had “no sense of perspective” and I couldn’t look at something and then draw it. That event has stayed with me and carries with it a fear of trying anything creative out in front of other people in case I’m crap at it.
So those two issues combined make it a MASSIVE step.
The night before I was due to visit the group was terrible. I spent the night constantly waking up in a cold sweat and state of sheer terror. I felt really ill the next morning from nerves and nearly phoned to cancel. But that’s not the way I do things so I showed up at the agreed time literally shaking.
The group leaders were very friendly and laid back and did their best to put me at my ease. They were very gentle with me and understood without me having to say that I was finding it a bit of an ordeal.
The main leader has been teaching pottery for over 50 years and used to be a teacher. When I told her I was a complete beginner and was totally terrified about the idea she said “oh I’ve been doing this for 50+ years now and I’m very patient, I’ve found most people can produce something if they’re taught and supported properly, I’ll teach you how to do a fish to begin with.”
I thought “a fish, crikey, eeek” but at the same time felt strangely reassured by this very calm woman who was trying to soothe and encourage a very terrified little girl in a 46 year old woman’s body.
She then asked me if I’d done any clay work at all. My reply was “oh only the type in therapy where you get a piece of clay, do whatever with it, and then bash it to pieces.” She chuckled and said “ah, ok, err that’s not quite the kind of clay work we do here” I chuckled too and somehow that broke the ice, the terrified little girl slipped into the background and adult ‘me’ felt that maybe this was something do-able. She went on to say “this is a type of therapy rather than being a formal kind of class and we see it very much about being therapy.” That comment settled any remaining fears about being found incapable at some later stage and subsequently being thrown out of the group for my lack of artistic ability.
I was introduced to the other group members. There are 7 other people in the group, male and female, so that’s going to be another challenge for me. But everyone was pretty laid back and relaxed and busy concentrating on their work.
After about ten minutes of being shown around and meeting everyone the group leader asked me if it was something I felt I could have a go at? So I’ve agreed to show up on Tuesday 6th November for my first session and to try it out for the six sessions that will lead up to Christmas and see where I go from there.