To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a recent conversation I had with my mom.
Me: I’m sick and tired of swimming in this ocean of shit! I don’t get anywhere! There’s no fucking shore, only sharks!
Mom: I bet that’s how it feels. How about you climb onto my kayak for a rest and to dry up, get warm again and have a look around.
Me: I want my own fucking kayak.
Mom: I know, baby.
Me: It’s not fair I don’t got one!
Mom: I know, baby. It isn’t.
Me: I can’t even swim well!
Mom: Are you up on my kayak yet, or still kicking water? Didn’t you say you wanted a break from swimming?
Many of our conversations go like this. We talk about swimming in the sea, about life saving kayaks, sharks, driftwood, the shore and drowning. And we don’t ever leave the house for it, nor do we have pipe bursts.
And in reality we aren’t talking about anything involving real water or real kayaks either. I don’t know if my mom would even cut a good figure in a real kayak. I actually doubt it, hehe.
What we are really talking about is the whole mess involving feelings and coping skills and getting through the day and my ongoing battle with borderline and relationships and everything. Only it’s really hard to talk about that. It’s tricky to write about when I have a lot of time to collect my thoughts, and in a real-life situation I just don’t have the words to make much sense, much less convey what I really want to say. Even when I kind of feel like I know what I want to say. Then I get frustrated and angry because nobody understands me and mad at myself for not being able to talk to people and from there it’s just a small hop to being destructive and stonewalling.
Talking in metaphors helps. At our house “swimming in the ocean” means dealing with whatever I need to deal with to get through the day and “drowing” means not being able to deal with it. When we talk about a “kayak” we mean the coping skills and emotional skills that usually allow people to get through their days okay and without getting upset or into an emotional chaos over every small thing. We call it a kayak instead of a life boat, because while a boat can carry other people, a kayak can not. It’s just a one-person kayak. And nobody’s coping skills can permanently even out another person’s lack thereof, right? But a small rest by climbing on the kayak is okay.
It’s also easier to simply ask for a break on my mom’s kayak – meaning my mom taking over the task of getting my feelings to calm down – than to go to her and admit I’m not managing yet again. Even when it means the same, it’s easier to talk about water and kayaks. She can also use it to explain to me why I mustn’t fuss too much while on her kayak. Ever seen two people on one small kayak and the one of them is fussing around, leaning this way and that? Even the best kayak would flip over. I can accept that more easily if I think of the whole deal as a kayak.
Plus, not much room on a kayak, so I can’t really HELP snuggling up to my mom and being a bit clingy, can I? 😉
We have lots of other metaphors too, and they really make our days easier. I can only recommend using them. They can make talking about complicated shit a lot nicer, especially when feelings are involved.