"My mind's jumbled, but it doesn't matter - we are all jumbling up here." (M)
Phil writes about dementia and the project Making Memories:
This is a quote from one of the participants in a creative writing session we hosted this week. 'M' has a diagnosis of dementia and this quote for all its straightforwardness - M is a very straight-talker - contains considerable complexity, which I'd like to try unpicking a little, if I can.
I'd also like to follow the trail of our last blog, which discusses the idea that allowing chance and ambiguity into creative writing processes for people with dementia actually takes pressure off participants. It allows people who have unusual ways of thinking to sidestep rigid logic structures. We've used cut-up procedures a la William Burroughs in our writing groups for over a decade and have observed the liberating effect that it can have for some folks. (A word of caution here - it can be overwhelming and disorientating for others, which was of course part of Burroughs' intention.)
Molly's observation touches on three big areas in one small sentence. Firstly she observes her own confusion. I love the chutzpah with which she cuts a big disease down to size, using the cuter word 'jumble'. Secondly - and happily - she feels able to shove the negative connotations that this confusion might have to one side, casually remarking that it "doesn't matter" here. Thirdly, she points out that not only is there an INTENTIONAL jumbling going on, but this jumbling is being undertaken by a whole group of like-minded writers. Dementia, for a short time, ceases to be a disability and becomes instead an adjunct to making a poem. And the loneliness of dementia is perhaps slightly abated, because this is a gathering - we are in it together.
I use the word perhaps very advisedly. This is because we are often reminded in these workshops of the devastating terror and havoc that can be wrought by some dementias. One of our participants 'R' at the end of this same session told me how difficult "this thing" dementia can be. I said I couldn't imagine it. This confession rang true with him - "Nobody can imagine it," he said, "but sometimes they'll tell you they can."
I'd like to end with a little of Lewis Carroll's wonderful poem which has given the title to this blog. It is often described as a nonsense poem, but remembering these encounters now, it seems to carry a lot of truth:
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They called aloud, "Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"