Beginnings and equality

So, we have begun this enquiry into what it might feel like to be living with a dementia that affects the senses. As part of the project, we will be devising a performance piece in response to a nursing home residency, and it’s the first time I have been commissioned to write/devise a performance piece.  It’s exciting and somewhat terrifying.   I trust in the work and that with the varied skills we bring to this, it will be good.

We are 4 visits into our nursing home residency and each day I learn more, understand more. Before we began, I worried I wouldn’t remember enough from the residency/training last year, but it ends up being fine as this is all part of the process, part of the enquiry. The vital things float to the top, becoming part of the instinct we are developing for this way of working.   Susanna has said before that every residency is different, every person is different and so is every meeting of that person.   The fact that it is always new is reassuring.

There are two things that have been particularly helpful and relevant in this beginning stage:

That I am creating and holding a safe space in which to be with that person at that time: they are safe and I am safe;

And that this encounter is a meeting of equals.

It is helpful to remember that not only am I making a safe space for them to be with me in, I am also safe within that space.   This was crucial for me, I realized.

Also, in my third meeting with A, when I came with the idea and intention of equality, I experienced a particular connection between us: she saw me and I saw her clearly. It’s a connection like the best friendship – non-judgemental, supportive, fully present. And celebratory – we laughed often.   This brought a new, deeper quality to our exchange that I hadn’t experienced before. A real gift for me.

Meeting B for the first time, with the idea of the safe space and of equality, really surprised me. Despite a clumsy start, we soon entered a space of connection. Afterwards, I realised that although I had thought of me entering his consciousness, I hadn’t thought about him entering mine. I felt changed and enriched by our meeting.   Though B didn’t have many words that I could understand, I clearly understood the emotions behind his words. That was more than enough.

In this work, we enter this relationship being open and non-judgemental, as well as very robust. We make and keep the space safe for this encounter – when someone is that open, with no barriers, it’s important that I meet them openly, with no barriers, but with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

I’m not sure if this makes sense, the way I’ve told it. I am beginning to see that language is not necessary for communication… at least, not language as I defined it before.

Shazea Quraishi