Draw your Story

One weekend last year, Chris and I sat in two full days of adoption based learning and training. We sort of slumped in our chairs like teenagers forced to participate in a group project. We were a group of wildly different people, from varied backgrounds, all with the same goal, but coming at the goal from a hundred different angles. Our teacher was young, enthusiastic, and beautifully supportive of everyone.

She split us up into 3 groups at tables with one large, white piece of paper and markers. Only, when she handed out the markers, she just grabbed a handful. I swapped markers with other tables to make sure that my table had a wide array of beautiful colors. Then she told us to draw. No instructions and no talking among the group. Our little group sat there and hesitantly looked at each other, not sure what we were supposed to be doing. Cautiously we began scribbling, each in their own white corner, or clustered together with the safety of a partner. I grabbed a color and began making broad strokes in the middle, grabbing with my marker the white space in between our images and pulling them together. Slowly our group started catching on, and began adding to each other’s artwork until our poster was becoming a unified piece, created from a hundred different perspectives. Except one couple. They stayed in their corner, drawing beautifully (obviously much more artistically gifted than the rest), but refusing to connect with the group. Or maybe not exactly refusing, but they were doing their own thing, and I confess that I didn’t like it. It made me mad, and frustrated that they were not attempting to connect.

Then our instructor switched things up a little. She pulled the isolated couple away and sent them to another table and brought two more people to ours. Unbeknownst to us, she whispered in their ears to cause chaos. Our new couple stood at the table and began adding faces to the drawing, on top of our artwork. But, our little group was delighted with our new collaborators. And then the woman next to the isolated couple’s drawing reached over and added graffiti to their abandoned artwork. Our group was even more delighted, a few more giggles and snickers broke out and more graffiti ensued.

I’m sure you could read layers and layers of psychological evaluations into the exercise. Our teacher wanted us to think about what happens when a new element is added to an existing structure, and to highlight how different identities might choose to interact within the same structure without clearly defined guidelines. She pulled our paper and looked surprised at our strangely cohesive piece of art, highlighted throughout with snarky looking faces. She had never had a group develop something similar. Sure enough, the other projects were many individual pieces of artwork separated by white space, with obvious disruptions caused by the persons assigned a trouble making role.

The thing that hit me the most about that moment was that feeling of frustration towards the couple who sat in their corner and did their own thing. I learned something about myself that day. I liked the chaos of everyone drawing in their own style and their own color. I didn’t mind the varied degrees of talent or interpretations. But that feeling of overwhelming frustration towards the couple who did not connect was mind blowing to me. I realized how incredibly important community and togetherness is to me. It’s not that everyone have the same ideas or the same mind or the same style, but that somehow we managed to create something together. Or at least, that we were working together to create something. The finished product was not the thing, the together part was the thing.

We are feeling that pull and tug right now. I think I understand what that exercise a year ago was about. Some days I feel like a Momma Duck with two little, yellow quackers and one new kitten. The kitten is frustrated by the dynamics of a family of ducks, and the ducks can’t fathom why the kitten wants to stay high up in a tree. There is white space all over the poster board, and I can’t seem to find the way to bring it all together. I spend my days quack-meowing, and at times it’s really, really hard. That might be a depressing way to end, and I could probably come up with a way to finish with a bow. But today, I think I will just stick with the bare bones of the reality.

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