Clap Harder For Tinkerbell

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

One of my favorite monologues in the history of theater comes from Christopher Durang, in the play ‘Denity Crisis, wherein a character talks about attending a performance of Peter Pan when she was eight years old:
“You remember how in the second act Tinkerbell drinks some poison that peter is about to drink in order to save him? And then Peter turns to the audience and he says that ‘Tinkerbell is going to die because not enough people believe in fairies. But if all of you clap your hands real hard to show that you do believe in fairies, maybe she won’t die.’ So, we all started to clap. I clapped so long and so hard that my palms hurt and they even started to bleed I clapped so hard. Then suddenly the actress playing Peter Pan turned to the audience and she said, ‘That wasn’t enough. You did not clap hard enough. Tinkerbell is dead.’ And then we all started to cry.”
…I may like twisted things.
But the point is, a friend of mine yesterday posted a snippet from an essay that said this:
“A person who uses the term ‘damaged’ to describe themselves is pigeonholing themselves into a trap of never wanting to heal. People don’t get ‘damaged.’ People get HURT. Hurt can heal.”
When I read this, what I I heard people was clapping very hard for a Tinkerbell who’d never get up.
For me, some wounds don’t heal – and it’s not for lack of trying. I know this, because I have had wounds that have healed up miraculously when I’ve applied effort to them, but…
Others have never been fixed. Despite decades of therapy, communication,and change.
Parts of me are broken, and that’s not because I didn’t want to fix them.
So for me, this advice is a lot like telling a paraplegic, “If you can’t walk, that’s because you didn’t try hard enough.” I think irreparable psychological damage happens. I think broken happens.
But I also think workarounds also happen. If you ask people what would happen if they got confined to a wheelchair, a lot of people say they’d end their lives. But most don’t. Most soldier on, and lots find ways to have satisfying lives around that central damage.
But for me – and keep that “for me” firmly in mind – while irreparable psychological damage happens and broke happens, then workarounds also happen. Workarounds are wonderful. Workarounds make you grow into newer and better places in life – places you might not have explored without the damage.
They find other strengths to keep functioning around that central loss – and to me, in a way, that’s even more miraculous than healing.
Yet when I said that to my friend, he responded very forcefully that I was wrong. He’d been through some terrible shit in his lifetime, also working with all sorts of psychological wounds – and he needed to believe that he could heal everything to get through the tremendous pains he’d had in life. And you know what?
He’s not wrong.
Maybe he can.
My journey is not everyone else’s – which, I think, is the worst and most callous error you can make. I think it’s true for me that I can’t heal every wound by willpower alone, but maybe he can – and if so, good for him.
And if it turns out he can’t heal every wound by pouring willpower into it…. So what? What he’s got is a philosophy that keeps him pushing forward. What that message is saying, at its core, is “Don’t give up” – and that’s not a bad message for people working through difficult issues.
I’m not giving up, either. I’m taking a different approach, and if he has to interpret my differing results as giving up, well – I don’t care. Not because I’m blowing him off, but because I’m happy for him that he’s found a philosophy that empowers him… even if that same philosophy would disempower me.
We’re all different, man. The reason that Christopher Durang monologue resonates with me is because it illustrates how different pasts can lead to different results. For me, I had a play in my past where I clapped until my palms bled, and we still buried Tinkerbell.
For my friend, maybe he got her back. Maybe most people do.
Maybe my experience is not theirs.
And that’s why I didn’t argue. He’s got something that works for him, for now, and maybe in a few years he’ll come around to my way of thinking. Or maybe I’ll come around to his.
But as long as we’re both fighting to improve our mental resilience and stability, he’s my brother. And I support him in finding whatever works for him.
Just as I support finding whatever works for me.


  1. Lucretia
    Dec 23, 2015

    One of the most powerful pieces you’ve written. Thank you. Needed to read that about now.

  2. Wintermute
    Dec 24, 2015

    I have recently been wrestling with some personal demons and have been hurting a lot. Yesterday someone suggested that maybe not all demons need to be laid, that maybe some demons you just learn to live with. That you figure out how to work around them. I’d never considered that, having grown up believing that I just needed to clap harder, and that my inability to heal all my broken parts was just another failure on my part.
    The idea that not only do I not need to fix everything, but that maybe I can’t and that there is beauty in that… Mind. Blown.

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