“Everything comes from shit.” –Daniel Lanois
2014 was a long year.
In late May of 2014, I was about to complete the Preliminary Studies Program at the Santa Fe Jung Institute and a semester of study in contemporary psychodynamic work. Having completed 3000 hours of direct client contact the previous autumn, I had been studying for the NCMHCE for two months. (The NCMHCE is the exam that grants us independent licensure.) I was in year three of personal analysis, and year eight of ongoing therapy. I was doing the things needed to move me towards the goal of becoming a Jungian analyst, and I figured that I’d apply to the Interregional training program towards the end of the year. I had a plan, and it made perfect sense within the context of the professional choices I’d been making over the previous five years.
Except none of it was sitting right. I was rebellious and resentful in my trainings. I was angry about the meager pay I received as a contracting LMHC counselor. The big test was a gate, but through it I saw more ambivalence and stagnation, not the light of a new way of life.
I took the test burrowed in the back of an H&R Block, and as we can now, got my results as soon as I was done. I knew I’d managed my anxiety fairly well; I knew I’d gotten at least a handful of things wrong, but I felt pretty confident that I’d passed. So I was stunned to learn that I’d failed, as many have before me.
I was drained by the weeks of anxiety I’d endured leading up to the test. I stood outside the H&R Block, San Mateo traffic whizzing by, staring at my “FAIL” paper for some time. I didn’t fail things like this, I thought; I get good grades. I studied. I paid my dues. I was pretty unsettled by the whole thing, but understood that this kind of stuff happens to folks, smart folks even, and that I’d just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over (Peter Tosh). But there was a difference: by this point I’d reclaimed the role of artist.
After a year of seeing 20-25 patients a week at my first agency job, I’d begun to make art again. With goop and cardboard all over the place, I’d fallen in love again with randomness, with texture, with color. I made things I found meaningful I began volunteering with the Giant Puppet Parade, led by artist Sunny Birklund at OffCenter Arts here in Albquerque. I thought of my work within the context of my first study and careers in the arts. It was also self-care, a time of silence in the sunlight of my studio with forms of knowing that were uncommon in my work as a therapist. Over the two years prior to May 2014, I’d had a show (thank you Judy!), and had been dreaming of and drawing up bigger and bigger things. I felt right making things; I felt connected; I felt scared by the wide open space the “artist” role evoked in me, but excited too. The last time I’d been an artist first and a something-else second, I’d suffered a big failure that I’d only been able to resolve by quitting the role entirely.
I resumed studying for the NCMHCE in September. It continued not to go well: I failed at least half of the simulations I attempted, and I did 4-5 a day. I had a harder time managing my anxiety. I began to understand that without some serious changes, I was likely to fail the test again at my next sitting, which was scheduled for early November.
Truthfully, that was the darkest moment. That was the moment in which the big, obvious failure of the May test bore fruit. That was the moment in which I could at last tolerate the fear that drove my rebellion and resentment long enough to see it, and begin to dig beneath it, down to where my grief lay, and where love took care of it. I realized that I couldn’t return to the therapist’s chair, to therapy in general, the way I’d done it. Really, with my failure at the first NCMHCE an old way of being had died, and I was now ready to mourn my loss, let it go, and let it open me up. I was now ready to live a little more vulnerably, a little more firmly. My faith had grown. It had taken more than twenty years, but I was ready to be an artist, at last. I was ready to be myself again.
So I quit.
It took weeks, of course, to end my agency work well. But by mid-October, I was studying 4-6 hours a day. I learned more about the vision of the writers of the DSM than I had in the five previous years. It was hard work, finding the light in that tortuous labyrinth, but it paid off: I emerged from my flurry of flash cards and simulations with a “PASS” on my paper in mid November. I am now an LPCC psychotherapist.
How does my soul work live with the work of being a modern American adult? None of the ladders I’ve climbed, MA and NCMHCE included, have in themselves answered that question. Art and healing both rest on faith, ultimately. And here’s mine: I trust my soul to tell me, day by day, from here on out.
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The work in this show comes from things begun two years ago, when I began experimenting with paperclay made from reclaimed cardboard. Most of the objects in the show are made of the stuff. Over the past few months I’ve cut up things I made months earlier and evolved the pieces into new relationships. The wounds are still visible, as are the means of their healing. I am working on letting the process have its own voice, its own aesthetic. Tones I once saw as just the byblows of making things I’m now making space for, or even singing with.
This work shares my love of rhythm–of cycles, vibrations, and the complex systems that arise when simple impulses interact within a medium. With this work I’m exploring texture, gestures conscious and unconscious, and the ancient roots of decorative patterns.
recent work by Andrew Fearnside
Wild Heart Gallery
3960 San Felipe Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507
Opening Friday, 2/6/15, 6-9pm
On display 2/6-3/15/15.
Call/text for more information: 505 459 9642