“You can never hurt me,
And you will never cause me pain
Cause you’re made of fire,
And I’m the heavy rain.”
― Ghaith Salloum, Burning Innocence
As much as I wish I could magically make my past disappear, I can’t. No one can. The truth is, it happened and now I have to learn to live with it, heal from it, learn from it and continue to live my life to the fullest.
People have always told me that I need to “let go of the past” and “just move on with life”. I never understood how that works. How can one just not remember the torture that happened to them as a once innocent child? How can one not feel the stabbing, burning, physical body memories every day? How can one not feel the emotions: the fear, the anger, the sadness?
But there is a way I can symbolically “let go”. One idea my art therapist suggested was to make a ceramic bowl, pot or container that I can burn things inside of. She shared with me about the first time she did a burning like this and how much it helped her let go. And in explaining the whole “letting go” part, she said that letting go doesn’t mean that you forget or act like it didn’t happen, but you control your life now, not the memories, not the past. So to her, when she did her burning, she said that watching the smoke rise from her bowl and disappear into the air was symbolizing how those things (the things she was burning) weren’t controlling her thoughts and emotions anymore. She said that there have been things in her life that she’s had to burn again and again and that the process is continual for her.
So after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to have an open mind and just try it. I decided to use red clay draped over a big coffee canister for the basic shape of my pot. Once the clay had slightly hardened, I removed the coffee canister and smoothed out all the bumps and ridges. I thought that I would be done at this point. I was going to use glaze to decorate the outside of the pot, but somewhere along in this process, my mind changed. I decided to carve designs on the outside of the pot. I wanted the designs to be smooth, curling, flowing, swirling….like the smoke as it it would look as it rises from the pot. But I also wanted the designs to be jagged, rough…not perfect. Because I am not perfect. I have a lot of jagged edges and a lot of rough spots.
So this is how it came out. I used a rough ended carving tool and started scratching and carving the curls and swirls into the clay. Artistically, something I struggle with is knowing when enough is enough. I’m never quite sure if a project feels finished. As I looked at my pot, wondering if I should keep carving or not, I realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s finished or not.
There is never a “finish” in recovery and healing.
I wanted this pot to represent that.
After the first firing in the kiln, I put a thin layer of a greenish-teal colored glaze on the pot. I wanted a thin layer so that the natural, earthy red color would show through a little bit.
So this is the finished burning pot.
As you can tell, I haven’t burned these things yet. I’m not sure when I will, but I’m sure I will know when the time is right. Some of the things I have in this pot are words and phrases that describe the shame and guilt I desperately want to rid myself of. There’s also a few photographs, one of my abuser when I was at the age the abuse was happening and one current picture of him and his wife that I found on his Facebook page after he contacted my father several years ago.
“What is to give light must endure burning” – Viktor E. Frankl
So here’s to burning, to the curls of smoke rising to the clouds and to only the bits of ash that remain.