Years ago before I became a researcher I trained to become a Clinical Psychologist. I was not very good as a therapist but I was good at and loved doing psychological testing. Today I love a little salt and pepper shaker set made up of one tomato and one little corn on the cob.
The thing that comes to mind for most people when you say psychological testing is that “a head shrinker is going to try to trick me and make me look crazy.” I suppose that does happen sometimes but mostly psychological tests are like any other medical tests, they are there to try to figure out what might not be functioning so well. I’d like to think it is not up there on the level of colonoscopy but I can understand that it is up there with things like a mammogram. It looks inside of you and it can make you feel vulnerable. They can be the doorway to appropriate treatment for many disorders. They can open options for children and their families in school settings. Psychological tests are good things when they are selected and administered appropriately. One commonly used form of question psychological tests is a simile. “How is X like Y”. The way you reason out the answer provides information about how you think. So for me, today, the question is “How is a ballgown like Salt and Pepper Shakers”
What put me in the mind of psychological tests? Salt and pepper shakers. Yup, salt and pepper shakers. Last week I had one of my proverbial online coupons for 35% off of the sale price with free expedited shipping. For some reason I was burning to buy something. Most of the times these days after plumbing and pillows, toilet paper and televisions I am totally burned out on shopping and more than that, on spending money on things that I am constantly aware most families in the world could never afford.
My EuroAmerican Consumer side was out in full force. I should say it was out in full force accompanied by a woman on a mission to get the best % off of the coolest thing.
Enter dishes that look like fruits and vegetables. “WHAT? Dishes like fruits and vegetables?” This from a woman who once gave away everything but her white dishes so that nothing wold look silly and everything would match? “YUP, those little corn and tomato salt and pepper shakers make my heart melt. And they are only $2.67 with free expedited shipping. Oh, look at the little soup bowls. They are so cute. There is one tomato, one red pepper, an artichoke and, aw, how cute, an egg plant. They even have little green stems on them.”
And, of course, I managed to find corn shaped dishes and the only elegant thing among them, an asparagus plate. Worse yet, all together they were about the same price as lunch for two at the Olive Garden (not that we have one in our rural-ish town but I see them on TV).
They arrived today. When I opened the boxes I oohed and ahhed over them thinking they were the cutest things ever and that they would perk up my white dishes. I can hardly wait for summer to invite friends to eat off of them. They will all fall over in a dead faint. They won’t believe me being frivolous.
The fire has changed me in ways that my friends have had to gallop to keep up with. I have to commend them all for sticking around and for coming with me on my convoluted path of re-envisioning the world. It is not high drama on most days but it can be. Mostly it is just me acting differently than expected. For years I was one of the throngs of high-strung, exhausted, stressed-out-of-your-mind professionals trying to run far more projects than any human being should ever try to do. Everything was either a crisis or sleeping. I had almost nothing in between falling over exhausted and dealing with yet another work disaster. Before the fire I had passed out of that phase of my life but I brought more remnants of it with me than I wanted. Things that should not have mattered still mattered and I had to make an effort to reduce my work-driven response to them.
Since the fire it has been easier and easier to not be reactive. Things seem simpler, softer. I recognize that part of the softness is the early overwhelming grief followed by the quiet reminders that make your heat tender and your physical body reduces its stress in that tenderness.
So this is how a ballgown and salt and pepper shakers are alike. They are both about how I have changed in the world since the fire. I would never have let myself do things so functionally useless in the past. I had too much to do and they were so much clutter. Now they delight and inspire. Their bright colors and swirling shapes are pleasing to me. They bring me joy. They bring me the joy that I can share with others which is what I knew was supposed to be but truly learned from the fire. We exist to live in joy and to bring that joy to each other even if is with little corn and tomato salt and pepper shakers.