The protagonist in An Incoming Tide, Dr. Estelle Caylie, makes this comment as she views a self-portrait painted by her Aunt Leanne. The portrait is painted in a rough, palette knife, style—a cacophony of colour. Initially, Estelle was perturbed by the chaos of it, couldn’t make sense of it being a self-portrait. Then, Leanne had her focus on one small area of white paint. Suddenly, the gestalt shifted. Estelle’s aunt’s image emerges from the rough lines and jarring colours.
Aunt Leanne had raised Estelle from childhood. And, quite a traumatic childhood it was. In reflecting on the beauty—the truthfulness—of the portrait, Estelle adds that always Aunt Leanne was there for her, emerging amidst the chaos to take care of her. The truth the portrait tells resonates with Estelle’s subjective reality of this central and sustaining relationship in her life.
What we consider to be truth is what resonates with and reflects our own subjective experience of the world around us. We all carry the illusion that what is true is something out there when it is actually what is within us, triggered by something out there. As a part of this illusion we think that the manner in which we perceive the world correctly captures the world as it is. We might even go so far as to think that others who see it differently are just simply wrong.
Truth is not objectivity, truth is the label we give to our own subjectivity echoed back to us.
I present An Incoming Tide as a piece of truth telling.
‘A work of fiction telling the truth?’ you ask. It is but fiction, fabrication.
An Incoming Tide arises from more than four decades of providing mental health treatment. There is a truth to tell from the subjectivity of a psychotherapist dealing daily, hourly, with human emotional suffering. Some of that subjective truth is now dissolved into a novel—dissolved liked sedatives mixed into a glass of red wine as part of a murder scenario (watch for that in Chapter One).
But I am hampered in my truth telling. True to the ethics of my former profession as a psychologist, I am bound to protect the confidentiality of my former clients. I cannot transpose their personal stories into my fiction, and I have not.
Setting all of those professionally witnessed, compelling and poignant, narratives aside, An Incoming Tide documents a fictional downward slide into a profound mental health collapse. But here I must be clear. It is a collapse like no other that I witnessed in my clients. But even though it is not, it is true to much of what I came to understand about the breakdown of sanity and self.
In that way, it tells the truth—the truth from my own subjective sense of what interpersonal dysfunction, trauma and tragedy does in a person’s life.
And just as Estelle exclaimed when viewing her aunt’s self-portrait, I hope my readers might think the novel beautiful—beautiful because even it its ugliness, in its cacophony of characters and happenings, it tells the truth.
A truth anyway . . . mine . . . for whatever that might be worth.