Sunday, February 26, 2012

Conversations on Writing, When a Writer Writes Too Much: If you Want People, Move in the Short Direction

The Morning:

"You might want to consider making your blog posts shorter."
"Yeah. I know."
"If you want people to read them. If you want to write just for you then I guess it doesn't matter."
"Well, I don't know if I agree. I have mixed feelings about that."
"I'm just saying if you want people to read it, shorter is better."
"Hmmm."
"People don't have the attention span to read for that long."
"Mmm hmm."
"That's why people read the paper. They want the essentials. They tire easily. They want you to get to the point."
"I know what you're saying. It's something to consider. It's just. I don't know. I don't know if that's me."
"All I am saying is that if you want people to read, then you might want to consider what they are capable of reading. If you don't care whether or not people read your writing and you are writing for yourself, then it doesn't matter and you can keep doing what you are doing."
"Maybe I am for a select audience."
"That's fine if you don't mind that most people won't read what you write. They won't be able to. Remember the first writing piece of yours I ever read - the one about your mother that you wrote at Hampshire?"
"Yeah."
"That was long."
"It was supposed to be long. We were required to write a twenty page paper. It wasn't my choice. Not that I wouldn't have made it that long on my own. But that is what I was asked to do."
"Maybe that's where you got the idea that longer is better. Maybe your English teachers in high school gave you the wrong idea."
"No, I don't think I can blame it on any of that. I was writing never ending stories long before that. I didn't start writing until I was a Junior in high school. Before then, I was just writing the longest letters imaginable. And long scripts. Look at me now, I haven't changed much since then. I guess I like to write that way."
"Uh huh."
"It's definitely something to think about. I want people to read my writing. I do want people to read it."
"Then make it shorter, if you want that. If you are writing a thesis, then long is good. But I don't think you are writing a thesis. You are not doing work that involves academic research or theory."
"I'm a thesis writer without a thesis. Being long-winded is part of my identity as a writer. Of course, I am always evolving and so my identity can change. Not likely, but a possibility. I want to be able to try a variety of styles - to write short and long pieces."
"To be versatile. That's a good goal."
"Remember the comments the editor of the Comstock Review made - that poetry journal I really wanted to have publish my work? She wrote, "Entirely too long" on my poem. It was "Travels." And I consider that a short poem. That is one of my short poems. That's funny."
"See."
"Yeah. Aech."
"What?"
"Poetry journals want the poem to be short because they want it to fit on a page. They only have so much room for each poem."
"Exactly."
"That doesn't seem like a good reason to shorten a poem to me. Just to fit a page. You write a poem to fit within some arbitrary margins instead of letting it be what it should be."
"Maybe it doesn't need to be as long as you think. Maybe it just provides an opportunity for you to put the very best of the poem into the allotted space."
"Maybe. Do you find me to be stubborn and resistant?"
"Defensive, perhaps?"
"I'm always defensive. I'm never defensive. I won't get philosophical on you."
"Good."
"Good...."
"I liked your Emily Dickinson poem."
"Putting on Emily Dickinson's clothes?"
"Yes."
"Good. I'm glad."
"I checked out the other poems."
"Oh yeah? The ones by Billy Collins and Hannah Trees?"
"Yes. I noticed that they were both much, much shorter than yours."
"I guess. I like my poem. I like this one long."
"I really liked it, too. What I read of it. I really liked the beginning. But then it became too much work and I couldn't keep reading it."
"I don't think I will change that one."
"I'm not saying you should. I'm just telling you that I couldn't get myself to read the whole thing."
"Good to know."
"I really liked what I read, though."
"I'm not sure I could get myself to make that one shorter. I like it too much."
"Maybe with the next one you can think of it. Think of someone like me. I want to read your writing. I'm someone who wants to, and I can't get through it. It's too much work. It's too hard."
"I am conflicted. I kind of like that it's too hard to get through. But I want it read. I will start working on it. On getting to the point."

Later the Same Morning:

"I wrote a short poem. It's called Short Feminist Poem. Can I read it to you?"
"Sure."
(Reads "Short Feminist Poem") "What do you think?"
"That's not exactly what I had in mind when I said short. That doesn't seem very short."
"Are you kidding? That's as short as it's gonna get. That's short. For me, that's short. At least it's a step in the right direction. The short direction."


Friday, February 24, 2012

BST Procedures and Role Play: Averting the Pressure Punk, Redirecting Him to the Library to Dance like a Nerd

For Discussion 3, read the following scenario from Chapter 12 and answer the questions that follow.

You are a school counselor and you have been asked to teach a group of eighth graders the skills they will need to resist peer pressure to start smoking. Describe how you will use BST procedures to teach these kids these important skills. Assume that you will work with groups of 20-25 kids in each classroom.


Question 1: Define the skills you will teach.

Self-awareness skills - First I would work to raise my students' collective awareness of peer pressure. Often we don't even realize when we encounter peer pressure, let alone when we are being affected by it. I want them to be aware of what peer pressure is, what forms it can take, how and why it forms, and the affects it has. Raising their collective awareness of peer pressure is the first step I would take. While I have never smoked, I can offer them examples of an instances in which I encountered and responded to peer pressure. I would make separate power-point presentations about peer pressure and social skills, and then I would connect the two presentations in a presentation about the ways in which social rules and behaviors form and interact with peer pressure. During these presentations, I would intermittently present the students with media and in-class examples of peer pressure and its social consequences (e.g., popular film portrayals of peer pressure in an adolescent context.

Social response skills - I would provide them with various peer pressure scenarios and ask them to come up with a list of appropriate social responses in small groups. We would then come together as a class, and each group would present their findings. Following that exercise, students would individually come up with a real-life scenario based on (not an exact translation, but BASED on) an experience they had actually had and write it as a script. The following day, we would move through stations in which we would "try on" different roles for size. Afterward, I would require students to reflect upon their role-playing experience. I would, in conjunction, evaluate their progress and offer suggestions that might strengthen their approach or open their mind to another dimension of the issue.

Multidimensionality and critical thinking skills - It is important that my students be able to see beyond their own perception and to be able to put themselves in another person's place (intellectually and emotionally, at some level). I present them with outsider perspectives on the issue of smoking - articles written by smokers, non-smokers, former-smokers, and those dealing with second hand smoke. I would also present them with parental perspectives, medical/scientific perspectives, sociological perspectives, and contemporary teenage perspectives on the issue. I would also have speakers come to our classroom to better represent interactively their perspectives (I might even include someone with experience in the tobacco industry). I would ask the students to complete a research component to What I want for them to gain from this course is not simply to be able to resist smoking but, most importantly, to be able to know HOW and be able to MAKE informed decisions. I would want them to know what an informed decision is, how it is made, what it looks like, what it feels like. I would want them to be see the importance and helpfulness of informed decision making (of going out into the world with an attuned and critically-thinking mind). I would want them to rationally and emotionally understand that healthy and competent decision-making involves critical thought and analysis as well as the ability to choose and act in accordance with that choice. With these skills, they will inevitably go out into the world with more confidence and competence as individual thinkers, doers, and decision-makers.

Self-monitoring skills - As autonomous individuals in the world, we need to be able to observe our selves and be aware of our selves (our emotions, our actions, our thoughts). I would provide students in my class with opportunities to observe themselves and describe their observations in a variety of contexts (in peer-pressure situations at home, at school, at church...). I would allow them room to create self-designed and collaborative projects (make a film, write a poem, conduct a survey, complete a case study,...) dealing with the issue of decision-making.
Self-confidence and initiative skills - It would be important to me for my students to apply this training and learning experience to other aspects of their lives. I would hope that all of it, especially the training, would improve their confidence and allow them to feel like they can handle a variety of social situations with a good degree of calmness, confidence and competence. While taking into consideration their individual differences, I would give them opportunities to improve their assertiveness skills, teach them new skills through those opportunities, require that they take initiative by participating in new and uncomfortable social scenarios, and require that they complete written and oral self-evaluations of their training experiences.

Smoking Resistance skills - After introducing students to peer pressure in its many forms, I would incorporate the subject of smoking and how it plays out in social contexts that they might find themselves in NOW and at various points in life. I would want them to be able to respond to the peer pressure to stop smoking VERY specifically, efficiently and effectively; so I would be sure to give them the most specific information, tools, skills and practice about/with smoking peer pressure. We (the students and I both - working together) would apply the self-awarness skills, social response skills, self-monitoring skills, and initiative skills to the smoking peer pressure scenario - and then, subsequently I would provide them with opportunities to practice those skills in a training situation geared toward the goal of resisting the peer pressure to smoke.

Generalization skills - I would want my students to be able to see that peer pressure is not something that is specific to any one group of individuals, that it affects humans from a young age into adulthood and beyond. I would want them to consider peer pressure cross-culturally so I would provide them with examples of the social rules and pressures in non-Western societies. I would also want them to see how the skill of critical thinking and informed decision-making can be applied to any aspect of their lives. In order to further assist them in gaining confidence as decision-makers, we would -as a class- prepare an hour-long presentation for a group of  *younger* students from a differing cultural, geographical or socioeconomic location. This project would require the class to consider their likely similarities and differences from their educational population. They would design a program specifically for this one population, all the while being aware of some of the limitations and biases of their own world-views. The presentation itself would allow them to teach what they have just learned (and would, therefore, serve as a reinforcer). It would also allow them to see how smoking (or something else) is viewed by other dissimilar populations. It would give them practice communicating and would also provide them with a multi-cultural experience (which would, in turn, allow them to see beyond them own perception). I would hope that through the experience of being in the role of peer mentor that they would gain some additional confidence with the material. The knowledge that they were serving as role models for younger students might build upon their sense of purpose and self-worth.

Reflection skills - I would want students to understand the work we did and HOW it worked. I would want them to understand the process that we went through so that they could see how it all fits together into a cohesive and coherent picture. As a class, we would be going through decision-making process together in order to make individual informed decisions on the issue of smoking. It's not smoking that I necessarily want them to resist: it's peer pressure (which disempowers and diminishes our ability to make autonomous informed decisions). If the students understand the process and understand the importance of critical thought and informed decision-making then I will consider them as having been successful. My evaluation of them would be comprehensive, and would include a very important reflection component.

Question 2: Identify the situations in which the kids will need these skills

Students will be able to use these skills in virtually any context. Students will be able to better handle any situation in which they are presented with external pressure. My goal would be for students to be able to transfer the skills they have learned  to respond to the peer pressure to start smoking into other areas of their lives (when they are presented with dangerous behaviors, when they are being urged to do anything they are unsure about). I would make it make it my goal to teach particular life skills that would assist them in handling peer pressure in ANY situation. I would want them to be able to generalize their skills into other situations that involve peer pressure, as well as to generalize the skill of responding confidently and intelligently to peer pressure into other areas of life. I would hope that the peer pressure skills could transform other aspects of their lives - possibly transforming their interpersonal and professional communication styles in general, the way they think in general, and the way they react in general. The skill I would want for them to gain from the experience would be the skill of informed decision-making. Smoking would be the relevant means through which this skill would be transferred and realized.


Question 3: Create the role-plays you will use in training.

I will use multiple role-plays during training, but mostly role-plays created by the students themselves. I will also invite students from a local high school to come into our classroom and work with the students in role play scenarios and other similarly interactive activities. I think having the students create their own scenarios would be most appropriate, helpful and fun. Here is an example of what an example I would give them might (but probably, given that they are in eighth grade, would not EXACTLY) look like:

Pressure Punk 1 (Puck): Got any smokes on you, babe?
Young Ms. Jessie:  Pardon me, Babe. Smokes? Are you asking me if I have any smoked pheasant or salmon? I prefer my salmon grilled!
Pressure Punk 1 (Puck): Oh yeah, real funny. Seriously. I'm all out.
Young Ms. Jessie: Seriously. I don't have what you're looking for.
Pressure Punk 2: You're in luck, Puck. I do. (Pulls out a pack of pseudo cigs)
Pressure Punk 1: Awesome, dude.
Young Ms. Jessie: Her name isn't dude, it's Parker.
Pressure Punk 1: Parker, your friend here's a real smart one. She doesn't know how to have any fun.
Pressure Punk 2: She just hasn't had a cigarette yet. Once she has one, she'll loosen up. Come on, Jessie, here. Have one (Holds a cigarette out and puts her arm around Jessie)
Young Ms. Jessie: Ummm.
Pressure Punk 2: It's so good. You will love it. Just try it.
Young Ms. Jessie: It doesn't look like something I will enjoy. I KNOW it doesn't smell like something I will enjoy.
Pressure Punk 1: What's with you? You're so uptight. This girl NEEDS cigarette. (Takes the cigarette from Parker's hand and lights it with his lighter)
Young Ms. Jessie: I don't mean to be rude. But I don't like the way cigarettes smell. And they're just not right for me.
Pressure Punk 2: Come on, Jessie. If you try it, I will write you a sonnet tonight AND read it aloud in English class tomorrow. I'll even wear trousers and read it in a British accent.
Young Ms. Jessie: Now THAT is tempting.
Pressure Punk 1: You two are weird.
Pressure Punk 2: So. Will you?
Young Ms. Jessie: As much as I want your sonnet and your trousers and your British accent, I'm not going to smoke. Do you really want to be smoking, Parker? You know, neither of us has to do this.
Pressure Punk 2: I don't know.
Young Ms. Jessie: I don't want to pressure you, Parker, but we could just go to the library instead and read the Twelfth Night aloud in one of the lofts.
Pressure Punk 1: What is going on here? (Is still holding the lit cigarette but hasn't smoked it yet)
Pressure Punk 2: You would like to know, wouldn't you. (Hands Puck the pack of cigarettes and takes Jessie's hand)
Young Ms. Jessie: Wow. Yes!
Formerly Pressure Punk 2, Now Parker: You know, Puck, smoking isn't really that cool. Have you ever even read a Shakespeare play?
Pressure Punk 1: Shakespeare? What's that? Some kind of nerdy dance move.
Young Ms. Jessie: Yep. That's exactly what it is. It doesn't smell bad at all. It doesn't coat your lungs with tobacco. It doesn't lead to lung cancer. It's just the dance of one or two nerds.
Parker: I totally want to go be a nerd with you. Right now.
Young Ms. Jessie: Awesome. Let's go. (The two start to leave, arm-in-arm)
Pressure Punk 1: Wait. You guys are seriously going to the library to do a nerdy dance? Can I come? (Sets down the cigarettes near and ashtray and follows them out)



Question 4: Describe how you will model the behavior and what instructions you will give.

I would model the behavior in ways that are natural and believable. Since I do not smoke, it wouldn't be as believable for me to try to model the resistance of peer pressure to smoke. I would explain to them upfront why I never felt the desire nor pressure to smoke. I was, of course, given opportunities and at times was invited and encouraged to smoke - I never found it tempting though. I did not like the way cigarettes smelled and had absolutely no interest in putting one in my mouth. But I would want to make sure they understand that I am not infallible to peer pressure - that there are some decisions I have made without thinking beforehand and some decisions I have made in response to peer pressure (not many, but some). I think that the students would respect me and would at least be influenced in some small degree by my self-disclosure and self-representation in class. I would interact with them in activities outside of class so that they could see me model informed decision-making in non-academic contexts (and so that they would see that their training can be transferred outside of the classroom).

At the end of the training portion of the course, I would arrange for us (as a class) to meet with the high school students they worked with during the marking period for a pizza party at the end of the semester. At times during the party, I would interact and model assertive and thoughtful decision-making and communication skills. At other times during the party, I would distance myself from my students and allow them to interact with the older students. Following the party, we would discuss as a class how the party went and if anything interesting (*relevant) happened. I would ask that the high school class provide us with feedback on the interaction. And, finally, I would encourage students to choose one peer mentor (high school student from the mentoring class) to continue communicating with throughout the year. Making this connection would also help my eighth grade students transition into high school with greater ease and confidence. In general, I would model confident behaviors and independent decision-making in a variety of contexts and discuss any moments that were troubling in some way for me to them at the beginning of class. I would also offer my confidential assistance to any of them if they privately wished to discuss anything that came up in their lived during the course.

My instructions for them would depend on the day's activities. In terms of resisting the peer pressure to smoke, I would offer them various suggestions (or, "instructions") to help them make an informed decision. For instance, I would encourage them to find a friend they could trust and with whom they share similar values and ideas. I would suggest that they talk about this issue privately with their same-age peer and come to some sort of understanding about NOT smoking. This friendship might come in handy during times of peer pressure. I would make it clear that having a PEER who can both keep you in check when you are wavering or weak will be helpful because you will have your support system already set up (and won't be as likely to feel usurped by the social isolation of choosing to refrain from smoking). In addition, it will provide you with an opportunity to gain more confidence and insight by being the person on the other end who serves as a support person (who offers advice and listens). Feeling needed and feeling helpful are great ways to gain confidence. Of course, I would warn them that having a Bold Buddy might be effective but that there is always the possibility that something might go wrong - that their buddy might let them down or even go so far as to contribute to the peer pressure in a social situation when they least expect it.

As a backup plan, I would suggest that they also discuss the issue with their parents, an older sibling and/or another dependable adult. A Bold Buddy is a great thing to have with you IN the moment of pressure, but it's also good to have a support system OUTSIDE of the peer environment to which you can turn. I would let the students know that they are setting themselves up for success by having a comprehensive support system in place. If a student is alone in the actual moment of pressure to smoke and does not feel equipped to make an informed decision, I would suggest that she either ask for a few minutes to think about it or make up an excuse to distract their peers from the pressuring behavior enough and give herself an opportunity to get out of the immediate moment of pressure (by saying, for instance, "Maybe. I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back" or "I have to check my phone messages. Hold on" or just by saying "I'll be right back"). IF the student does not feel confident and able to make a informed decision in the moment, then separating herself from the immediate situation is the step to take. (Literally: Say something or don't say something beforehand, but the student must WALK AWAY and give herself time to THINK before she returns to the environment of pressure.) If the student does feel confident and able to make an informed decision, then I do not have any further instructions for them - they will have the skills necessary to respond to the pressure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Having Your HUSBAND Committed - A Stark Raving Mad Abnormal Psychology of Betrayal and a Comment on When You Should Committ Him (And Committ Him, You Should!)

(If you had been in Mark’s position) How would you have felt to have been forced into treatment?

Ah, hypothetical empathy. I don't know how I would have felt to have been forced into treatment because I think that if I were severely depressed to the point that I were stabbing myself with a pen, I would not be resistant and would appreciate having someone or something save me. If I were stabbing my arm with a pen, you can bet the act (!) would be histrionic in nature and not suicidal. I'm not much of a fighter, except in writing. Nor am I a self-killer. I don't like pain and suffering. I don't like death. (You might wonder, though, in light of my poetry and my Dances with Ghosts.) I don't think I am of a depressive composition. I'm more of a moderately anxious and stressed composition, so I don't know what it's like to be down so low that I want to and try to kill myself.

There was only one time I truly felt like dying, and that occurred during my first and only semester at Hampshire College when I was under stress and feeling too lonely for words. All that I remember was that I was standing in my pajamas at the end of my bed pressed against the midnight blue comforter with the yellow and purple moons and stars that collected hair like nothing else, feeling like a failure with no potential and no hope for happiness. The purple lights were on and I didn't feel like going out and I didn't feel like doing anything (not that I ever did feel like going out and doing anything) - I felt like vanishing and that's all.

I felt like I would rather be dead than alive. I did not want to be living, at that moment. I thought of all the bad things that were happening or had happened: someone important to me forgot my birthday; my ex-womanfriend was suicidal after I broke off the relationship with her and spoke with me every night on the phone, crying over how she was THIS CLOSE to getting a knife and getting "it" over with; my on line lovers were rising up from the dead trying to insert themselves into my heart of love (even the infamous Jeanne of Olean instant messaged me on my birthday to tell me she finally figured out who, of the hundreds of women she's been with, was her soul mate - can you guess who it was?) but I finally realized that not one of them was or would ever be the one for me; my Hampshire College Feminist Fictions professor, Lyn Hanley, gave me the necessary bad news: "You have good ideas, but you don't know how to write" - or was it "The ideas are good but the writing is awful;" I did not know what in God's (!) name I was doing in the Ethics of Reproduction class I was taking with the intimidating and sharp Falguni Sheth and was ready to throw in the towel and say, "I Can't" to Kant; my reclusive ways (yes, my favorite hall-mate called me "Recluse" whenever he was high in the night - and he was high in the night every night) were catching up with me and showing me my dark side; I felt stuck with a million questions and no answers, I felt clueless as to who I was or wanted to be; I was sick of struggling to survive, sick of trying to stay afloat when all I wanted to do was sink and grieve the days away.

Does that sound like depression to you? Okay, it does to me, too. I was temporarily depressed and those were some of the factors that caused and/or contributed to it. The suicidal moment was real and dramatic and very sad. It involved a lot of tears. It involved thoughts like: "Why is life like this? Why can't it be different? Why can't it just be easy? It's too hard. It's too hard. I hate it. Why are people so horrible? Why can't I stop loving the person I love? I don't understand anything. I will never have the answers. I thought I knew. I was wrong. It's not fair. People suck. I'm people. I suck. What the fuck is the point of any of this? I want to die. Why? Whyyyyy."

I actually think suicidal thoughts are sometimes rational, helpful and even (kill me now ! for saying this) romantic. Sometimes life really is a piece of shit. If you watched your whole family die (I have no idea why this is my quintessential reference to torture) then I would not blame you for wanting to be dead. In fact, maybe being dead would be a better option than having to live with that kind of pain. Maybe it wouldn't be a better option. It depends on the individual and how she feels and whether or not help is helping her enough. I don't think life is ALWAYS worth living. There are some, extreme, instances in which death is preferable. I don't know whether or not my thoughts were rational or irrational at that moment at Dakon Hall E2, The Gay Hall, but life did suck at that moment. That moment did not capture the whole of my existence though - the happy moments, the "life is so good" moments. The balance was tipped on the side of life sucks and the life is good side was up in the air. My first semester at college was hard because there were so few of the "life is good" moments. I was young and had not developed the skills or knowledge of myself to be able to make "the best" out of dark and difficult times. I wanted to die, but I wasn't suicidal because I just wanted to be killed (quickly and painlessly) and to not have to kill myself. It was the closest thing to suicidality that I have ever experienced.

I will try to relate Mark's forced commitment and treatment to the time in my life when I was most at the edge of sanity and most likely to have been committed (to somewhere or something). When my mother was emotionally abusing me because of my lesbian identity in high school, there were times when she talked (no, screamed or hissed) about wanting to have me committed to a mental hospital and to wanting to have me moved out of my school to a far away nether region (boarding school to break witches of their craft and evil life), and wanting to have me go away to a camp for recovering homosexuals.

I remember thinking, while I was lying on the floor below her screaming into the berber carpet, about what I might do if I ever ended up in a psychiatric ward or in a homo-recovery camp. I remember thinking I would fight and rebel "until the death." That I would fight the system and BE INSANE to spite the system (or to spite my mother...). Giving up was not an option. If fighting the system wouldn't have worked, I would have tried playing the system at its own game and performing the role of SANITY. I knew this, then: I knew I would do whatever the hell I had to do to SURVIVE so that I could tell my story and find my freedom.

I don't know that I would have done any of that, though, once I was around rational people who wanted to help (I was assuming wherever my mother was going to send me would be rampant with irrationality, and based on what I know about the world now - it probably would have been). In the case of the recovery camp, it's safe to assume I would not have been in a rational or helpful environment. I would have been in a psycho ward instead of a psych ward (sorry, the sounds made me do it!) I think if I were placed in a psych ward, I would have been deemed perfectly well and sane - and that my mother would have been the one identified as being in need of psychological assistance (and maybe she recognized that on some distant level, because I never ended up in a psychiatric hospital). Even then, on the floor in the chaos, I was thinking about my mother: worrying about what "they" might do with her or say about her once they knew what was really going on at home. I was worrying about my mother's reputation. I did not want her to be humiliated for what she was doing to me, I just wanted her to stop doing it to me.

My rational and healthy-minded self would never want to be given ECT therapy. I would not consent to that now, and I doubt I would want that in a serious situation in which I was irrational. But...if I was trying to kill myself and unresponsive, then I imagine it would be necessary. And that's the point of the ethical questions involved in committing someone - determining what qualifies as "necessary." That's so difficult to think about. The rationality of the provider is key and the ethical standards of the field of Clinical Psychology is key to the rationality of the provider (at least in part). If I could trust in the rationality of the psychologist, then I could accept that it had to be done. But if I thought someone who was not trustworthy or rational had power over me, then that would be a different story and I would be stark raving mad.

I guess the point is this. I cannot imagine what it is like to be involuntarily forced into treatment as an irrational person; I can only imagine being involuntarily forced into treatment as a rational person (because that is what I am, a rational person - I know, laugh all you want). I knew that my mother's threats of taking me to a psychiatric hospital were ridiculous because I knew that she was the irrational one and I was the rational one (although I recognized that her irrationality was driving me into a state of irrationality). If you are forced into treatment because you are in some way psychologically incapacitated, you are not going to like it (WHILE you are incapacitated). When you come to a place of normal psychological functioning, you will likely see things through a rational lens and have an understanding for the actions taken. However, if the actions were hastily made and irrational in and of themselves (and you are able to figure this out when YOU are rational), then get thee to a lesbian lawyer and divorce yourself from the electroconvulsive wife you married or the electroconvulsive therapist you married.

How must his wife have felt when she signed the forms giving permission for the ECT treatments?

I can only imagine that Tanya felt terribly anxious and ambivalent when she signed the permission forms for the ECT treatments. She was going against her Husband on High's wishes and, God Forbid, placing her judgement above his own. She was assuming a position of power over him in a very dramatic way. Within marriages, couples are always negotiating and renegotiating power dymanics. Who knows what kind of power dynamics were established between Mark and Tanya (or, Man-and-Wife. Or, Man-and-WiFi) before this happened. She may have been at a total loss and utterly uncomfortable making decisions for her husband (if that was not an already established pattern in their relationship).

In crisis, we all have to make decisions. Often those decisions bring us completely out of our comfort zones. It's par for the terrible course. I can also imagine that she felt guilty for going against him (even though it wasn't against HIM she was going against, it was the catatonic depression). If my mother had been reprimanded publicly for her psychological unwellness during my Coming Out then I, like Tanya, would have been an emotional mess of conflict. Rationally, I would know what was best. Emotionally, I would have been a mess (confident on the outside, perhaps, but shaking on the inside). Emotionally, Tanya may have felt terribly guilty and perceived her action emotionally as a form of betrayal. Sometimes we must betray the ones we love, whether they be our mothers, our husbands or our selves in order to make rational decisions in times of crisis.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who's Your Daddy: When Eric Clapton was Our Daughter's Daddy



Elanah has been toying with the idea of "daddy" lately. She hasn't been contemplating fatherhood and the role of "the father," but she has been identifying certain people as "daddy." Trust me, I try not encourage (or discourage) it too much - I know doing either will have the same effect. Telling Elanah that she can't have a daddy would be like telling her she can't pick her nose: it would just make her do it more. When it comes to nose-picking, we tell the girls to "Pick in Private." Perhaps we should tell Elanah to "Pick in Private" when it comes to picking her daddy, too. She wants to point to "dah-dee" publicly, though; and as with nose-picking it may be our preference for her to do so somewhat privately, but it's certainly not the end of the world as we know it!

Darah went through a short phase when she was one year old, in which she would call certain men "daddy." She called Russ, one of Sandy's colleagues, "Daddy" when he was reading a board book to her about cow who "eats straw and hay almost every day" on the train ride to Chicago for an MPA conference in 2009. We thought to ourselves, "Oh great, every man she meets is going to be Daddy." That didn't happen for more than a day or two. Thank goddesses. At this moment in time, Elanah is very interested in "Daddy." For whatever "He's" worth. During the past few weeks, she has been talking about Daddy. Imagine the various expressions on my face when she approaches me to cheerfully point to images of men and say, in her proud and defiant new-found way, "daaaaaahdee."

The first time Elanah mentioned Daddy was when I was organizing CDs on our CD shelf after we had hardwood floors put into our house. She brought Eric Clapton over to me (on the "August" CD cover) and held him in front of my face, pointing and saying "Dah-dee. Daaaaah-dee." I said, "Oh, that's Daddy?" Then I laughed. I thought she must be thinking of Adam, her bio father, since they look alike with the beard and all. I asked her if it was Adam, and she said, "No, Dah-deeeeee." I said, "Elanah, you have two mommies. You don't have a daddy." Then she put the CD right in front of my face and said, "DAH-DEE." I said, "Okay, that can be your daddy. Eric Clapton can be Elanah's Daddy." I then told her to bring Daddy to Momma Si.

She showed Momma Si, who laughed and acknowledged her Daddy; and then she brought it back to me, set it on my lap and pointed to it. She said, quietly and with a very impish smile on her face, "Dah-dee." I said, "Are you sure you want this to be your daddy?" She became more insistent with her "DAHHHH-DEEEs" until I cut her off and said, "Okay, give Daddy back to me, I need to put him on the shelf with the others." I was still convinced that Daddy might be based on Bearded Adam, but what happened the next day threw me for a loop.

I was going through some old photos for scanning and purging purposes, and she came upon a photo of Joey from his Freshman year of high school at WEAST. She held it up and started breathing shallow, excited, breaths. "Dah-dee," she exclaimed joyously in her sing-song voice. She hugged the photo to her belly. I said, "That's Uncle Joey." "No, Dah-dee," she insisted. "Do you think Uncle Joey is Daddy?" "Yah, Dah-dee. DAH-dee." "Okay, Uncle Joey can be Daddy. I approve." "She ran away to the other side of the room and sat, staring at young Joey. Then she brought it back to me and kissed the photo. I said, "Aw, you love your Uncle Joey!" She said, "Yah" and, kissing it again, smiled and said, "Daaaah-deee."

That faded away over time and Uncle Joey stopped being Daddy. For the past week or so, Momma Si has been Daddy. Which, in a way, is as it should be. If anyone is going to be Daddy, I suppose it should be Momma Si (that, or Eric Clapton). When she sees images of an adult woman and an adult man in a book, she will point and say, "Mommy ah Daddy. Mommy ah E." (E is what Elanah calls Momma Si because she cannot yet say Momma Si. Originally Sandy was going to be Mom and I was going to be Mummy J. Then, to make it clearer for Darah, I specified by saying Momma Sandy. Darah, when she was one, could not say Sandy so she called her Ma Si - which later became Momma Si. Now Elanah can't say Momma Si so she calls her E. So Sandy has had many names and I have always been Mommy instead of Mummy J.)

Sandy is most consistently Elanah's Daddy; but Eric Clapton does rival her in that status at times. Yesterday, Elanah brought me a photo of Darah that was in my stationary box in my nightstand drawer. The side and back of Adam's head are in the photo. She pointed to the image and said, "Dah-dee." I said, "That's Adam." She said, "NO. Dah-dee." "Do you think Adam is Daddy?" "Yah. Ah. No. No. Daaaah-dee." It was unclear to me whether or not she made the Adam-Daddy connection. I said, "It's okay if that's Daddy." Then she pointed again at the photo and said, "E." I said, "You think that's E?" "Yeaaaah." I said, "Oh. Well that's not E. That's Adam." "No, Dah-dee." I left it at that, because I was trying to study for the GREs.

When Adam was visiting with the girls later in the afternoon, I told him about the photo incident. Again, I asked Elanah if Adam was Daddy. She said, "Yah-Nooooooo." Then she came and pointed at my knee and said, "Dah-dee." I was kind of happy to have her call me Daddy. That just goes to show how preposterous and chameleon-like "Daddy" really is in this house. If I can be Daddy, then anyone can be Daddy. While we were laughing at Elanah's Daddy-mind-changing, she ran over to the CD shelf and began taking out CDs. I knew what, or who, she was looking for. "Looking for Eric Clapton?" "Yah. Yah, yah, yah," she said, bouncing up and down. I pulled him out (the CD out) and handed it to her. "Here you are." "Dah-dee!" She ran the CD over to Adam and showed him Daddy. She held "August" with both hands against her chest and said, "Dah. Dee." I said, "Okay. That's Daddy. Do you love your Daddy?" "Yah." "Do you want me to put this somewhere in your room so you can see Daddy whenever you want." "Yeaaaah."

Elanah ran Eric Clapton Daddy into her bedroom and put it on her orange rocking chair. I said, "Let's put him up here so you can see him and so no one sits on him." And that was that. Until this morning, when Elanah insisted that Sandy (E) is Daddy. "E Dah-dee. E Dah-dee." The Daddy saga will continue, I'm sure. As new developments come in, you can be sure you'll hear it first here with your dedicated and dependable Channel Mother News Team. Elanah's Daddy was Eric Clapton yesterday. This morning, Daddy was E. Now, ask yourselves this: Who's your Daddy? Don't miss the latest up-to-date Daddy News. Stay tuned.