The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing


Excerpted from 8/18/16 transcript. 


This man in the forest…perhaps he begins not as a painter. But he meets a beautiful woman and she inspires in him the desire to paint the walls of his house. When he is done painting those walls, colors he would never choose but colors that remind him of her, he cannot stop painting for painting reminds him of her. 

He begins then to paint canvases. At first one…then two. 

He wants badly to show this beautiful woman his paintings but she is interested only in one thing: leaving the forest forever. The man has fallen deeply in love. She has captivated his heart. And she knows this. But she is only interesting in having this man assist her in one thing: to help her in her dream of leaving. 

The man is heart broken. And seeks council of a wise woman who helped him long ago. He paid her in gold coins for many years and worked with him to feel, eventually, somewhat happier. 

Sad down to the bones, and painting up a storm, he calls upon this wise woman once again to help him again with his pain. Along with him he brings to her one or two of his paintings. The wise woman is is thrilled with his work. 

“Indeed. How lovely you paint!” she says. “Do not hesitate to show me more.” 

The man, who has never thought much of his paintings, feels better for the praise. And continues to bring his paintings this wise woman. 

As time passes eventually the man is rejected by the woman he has fallen in love with. But his devastation lasts only but a few days for he has found purpose in sharing his paintings now with the wise woman. 


Very good. 




What wisdom do we gain now with our allegory?


I see it more clearly…this is the truthiest truth I was looking for. 


And it is?


Eileen’s admiration was perhaps genuine but I think the truth of the matter is…that she is a narcissist and admiration is used to generate narcissistic supply. In other words, by admiring someone vulnerable you manipulate them into needing you. You end up controlling people this way. 


Go on. 


As I wrote the story it became clearer to me that the deep truth is that I think Eileen wanted what I felt for another woman to be transferred to her. In a very deep and fucked up way I think that this is the truth. 


Does this feel right? 


I think so. 


Is it possible to relate this to Notice and the anger? 


I think that the man in the forest grows very, very dependent upon the wise woman to admire his work, to validate it. It is because he has been manipulated by her. He pays her in gold coins and in return she oohs and ahhs like no one has ever in the man’s life done before. 

The forest, despite its vast size, when viewed from above, begins to fill in in vivid colors for the man’s canvases have grown in volume. They start to fill a void inside the man that he did not know exist. 

Every day he shows the wise woman his work. And every day he grows more grateful for the wise woman’s presence and with the productivity and flow it seems to unleash. 


Go on. 


With the wise woman’s wind beneath his brushes he paints wildly. He does not understand where and how exactly the paint fall onto the canvas or why, he only knows to paint. And paint. And paint. 

Without realizing it, he has begun painting for her. For the pleasure of showing her. 

And although he continues to give her gold coins every week, these coins seem besides the point. For she seems genuinely to love his work.  

And his love for painting, painting now for her, grows. 

But one spring day while painting in the forest the man stumbles upon a letter next to one of his canvases from the wise woman. He opens it and it reads like a letter to him. But it’s not. The wise woman’s words speak not of the man’s paintings that he felt that she genuinely loved but instead the wise woman says that she wishes to be the woman that the man once loved, the woman who did not have to look at his paintings but was, rather, simply the recipient of his love and adoration. 

The wise woman speaks of her fatigue in the work it takes to earn her gold coins.

The man is devastated to see the truth; that she has been hired to applaud his work. And that deep down inside what the wise woman really wants is not his paintings but his love, or someone’s love. Love like he was able to give to the first woman. She wonders to herself how she stays married to the man she is with when there is such potential for extreme passion in the world that he has shown, passion that the painter once had for the woman who left long ago. 

The man is shaken by the finding of this letter and he asks the wise woman if he was supposed to see her words. Embarrassed, at first she says yes. 


He realizes that the wise woman whom he looked up to is not as sure footed as he thought. He realizes too that the truth is, in part, that her love of his work has been paid for in gold coins. 

The pain of seeing that the one person who seemed to understand and love his paintings is not genuine is so deep that it slices him just like a knife in two. And, like that, one part of him remains knowing that he has seen the wise woman’s letter. And the other part of him goes on to believe that she is everything he wanted her to be.

The painter is now two painters inside. 

And he continues to paint. And paint. And paint. Even more than before. 


Keep going. Hard work. Clear lake. 


Then one day, months later, the one painter who is now two inside, goes to see the wise woman. He brings her a painting he has created that day especially for her, to give to her, to thank her for all she has done for him. 

She carefully puts the painting to the side, smiling briefly. And then she has something to say to the man who is now two inside. 

The painter, both painters inside, sense that a blow will be landing. 

The wise woman says that she no longer wishes to have a thing to do with the man’s paintings. She tells the painter that she will be vacationing in six weeks and when she comes back she will never again view another piece of his work. 

Both painters inside the man feel desperately ashamed. One of the painters inside feels like a small child, unable to speak or understand all that is going on. The other painter is an adult, ashamed of his paintings, of not quite understanding why he is compelled to paint, knowing only that it is the wise woman who seems to have inspired him deeply to do so. 

The wise woman, over time and without his control, has worked her way into becoming for him, everything. And where there may have been one painter inside him when this story began, then two when the man finds the wise woman’s letter, it is in these moments that there is a blossoming inside, a team forming to protect the man’s sadness and loneliness from landing a mortal blow. 


Continue, S, if you can.


After the wise woman serves her notice, the man who is now many inside loses all of his confidence. But still, he finds a desire to paint. The man who is now many inside finds a team that encourages him to continue to paint, despite everything. Some of the team members tell the man that the wise woman still loves his paintings and that his work is worthy. And the man begins to rely on his team inside to keep him going. And to tell him the things he needs to hear to survive a heart that feels broken beyond repair. 

The wise woman continues to receive the painter’s gold coins and observes his broken heart. She changes her mind and says she will continue to look at his paintings. 

But the sting of her original notice cannot be undone. One member of the man’s team inside in particular holds vigil, reminding the painter that a heart as cold as the wise woman’s will never be melted. He reminds the painter to never trust the woman—the woman whose letter speaks not of the man’s painting but of her own needs. He reminds the painter that this wise woman is not very wise and that she does not have a sense of how she and the man’s paintings are everything to him. This team member holds a vigil on a park bench and remains there in the man’s mind, a reminder to not forget and to stay safe. 

Another team member inside the man receives a love letter from the wise woman. How, she tells him in the form of a poem, she loves his paintings. Each one, she says, is a treasure and her treasure chest, she says, is spilling over with his gifts. 

The man who is now many inside feels chaotic. Worthy. And unworthy. One team member is seduced by the wise woman while another is holding a vigil to forget never once the pain she causes.  

As the months go by the man who is now many inside cannot tell what or who he is. But he continues to paint. And paint. And paint. He paints for the wise woman despite all the pain and confusion he feels. He just knows to paint and he cannot stop. 

The wise woman pays him attention in one moment and at times rejects the painter, ignores him, says mean things occasionally, too. At one point she looks at him and says…why the fuss…it’s just globs of paint on a canvas. She has begun to speak regularly without the care she once had for the painter. And the painter has begun to expect this as the normal course of things. 

Until one day the wise woman appears to be who she was long, long ago. Caring and sweet. And admiring. 

And the painter perks up. 

But within days the painter understands the change; the wise woman was preparing to ask the man for more gold coins.  

“I need more coins if I am going to continue looking at your paintings.”

The painter eventually grows angry at the way he is being treated. He wrestles with his anger, tries desperately to control and contain it. He fears losing the wise woman’s love with his anger. But still, anger finds him every day. 

Unable to not express his anger, he begins to paint ugly portraits of the wise woman. And just like all his other paintings, the ones he is paying a greater fee to share with her, he brings these now to her. 

Take that, he says in his portraits. 

And that…and that. 

His paintbrush, he sees, has become his sword. The wise woman is quickly sliced and wounded. Attacked, she lashes back at the painter. The money, she says, it was the money and the money only that has driven her to admire his work. 

Even as the lashing and slicing go on the man continues to paint and the forest now contains well over four thousand canvases in all. Canvases the painter cannot seem to understand or fathom but canvases, nonetheless he sits in the middle of each day and night. 

One day, surrounded by these canvases, the painter has an epiphany. He realizes with great clarity that his mission in life now is to understand his paintings and his sadness and why he paints so much. 

He assures himself, with this realization, that the wise woman, whom he is paying even more gold coins to, is being paid to be wise, wiser than he. Surely, he tells himself, she can help him to understand this forest filled with four thousand paintings. Surely, he says, she can explain to him why he finds himself many inside where in the beginning of this story he was one. 

But the once wise woman has grown unwise. And angry. And unable to help him

Still, deep down, the painter sees that he must understand better his paintings and why he paints. And why a team has joined him inside to help. So he seeks council in the village with an even wiser woman who specializes in those who are many inside. 

The even wiser woman says that he must leave the first wise woman, that she is harming him now. And, in return for leaving her—and some of his gold coins—she will help him. She says if he wishes to bring up the wise woman’s mistreatment of him to the authorities that she will be unable to participate in such actions. 

The painter who was once one and who is now many inside wants badly the help of the even wiser woman and with great sadness, sadness he cannot really face alone so he uses his entire team inside, he takes a very deep breath and with a great flood of tears he says goodbye to the woman he felt was once wise, the first and the only person who felt his paintings had worth. 

Grief stricken he is now in the hands of the even wiser woman in town. 

She tells him that it is okay to talk of the first wise woman. But when he does, when speaks of wanting to paint for the new wiser woman like he did the last wise woman, she says no, no, no. 

Don’t you see, she says. This is like a small child running to its mother for attention. 

Don’t you, she says, get it? 

The even wiser woman scares the painter. And he puts the painting that he had hidden in his bag to bring to her even deeper into his bag. He feels ashamed. 

And confused. 

Who, he thinks, do I paint for now? 

The even wiser woman says that although it is okay to speak of the first wise woman, that the real work is figuring out who the painter was before he ever even encountered the first wise woman or even the woman he fell in love with long, long ago. 

The painter then takes all of his paintings, now six thousand, and analyzes every single one. He discovers that he was a painter deep inside himself long, long ago but that he’d been asleep for five decades. He slept for five decades because as a very young child he had been beaten and abandoned by his mother and left in the woods to be eaten by a red wolf. The only way to cope with the sadness and danger was to go to sleep and in his dreams summons the same team inside his own self to keep him happy and calm. 

The painter who was many inside had been many inside for a long time. 

It was the woman he fell in love with who woke him up. And he began once again to paint. He was no longer being beaten by his mother and the red wolf had long since found other things to eat. Free at last, he was safe to become the painter he had always wanted to become. 

The wiser woman applauded the painter’s new found wisdom and clarity and patted herself heartily on the back for all the work she had done in guiding the painter to an accurate re-telling of his life’s story. 

However, the painter remained angry. And sad. And left to ponder the mother who left him. And beat him. And the red wolf who tried each day to eat him too. Pieces of his life that had not bothered him until he met up with these wise women. 

The pain of his years with the first wise woman was tossed to the side as well. This pain, the even wiser woman said, was of no consequence to her or anyone else. And besides, she said silently in between the lines in the words that she spoke, if you get angry enough at the first wise woman you will someday become just as angry with me. And I, pray tell, do not want any of that around me. 

The painter continued to paint for in his heart this was all he ever really was or wanted to be. The forest, now north of seven thousand paintings, began to fill with new paintings. Ones that looked different. 

He continued to see the wiser woman who prescribed one day a beloved elixir.  She called her potion EMDR and giggled as the painter drank from the goblet she gave to him. 

As he drank and she giggled he grew sleepier and sleepier and alas he found himself in the park bench park with the part of himself who was still sitting vigil, still hurt deeply for the pain the first wise woman caused him. 

He began to cry which tickled the wiser woman for the elixir is known for its ability to generate tears. 

As he woke from his sleep he told the wiser woman of his journey inside and of the pain that the first wise woman caused him. 

The wiser woman smiled. And silently she said out loud that the pain of the first wise woman was no pain at all. That the wise woman was an old fool. And that his real pain was only to be pinned upon his mother. And the red wolf. 

The painter left feeling still sleepy from all his tears. But as one day turned into two and two into three he could not shake the first wise woman and the pain that she caused him and the vigil that one of his team members inside held for the pain. 

He was, he realized, still bleeding from the pain that the first wise woman had caused him. His heart, he realized, was not healed. For the even wiser woman had failed to help him with the pain that he brought with him when he first arrived at her doorstep. 

He came back to the wiser woman and said…you, wiser woman, are not not wiser. Nor perhaps even wise. All the wisdom lays inside me. Not in you. Or your elixir. 

You said if I gave up the first wise woman and gave you my gold coins you would help me to heal. But you ignored much of my pain. And you too have harmed me. Not as much as the first wise woman for I have grown wiser myself. But you shall listen to me, and perhaps view my paintings as well. 

The painter then began to review his older work and also he continued to paint anew. Together, old and new, he began to become the painter he wanted to become. Together, old paintings and new, he began to see that the deepest wisdom was to be found in his own work and self. And that the wise women he turned to in the village were no wiser than he. 


The End