Archive for May, 2007

Can you keep a secret?

I can. With the best of them. It’s part of what I do for a living. And that may be part of why I really don’t like to do it in real life. Let me amend that. It’s not that I don’t like keeping confidences. Actually, keeping confidence is my default mode. You don’t really have to tell me not to pass something along. Unless you specifically tell me to pass it along, I probably won’t. No, what I don’t like is being snared into keeping secrets, in real life.

I have one relative who is fond of telling me (and others) something, usually something personal, sometimes “juicy,” often controversial, and saying, “You cannot tell ANYBODY.” And then when I am around the “anybodies” to whom she was referring, I can tell that she’s told them the same thing. So we’re all there, knowing, but being forbidden from discussing it with one another while we all pretend we don’t know what we know and aren’t thinking about what we’re thinking about. You know?

It happens with people sometimes who tell you something awful that a mutual acquaintance/friend/relative has done to them. But you mustn’t say anything. To quote Pearl, “I’m tired of this crap.” Telling me how you’ve been victimized may relieve you of some of the distress about it, but it delivers that distress right onto me. I can’t confront the person who did you wrong because you don’t want me to (or do you?) and because it’s “not my business,” (then explain to me again, why am I in this?), and I can’t pass it on to someone else to relieve some of my distress about it, because that would be gossip, and that is against my religion (unless it’s something totally worth breaking that rule for). So . . . here I am, stuck with your crap. Not that that’s an unfamiliar position for me to be in, or one that I can’t handle. It’s just that normally, when I’m in this position, I collect a check after 50 minutes.

I’m aware that both my personal and professional history contribute to my regard for secrets. How many good things have to be kept secret? Not an upcoming “surprise,” but an ongoing secret? Good things don’t become secrets. It’s the illegal, immoral, unethical things that become secrets. And most of those things couldn’t go on apart from the secret-keepers’ participation, collusion in them. And in the end, I believe nothing remains secret. Light shines eventually. Do you know of a secret that has been and will be a secret “forever?” I don’t. They’ve either been revealed, or I can see how they will be, even years down the road, even after some of the main characters are long gone.

I recently received an email from the mother of one of LG’s friends. The subject line said “Something weird about LG, I thought you’d want to know.” The email explained that LG had mentioned to the writer’s daughter, Sneezer, something that she had seen in a TV movie. The topic was of a disturbing, controversial nature. When I scanned my feeble memory bank, I almost immediately knew what LG was referring to. It was from the movie, “The Stand,” which we allowed her to watch part of, on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s a great movie. It’s also over LG’s (age 11) head, but I hope some day she’ll watch it. The part in question was, ironically, a scene which LG didn’t even see. Jif changed the channel. But I, open-minded, open-mouthed therapist Mom, told LG why she couldn’t see it. In doing so, I told her what happened in it. In exactly . . . six words. That is to say, I did not give her a graphic description, the very thing that Jif and I were trying to protect her from. But apparently the brief explanation was striking enough that she told Sneezer something like, “I saw a movie in which [six words].”

I wrote back to the mom that I knew exactly what she was talking about, and I was sorry if hearing about that was distressing to Sneezer, and I would discuss it with LG. Before I went to discuss it with LG a few days later, I reread the other mother’s email. And I had not caught this upon first reading, but she said there, “If you discuss this with LG, do NOT tell her that Sneezer told me and I told you. Sneezer is worried about getting her in trouble.”

(Here’s the part where I shatter any remaining illusions that I am a pleasant, easy-going person; I really think I used to be. I don’t know if it’s WTF, or old age, or what, but stuff bugs me now, and I say so.) Maybe it’s just me, but that pissed me off. I didn’t get any say in the matter. I was being instructed on how to handle a sensitive subject with my child. I really resented this other woman making the rules about how I could and couldn’t do that. And somehow, just the very act of my opening her email obligated me to follow the rules contained therein, or else be a . . . bad person? Bad friend? Tattletale?

I wrote back to her,

“I didn’t bring this up with LG earlier in the week, because we’ve been so busy. I went back and read your email before approaching her about the subject, and I was glad I did. I didn’t catch the first time that you didn’t want me to mention Sneezer. I will talk to her about it without mentioning Sneezer, as you asked. But I did want to let you know, for future reference, that’s not how I normally communicate with LG, i.e., bringing up something but being unwilling to fully disclose where I’m coming from. I wouldn’t want her to do that with me, so I don’t like to do that with her. I only mention this because I hope that if anything arises in the future that you think I should know about, you will still tell me, even knowing that I will tell her where my information came from.

. . . And you can reassure Sneezer that LG isn’t in trouble; I don’t think she did anything wrong. I do need to remind her that not everyone talks about all the things we talk about. Occupational hazard, I’m afraid.

Thanks again for letting me know, and I hope my way of doing things won’t prevent you from communicating any concerns in the future.”

I don’t know whether she’ll ever tell me anything after that. I do know that I don’t want to be constrained by her ideas of parenting, so if she chooses to keep something from me, because I will be honest with my child, that’s the risk I choose to take.

I think it’s the mixed message about these examples that pushes my buttons: I trust you enough to confide this in you, but I don’t trust that you can choose how to handle the information in an appropriate, constructive manner. So I’ll tell you what to do with the information.

How do you handle imposed secrecy? Is it hard for you, or is it just me?

file under: &About Me &Family


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While visiting virtual friends recently, I was reminded of how very much I enjoy children’s artwork. William sent others here to see the turkeys and the snowmans (perhaps my favorite posts here), and he showed us the chilling charming examples of his own artwork. The depravity imagination depicted there was inspiring. At about the same time, CK talked about viewing her son’s artwork at the preschool teacher’s conference. These friends got me to thinking about my own experience of children’s artwork, as therapist and as mother.

Part of the teacher conference in LG’s preschool was the viewing of the children’s artwork. While Jif and I waited our turn to chat with Ms. Stacey in the circle time area, we went to look at the children’s self-portraits on the bulletin board. LG had been drawing self-portraits for ages. Hers were characterized by remarkable attention to detail, for her age. Her drawings of “wittle dirls” featured not only fingers, toes and ears (advanced for her age) but perhaps even earrings, nail polish, a scarf, a purse. She was a girly girl and didn’t care who knew it.

As we stood there happily scanning the bulletin board — “Oh, look at this one! Isn’t that adorable?” — my eyes came to rest on one self-portrait that was not like the others. The subject had somewhat of a circle for a head. But no face. No limbs. The body, however, appeared a convulsion of shape and color. Hmm, this can not be good. The absence of a face. Ohdeargod. This child is probably severely neglected, completely under-stimulated, perhaps abused. There are no legs, with which to run and play — or to escape. There are no arms, no hands. A clear indication of powerlessness, helplessness. I feel almost sick. I look closer at the body. It is triangular in shape, such as children draw to indicate a woman’s dress. The colors are bright — I would even say “loud,” and the shapes swirl around one another wildly. I fear this child is psychotic. I glance toward Ms. Stacey, who is just finishing up with the parents before us. I stealthily lift up the corner of the red construction paper on which the self-portrait is mounted, so I can read this poor child’s name. There it is: LG Fairchild.

While I stand there, stunned, Ms. Stacey sidles up to us and greets us cheerfully. She sees that I have seen, and she gives me that head-slightly-cocked, lips-pursed, brow-furrowed look of concerned compassion that teachers sometimes give to parents of the not-quite-right. She says, too brightly, “You know, LG is very good at many things…” and she leads us to the circle time rug where we put big butts in little chairs and listen to the very many things that LG has mastered. All the while, I can’t focus on what Ms. Stacey is saying, because in my head, I am saying, “What on earth was she thinking? She draws way better than any of these little rugrats. What is that drawing? Ohmylord, does Stacey think she’s abused? Psychotic? Is there something wrong that I have missed?” And like that.

We finish up with Ms. Stacey, and return to look at other displays around the room. LG, who has been playing across the hall with Ms. Betty, joins us in her classroom and quietly escorts us around its perimeter while Ms. Stacey meets with the next parents. We find ourselves in front of the self-portrait bulletin board.

“This one’s mine!” she says proudly.

“Yes, I know. Can you tell me about it?”

“It’s me.”

“It’s hard for me to tell, that, though. Because I can’t really see your face . . . “

“I got bored with faces. And hands. And stuff. Do you wike my dwess?”

“This is your dress?” I ask, pointing to the wildly colored triangle.

“Yes! I designed a new fabwic! Do you wike my fabwic?! I was going to finish my face and stuff, but I took too wong on the fabwic! Do you wike it?!”

“This is fabric?” I asked, my voice catching in relieved giggles/snickers.

“It’s paiswees! Do you wike my paiswees?!”

I WIKE ‘EM A WOT! “These are the loveliest paisleys I have ever, ever seen. You are a most excellent fabric designer!” Thank. GOD.

At the end of that school year, Ms. Stacey pulled out the first self-portrait, and another one, the one that LG did at the end of the year. The final one had a face, and hands, and fashion accessories, the way most of LG’s drawings had for a long time. And Ms. Stacey was so very proud at the progress LG had made under her guidance over the school year. I never told Ms. Stacey that while the other kids were mastering hands on the ends of their arms, LG had moved on to textile design.

The moral of this story: ask a kid to tell you about his or her drawing before you call protective services.

file under: &Family &Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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Sunday Post ~ “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.” — C. S. Lewis

Matthew 22:36-40

file under: &Sunday Post

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You have always been my type. You know this. I have never been able to resist your kind. But today, as I look at you . . . it’s just too much. You’re too much. The things I’ve loved about you in the past . . . overwhelm me now, in this new incarnation of you. Your best qualities, they’re overdone now; my favorite parts of you . . . frankly, they’re too damned big now. I can’t handle all of you. The thought of it . . .

I have to admit I am tempted. But I would almost have to take you in, in small installments. I’d be . . . overcome, incoherent, if I tried to take you all at once now. You and I had an unspoken agreement — moderation. You are anything but moderate, now. And yes, I know that we crossed boundaries from time to time. There have even been moments of compulsivity to our relationship, I’ll admit that. But we always got back on track. We always knew that moderation was the only thing that would allow us to keep seeing each other.

But now . . . what were you thinking!? I know there’s a lot of pressure out there. To change, to morph into one thing or another. But how did you let this happen? You need to RESIST! Fight the power! I was so excited to be alone with you today, but when I saw you, completely uncovered before me . . . the parts that I once loved, so looked forward to, are now almost vulgar, obscene. Just put something over yourself, would you? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU?! Is it steroids? I’ve heard about that. Ohmygosh . . . is it CRACK?! I’ve heard it said that crack takes your natural qualities and magnifies them. That would explain a lot. But I won’t love a steroid junkie or a crackhead! There is too much going on in my life for me to become addicted to an addict.

No, this is it. The fact is, you’ve changed, and bigger is not always better. I have to pass. You may have an awful lot to offer the right woman, but it’s not me. Maybe someone younger, more active, could handle you . . . but no, it ain’t me, babe. Not now. Not ever again.

Goodbye, my sweet.

chocolate chip extremism

the big-ass chocolate chip cookie at the local coffee shop

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Sunday Post ~ “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” — James Thurber

Matthew 6:25-34

file under: &Sunday Post

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Q. So really, is there any news?

A. There wasn’t until today. There were just people telling me, “Yep, it looks like what you think has happened is probably what has happened. But you are the only person in the world that this has ever happened to, ever ever ever, and there is no one in this world who knows what to do about it.”

But theeeeeennnnnn, I talked to a co-worker, whose spouse was recently named the Big Cheese of healthcare in this state, and he talked to the Great Big Medical Cheese of a huge university in this state, who talked with me today and did not say, as others have, “that could not possibly happen.” Instead he said, “I will talk to my toxicologists and one of them will call you on Monday.”

Q. So, is there anything you would like the people reading this to do?

A. Why yes, there is, thank you kindly for asking. I would like such people to pray, and vibrate, and chant, and dance, and send up smoke signals, and visualize, and whatever healing, positive thing they can think of to do, in the hope and faith that such toxicologist will know something, or will know someone who knows something, about how to get me fixed.

Q. Anything else?

A. Well, yea. While you got the prayer thing going, and the finger cymbals and the bonfire, and the face paint . . . there are some other people needing some other things, that I know about. People who visit here sometimes, people whose paths you’ve crossed. I know of two people who really need new places to live, sooner rather than later. And someone who needs to get through her cancer treatment and be OK, and a few someones who need relief and healing from panic disorder, and probably more than we even know about who need help with depression, and some having rough spots in their love relationships, and it’s not all bad, you can also say a great big THANK YOU because there’s someone else who’s having a hootenanny this weekend to celebrate five years cancer-free . . . so, yea, while you’re praying, etc., just lump us all in together. God can keep track.

Q. Anything ELSE?

A. Um . . . just . . . thank you. So very much.

Q. Are you going to keep doing these crazy-ass posts where you pretend that people are asking you questions? It’s a little weird, you know.

A. I might. 🙂

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Sometimes I get so tired of thinking and talking about WTF. My symptoms often give me no choice regarding the thinking part, but I do try to limit talking about it. Still, I know that some people would like an update. I’ve decided that instead of my talking more about it just now, I’d invite some celebrity friends (what? I do so have celebrity friends) to answer some questions that I completely made up to fit the quotes I found many people have asked.

Q: You’ve had WTF for over a year now. Just what is known and not known about it, at this juncture? Has anything really happened recently?

A: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” (Donald Rumsfeld)

Q: You’ve been through an awful lot of invasive, painful tests. How do you feel about this?

A: “I feel like a human pinata. The disappointing thing is, no candy is going to spill out.” (Katie Couric)

Q: Jif drives you to a lot of your many medical appointments. Isn’t he getting tired of that? Doesn’t he wish you’d just take the bus?

A: “Being sober on a bus is, like, totally different than being drunk on a bus.” (Ozzy Osbourne)

Q: So you rely very heavily on Jif. What would you do without him?

A: “The man for me is the cherry on the pie. But I’m the pie and my pie is good all by itself. Even if I don’t have a cherry.” (Halle Berry)

Q: Can you describe your most recent physical symptoms?

A: “I think there’s a little bit of sizzling here. Honestly, I can feel it. The ions are flying back and forth.” (Regis Philbin)

Q: What if you need surgery to get rid of the Ti that may be causing your problems? Are you worried about a scar?

A: “I think scars are sexy because they mean that you made a mistake that led to a mess.” (Angelina Jolie)

Q: You used to be so private in your blogging. Then you started with the peepee troubles, and moved on to putting your CT films in your dining room window, and posting your gigantic orange pee jug. What has happened to your dignity, woman!?

A: “If you make a fool of yourself, you can do it with dignity, without taking your pants down. And if you do take your pants down, you can still do it with dignity.” (William Shatner)

Q: How do you handle all of this chronic uncertainty, the not knowing what’s happening, or what’s next?

A: “I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.” (Johnny Depp)

That’s all the latest (waiting for more test results, really). A big thank you to all my celebrity friends, for fielding those hard-hitting questions for me.

file under: &WTF Disease

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