1. says

    The ugly side of being in Social Services is the laws keep changing. I remember working in Mental Health. We would get memo’s daily saying this and that was going to take place, then the next day another group of memo’s which totally contradicted those from the day before.

    It was like damned if you do and you’re better off if you don’t.

    These were real lives, real people we were dealing with. How could they possibly look up to us for guidance, not to mention integrity!!

    So, guess what, I switched to Gerontology. Working with the elderly has its rewards; until you become elderly yourself.

    Trying to counsel a seasoned person sometimes can have challenges.

    1. They forget your name
    2. They forget their name
    3. They forget why you’re there
    4. They forget why they’re here
    5. They pass away

    And that, my friends is the ugly side of my profession.

    • beverly boyd says

      Hi Fran,switching to gerontology seems like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. But it seems you did it for the long haul without losing your sense of humor or your heats.

    • says

      Fran, I love the assured way you tell a story. I felt I was in good hands. Thank you. Your clients are lucky to have you as an advocate.

    • says

      I also worked in mental health for many years and it certainly has its pitfalls, most of them created by those well meaning people who make the laws that govern what was possible to be done or not. Brought back some memories of battles fought and lost but also some fantastic wins.

      Thank you for sharing this thought provoking piece.

    • jo says

      Hi Fran – I read your piece and laughed out loud at your list of what can happen when you counsel the elderly. It was both fun and insightful to read!

    • Jane says

      Hi Fran, I have so enjoyed this writing group and reading what everyone has written, as well as our comments to each other, that I decided to go back to Prompts that were before my time joining the group. I hope it’s all right, Laura. Please let me know if this is against the rules. And of course, I am enjoying reading what you had written before I showed up, Fran! It was fun when you switched to Gerontology. It sounds like a much better fit for you. And I loved the quick list of the challenges in working with the elderly clients. You have a fun sense of humor, Fran, and made reading about the “downside” of your job very entertaining.

  2. Laura Davis says

    Blessings to you Fran for the years you were willing to work with those tangled bureaucracies.

    I also appreciated your irony, “Working with the elderly has its rewards until you become elderly yourself.”

  3. says

    What day is it? What is the date? Cheerios or granola? Where the Hell are my glasses? You can probably hear these questions any early morning in any household of retired people, and that is what I am now. That is my profession, that is what I fill in on all those myriad of forms one finds themselves having to fill out at the myriad of doctors offices one is forced to find their way to once you are retired and your body seems to be retiring to. I look around me as I sit waiting my turn and see people who appear to be in much worse shape than myself. People who cannot fill out those forms by themselves. I count myself very fortunate to have my mind mostly intact. But still I have problems some times, if I am very tired or my pain level is so high that all I can think about is stopping it and the ringing in my ears.

    I don’t go out much anymore. I sleep until I wake up because I have no place to be and nothing in particular to do today. As my back worsens my activities become more curtailed. So one very ugly thing that happens is that a lot of dust and down right dirt collects on and in places it was not meant to be. I hate that. I have just gotten a housekeeper through Senior Services who mops the floors, vacuums the carpet and dusts but she only comes for two hours a week and to do a really good job I would need her for at least one whole day each week. Well, it is very dirty here on the edge of the desert where the wind blows causing what I call brownouts from the dirt in the air.

    Our appetites have dwindled until it is no use cooking up a whole pot of chilli or spaghetti because we won’t eat it even when I freeze it I still feed a lot of it to the chickens. Those bag dinners are just about right. The ones meant for two people are two meals for us the meat tastes like crap but what’er you going to do? So I try to vary them and not have to through too much out. I get a few little steaks to toss in just to make it interesting. The other day I cooked a turkey, today I will have to finish boning it out and packing the meat in small packages for meals for another day. If I bake a cake in two cake pans I cut each cake in half, then I take a thread and cut that half in half and spread jam on it and then spread with whipped cream, or icing and put the other half on top and cover the whole thing with either whipped cream or icing. I freeze the other three halves for another day. We will have a hard time eating one half of on half in a timely manner. I am so thankful for the large upright freezer a friend of mine gave me a couple of years ago.

    I have been retired for twelve years and was disabled for more than 10 years before that so I have been figuring out how to fill my time for a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time. On the other hand my husband is only fairly recently retired. He has trouble knowing what he is “supposed” to do. Well, your not supposed to do anything. You just do what needs to be done or not, be pleasant, and do what I ask you to do. Right? This can be the ugly side of things as we often do not agree on a plan of execution of a task. So, I write and write, and write and talk on the phone, and take pictures of my flowers and we talk less and less.

    The ugliest part of retirement is not having enough money to do all the things that I now have time to do that I didn’t have when I was working. But, that’s life so I smile, do what I can and make do the rest of the time. Not being able to go out to eat as often as we would like is a downer.

    Being retired is a whole different “profession” fraught with many pitfalls but also carries many fortuitous moments so with most everything else in life one must seek a balance.

    • Laura Davis says

      Hazel, I really appreciated this honest depiction of “retired life.” I learned a lot–about you and potentially, my future, should I make it that far!

    • beverly boyd says

      I enjoyed your premise of looking at “retired” as your profession based on the spaces on the forms we fill out.

      I love the irony of when you are retired not having enough money to to the things that you didn’t have time to do when you were working! I can certainly relate to that. And as I am getting older there is less time in a day to enjoy being productive.


      PS I’ve been to your website and have seen some of the wonderful things you have crafted: baskets, beaded purses, puppets and more as well as pictures of your garden! Seems like you are using your time well.

    • says

      Hazel, thank you for giving me such a detailed picture of retirement. I loved the specific ways you described how you do things. I felt that you gave me a very thoughtful entry into your world. Thank you.

    • Magali says

      Thanks for sharing this beautiful reflection, Hazel. After Beverly mentioned it, I, too, went to your website and was amazed at the beautiful crafts you make. I was also impressed with how you present your writing. It is clear to me that your aesthetic senses are very developed, and you are able to enjoy and share beauty in all you do.

      Retirement, as a phase of life, deserves reflection. Coming from Mexico, where all the generations live and interact much more closely with each other, I think it tragic that in the United States kids and elders don´t have more contact. It seems a shame that septuagenarians and octogenarians, who have so much life experience and wisdom to offer, are often isolated and not heard.

      I appreciate your reflection on retirement, and at the same time I know, you are so much more than retired. You are an artist and a writer and a philosopher. Power to you, sister.

      • says

        Thank you for taking a look at my website. Yes, I have been busy, and that is just the stuff I have made in the last five years. Thank you for your comments on my writing.

    • jo says

      Hi Hazel – I enjoyed seeing a bird’s eye view of retirement, especially your details of cooking a turkey and baking a cake and what you do with the food as there’s too much for two people. Your piece has given me much food for thought!

    • Jane says

      Hi Hazel, and thank you for writing this. I hope it’s all right for me to go back and read these older posts, even though I wasn’t in our writing group then. I felt sad at first, reading about the normal “downside” of retiring: the aging body, the need to fill the hours with satisfaction and the challenge of cooking delicious, nutritious food for fewer people – – without seeing it go to waste. And of course, the reality that you (and many retired people) must live with lowered income and less of the physical ability and energy needed to do all the things we dream of doing “someday” when we retire. Yet, in addition to the sadness, you also showed us the blessings you find and ways you find something to be grateful for, which shows me the joy of your spirit shining through it all. Thank you!

  4. beverly boyd says

    I am the mother of seven children who were all born in the 1960’s. The oldest was not yet nine when the youngest were born.

    The longer I live the more I am convinced I was called to have these children…I mean these particular children. I was not at all gracious about becoming pregnant the sixth time. We already had a “full house”: three boys and two girls and that seemed like plenty.

    “What are we going to do?” I wailed to my husband.

    “We’ll love it and take care of it just like the others.”

    “Yeah, you’ll love it and I’ll take care of it!” was my wholehearted cynical retort!

    At that point, I didn’t care if the Catholic Church did not allow birth control. I was sure that many of those pious looking folks taking communion each Sunday must be on the pill or had been surgically altered. Abortion was not at all on my mind, but as soon as this was over I would at least start taking the pill!

    Four weeks before my due date I learned that I was carrying twins! No wonder my belly was so big! I hadn’t just gotten stretched out by the first five. I carried those twins to term, a good healthy pair at 7 pounds 10 ounces and 6 pounds 3.

    I looked them over carefully. They had all their fingers and toes. Closer examination showed that Karen, the smaller one, didn’t have her finishing touches; her eyelashes and fingernails had not grown out. She didn’t have much of a sucking instinct and preferred to lie peacefully in her bed in the nursery. So she was fed on Kate’s demand schedule.

    Later in life Karen’s IQ score was 30 points below her twin’s; Kate had already used much of the store of amino acids and other nutrients needed for brain development. But at 110, it was still enough that she has acquired a Masters in Education and is an excellent second grade teacher.

    The part of me that believes in angels and guides and that there are no coincidences is sure that we all had a contract, before their father and I were born to come onto earth and be a family. Quick measures had to be taken when it was clear that I would do what needed to be done to stop reproducing like a rabbit and not have eleven children as my great grandmother had.

    I was a good mother and truly enjoyed all of the experience of raising those children and a list as long as my arm of activities that went along with that.

    So what was the “under belly”? When I first read this prompt I thought I didn’t relate to it. I did not have a profession that put a series of letters after my name. When I thought of “mother” as my profession or calling there didn’t seem to be a real downside. Then a huge knot of grief swelled in my chest. It felt like something was twisting and tugging on my heart like one twists a tree root to drag it from the ground. As I write this, a deep gush of anguished sobs pushed out of the place where they have been held back for years.

    The tears are for all the boyfriends and girlfriends, significant others, live-with partners and a few actual spouses that have come to my home and to family gatherings. I long ago lost the trust that I could allow myself to really love them to give them that piece of my heart that was almost as big as I gave to each of my children. It was far too likely that they would break up and, without even the prolonged divorce process to get used to it, they might be here today, but gone tomorrow. There have been something like forty of these people that my children have connected with in their post high school years.

    There have also been two grandchildren that I have little or no contact with, though now that my granddaughter is getting older it has been easier for my son to have time with her.

    That’s a lot of people to lose.

    • Laura Davis says

      Beverly, it looks like your children were very lucky to have been born into your family. And when I got to the point where you talked about all the lost “significant others” of your children, I really got it. My oldest son is divorced and I my middle child has broken up with a girl we loved. He’s just 21 with a long life (I hope) in front of him. And our youngest has yet to have a romance at all yet, but I’m sure there will be a parade of wonderful people that I will grow to love and lose–just as you describe here. Thank you for naming a loss that is so rarely spoken of.

      • beverly Boyd says

        Thank you for your supportive comment.
        For me it was harder than the “empty nest” and still is. And I wonder what the effect is on my granddaughters. My daughter is an amazing Mom, but she has had several serial monogamous relationships and the family has also serially bonded with very nice men for a year or few. There is always an intention to continue connection with the children involved but that usually only lasts for a few months.

    • says

      Dear Beverly,

      This was lovely. I so appreciated you sharing your heartache; how you take the people of your extended family in open-heartedly and suffer too when they are gone.

      • beverly Boyd says

        Thank you Gayle,
        I have always known I had heartache about these losses, but responding to this prompt it really hit home! and I have cried often for the last three days! It seems to be a theme of my life, being a minister’s daughter and a navy wife, both lifestyles that involved a lot of moving around and too many friends made along the way to really keep up with.

        I remember one day after about ten years in the navy, watching the moving van at the house next door. I realized that I didn’t have any feelings, and that seemed odd. We had had a strong friendship that was like extended family, helping each other at those times when family is often on hand. The only thing close to a feeling was wondering a little anxiously, if the next family would be easy to get along with and not be bothered by having four lively children living next door.

        I counted the units on our end of the block of navy housing that had a common area in the back. We usually went to each other’s back doors and we all used the same dumpster! In 13 units there had been seventy-five different families who had lived there in four years. I couldn’t afford the emotional toll it would take to really care and then let go of so many people. Now I don’t even remember most of their names or what they looked like.

        But losing those who I believed would be part of my life ahas been the hardest.

    • says


      I had never really thought of this perspective before. Thank you for sharing the idea of these lost connections. I really enjoyed reading this piece.

    • says

      One of the most important roles in our human society yet it is often overlooked. I wonder why when people like you are so dedicated to it, so responsible, so caring. Your description of the surprise “Four weeks before my due date I learned that I was carrying twins! No wonder my belly was so big! I hadn’t just gotten stretched out by the first five. I carried those twins to term, a good healthy pair at 7 pounds 10 ounces and 6 pounds 3.” That’s 14 pounds of babies. OMG!

      The other thing that I thought was worth writing about is the attitude about abortion back then, and/or the pill.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • beverly Boyd says

        Yep, 14 pounds! As a friend said, “That’s a lot of Love in your tummy!” Remember that song that came out that year…Yummy, Yummy, Yummy I’ve got love in my Tummy?

        Abortion was still the scary back room thing! The pill was relatively new and remember I was Catholic. As a nun friend said, “You know what they call people who use the rhythm method? Parents!”.

        and I spent a lot of years being “just a housewife” until I learned to say, “I work very hard at home!”

    • jo says

      Hi Beverly; Your piece really resonated with me. My son was married to a woman that I quite liked and when their relationship ended, it was incredibly painful for my son and I had feelings of loss and grief as well. Thank you for giving words to honour the experience you had!

    • says

      Beverly, you are an amazing example of gracefully accepting what life has in store for us. Also, I understood the sig. other situation. Many times, I worried for my niece when she was tiny, with men being around and ‘father-like’ and then disappearing. Thankfully, it didn’t last long. Thanks for this post.

    • Jane says

      Hi Beverly, and like everyone who has commented here, I loved reading your story! Even though society didn’t recognize your work as a “career” in the 60’s, people nowadays understand better that you live about 30 careers in one to be a wife, mother, homemaker, etc, etc, etc. I am on the edge of my seat, reading about your experiences. 7 children in 9 years!!! Wow. As a child, I wanted 12 children because I had read “Cheaper By The Dozen.” When I tell you I changed my mind after having 3 children, and agreed to my husband’s lower goal of 4 children, you’ll understand why! Unfortunately, he said that the miscarriage counted as the 4th child. He couldn’t understand why I was then weeping yet again.

      Lucky for me, though I couldn’t see it at the time, he won the lottery and left a few years later. Long story short, the warm, fun, large family I had married into left with my husband. And it was just me, my kids of 4, 7 and 9, and all of us were crying. I had my parents, one brother, one sister, one niece. Your story reminds me that I lost my in-laws: his parents, 5 sisters-in-law, 6 brothers-in-law, and 7 nieces and nephews. I still loved them, but people tend to side with their blood. 20 years later, I’m glad I didn’t keep the children away from their Daddy. He’s the only Father they have. They enjoyed all their relatives on both sides and they tell me when their cousins graduate, or get married, or have babies. They told me when their other grandparents died, that I had to stay away, that their Dad didn’t want me there. And I feel a hard knot in the middle of my throat I can’t swallow down because I missed out on seeing precious nieces and nephews grow up. I lost the sisterly support circle of my sisters-in-law. My family helped us out financially, if not emotionally.

      You said it best: “But losing those who I believed would be part of my life has been the hardest.”

      Along with Terry, Beverly, I get your worry about the other adults your grandchildren are around. This is why I never dated or married again. Once they were all grown and out of my home, I did start dating some, but I am a survivor of incest so I know all too well what could happen. I couldn’t take that risk. I couldn’t live with myself. I’d never forgive myself. I felt guilty enough for not “keeping” their Daddy in the home. Their little hearts were broken, right along with mine.

      I guess you can see your story is very powerful, and moved us all to see where we have had comparable losses in our own lives. Congratulations to you for being the Wife, Mother and Homemaker of your dreams. It doesn’t guarantee everything will turn out the way you hoped, but it sure does give you a career you can be proud of.

  5. MaryL says

    This chapter begins with a visit to a convent Motherhouse when I was a sophomore in college. It was a beautiful late spring day. All was not well with me. My cousin Andy had died in April, and I hadn’t even begun to feel the loss. I was emotionally numb, and starting to wonder why he, and not I, had died. I was after all unworthy. He was just a kid.

    As I sat in the dimly lit chapel that springtime afternoon, feelings subdued but hopeful, I asked, in my heart, are you calling me? And I sensed the answer that I desperately needed, yes. This response was not magical or mysterious, and knowing now what was going on in my life, not surprising at all. I simply wanted to be loved. I wanted a pure love. I wanted to be cherished. I wanted to belong to a happy family.

    At home, I was after all “the identified patient,” the scapegoat, the one held responsible for anything that went wrong. More than that, my parents were doing a dance with my psyche, using me, working together as one, knowing, not-knowing, enabling, who knows why? My father acted; my mother said nothing.

    And so began this part of the journey which took me into a most-surprising disappointment and to further certainty about my unworthiness. I remember the first few months, like being a kid again, working together, sleeping well, getting up early, and being silent most of the time, which was easy for me.

    Then came All Saints Day, and I couldn’t stop crying. Andy’s death became a reality. He was with the other saints, but more importantly, he was gone. The part of my childhood which let in a little light – was over. Crying wasn’t permitted in the convent – how silly! I suppose they were afraid a bout of hysteria would make the walls fall down. So I couldn’t talk about this new unleashing of emotions, sadness, loss, grieving … coming of age.

    The convent was not the place for a girl who needed love, needed affirmation, needed protection. It did not provide those things, at least not in the usual ways. In this bunch of women it was better not to care, not to feel, not to look to help others.

    What happened – and what has happened whenever people try to codify the behavior of communities of faith – is that the Holy Rule became the god of the convent house. Emphasis was not on compassion and courage and justice, but on folding sheets, and never acting upset, and not ever getting too close to another person. The shame and disgrace of the abuse at home was traded in for a new fear – of not touching, of not feeling, or being apart, of loving only with the mind in a sterile way.

    It’s easy to love Jesus if you remember that he is god and not your brother or your spouse. There is no hug from Jesus, no pep-talk, no bantering, no chatting, no silliness, and even no crying. “The relationship” was all encased in the holy box of morning prayer and meditation. This made it pure, I suppose, but also remote, unrealistic, unreal.

    I’m not the only girl to enter the convent to find a mother, and I was not the only girl to become painfully aware that mothering and those other nurturing gifts were not part of the package of being a dedicated “woman of God.” It is possible for communities to become little islands … connected only with a gate to let you in and separate spots for each separated soul.

    There were no hopes, dreams, or anticipations. There was no future. We gave that up to “God’s will,” whatever that was.We were treated, not as adult women, but as little girls and unquestioning obedience seemed to be the key. We were discouraged from questioning – I knew that well because the official teaching was that Doubt is wrong. Questioning your faith is wrong. Why oh why?

    Mom hated the convent for taking me away … perhaps I bore part of the pressure that she felt in that marriage, in that distorted family. She was right, but perhaps not for all the right reasons. She was there when I went home, and she knew I was sick, not the kid who always argued to prove a point.

    You know, Mom was right. The convent was bad for me. I was bad for the convent. I grew to despise Christmas because of the awful, prickly, humiliating memories of those holidays, which were supposed to be the summit of the church year. I hated Lent because it was even more somber than usual, and for people who are sad in the winter, it’s doubly difficult. Having less of less can mean having nothing.

    Was I called? Not in the simple way we learned in catechism… God calls you to religious life (priesthood for boys, convent for girls) and the rest are called to get married and have families. It is much, much more complicated than that. The adolescent way in which our concerns were treated is support for not letting uneducated, uncaring women lead other women on a “spiritual path.” If we don’t know where we are, how can we know which way to turn? How can we know about the larger world? If we are limited to a cell, to a small-minded set of expectations, rewards and punishments – like a prison – how can we appreciate the great cosmos, the world which our Creator established and expects us to keep going?

    I needed love. I needed to be shown respect. I needed to be treated as precious. I needed to not be “used.” The convent was the last place on earth for a girl like me.

    • beverly boyd says

      Your share seems to be all to often the case with children who spend time in a convent or Catholic school. It is more often than no, I think the idealized version we see in the movies like the Mother Superior in Sound of music.

      I hope you will continue on your journey of finding the communities where you can find love and know you are precious.

    • Laura Davis says

      MaryL, thanks for this inside view into your experience as a novice. This is a world I know little about. Thanks for opening the door to your personal experience there. These were the sections that particularly touched me:

      “Crying wasn’t permitted in the convent – how silly! I suppose they were afraid a bout of hysteria would make the walls fall down. So I couldn’t talk about this new unleashing of emotions, sadness, loss, grieving … coming of age.”

      “What happened – and what has happened whenever people try to codify the behavior of communities of faith – is that the Holy Rule became the god of the convent house. Emphasis was not on compassion and courage and justice, but on folding sheets, and never acting upset, and not ever getting too close to another person. The shame and disgrace of the abuse at home was traded in for a new fear – of not touching, of not feeling, or being apart, of loving only with the mind in a sterile way.”

      I lived in an ashram between the ages of 16-21, so I understand escaping into an alternate religious world where rules are clear and there is safety–along with confinement, rigidity and shelter from the world. Thanks again for a fascinating look into this early time in your life.

    • Magali says

      Wow, Mary, this is a beautiful piece. You so eloquently describe the passion of the seeker, of the person devoted to finding meaning and purpose and love.

      This line is genius: “Having less of less can mean having nothing.”

      And the following paragraph is full of human insight:

      “Was I called? Not in the simple way we learned in catechism… God calls you to religious life (priesthood for boys, convent for girls) and the rest are called to get married and have families. It is much, much more complicated than that. The adolescent way in which our concerns were treated is support for not letting uneducated, uncaring women lead other women on a “spiritual path.” If we don’t know where we are, how can we know which way to turn? How can we know about the larger world? If we are limited to a cell, to a small-minded set of expectations, rewards and punishments – like a prison – how can we appreciate the great cosmos, the world which our Creator established and expects us to keep going?”

      I love the way you talk about smallness and bigness, prison versus Cosmos. My life partner used to be a Franciscan friar; my grandfather went to the seminary and left the church in total disillusionment; I have several friends who have been nuns and priests and as we say in Spanish, “hung the habit” and left. None of them are any less spiritual now than they were then, but they have opened up to the bigness that you talk about.

    • says

      This bit of writing certainly gives us a very unique viewpoint on living in a convent.

      I really liked your last paragraph, “I needed love. I needed to be shown respect. I needed to be treated as precious. I needed to not be “used.” The convent was the last place on earth for a girl like me.” It has determination in the way you state what you need and why the convent was not for you.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • jo says

      Hi Mary – I loved this! I thought this paragraph in particular was wonderful – “If we don’t know where we are, how can we know which way to turn? How can we know about the larger world? If we are limited to a cell, to a small-minded set of expectations, rewards and punishments – like a prison – how can we appreciate the great cosmos, the world which our Creator established and expects us to keep going?”

      Those lines give me much food for thought!

    • eAft says

      Hi Mary, what a moving and interesting account of your experiences as a novice in a Catholic convent. I must agree with all of the above comments people have made about the excellence of your writing. One of the ways we survive abuse and neglect is we try to find a safer circle to live in, where we can breathe, where we feel people won’t hurt us like we were already hurt before. As a small child, I had faith in the Latin Mass, the nuns, the priests, the angels, the saints, the God who loved me forever, this gave me a fantasy world to live in where it didn’t hurt that my “own mother gave me away.” People were always saying, “How could your own mother give you away? Like a litter of puppies? What are you, a dog? Ha, ha, ha! Dog!!! She’s a real Dog!” My adoptive parents didn’t say those things to me, but kids at school did. And I heard adults, my parents and other people’s parents, who usually said, “Can you IMAGINE giving away a precious, beautiful baby? How could ANYONE give away their OWN CHILD?” Although that was exactly what the Catholic and other churches demanded of unwed pregnant girls and women. They still do.

      When I converted to the Baptist faith as a young teen, joining a church, it felt like what I imagined as joining a large, loving family. I accepted what they taught; I was even baptized again. My adoptive parents did all the right things they could, but they had no way of knowing that during a family reunion, when I was sick in bed with a high fever, their nephew, my cousin, would sneak in and rape me in my sleep and continue to incest me at every possible opportunity over the years, using shame, the adoption and my Baptist faith as manipulative tools inside my brain.

      Then I felt thrown to the wolves. As He was molesting and raping me, as I was waking up from a bad fever dream, but no, dear God no, it wasn’t a dream, He kept saying that God wanted us to be “kissin cousins,” that God wanted us to get married, that there were states that would let us get married, even though I was still underage. He wasn’t underage. And of course, He said I had to shhhhhhh now, you don’t want them to know what we’re doing in here, do you? ohh my God, my clothes, where are my clothes? I was terrified and quiet, whispering begging please no stop no you know this is wrong please no don’t do that. He did it anyway. I told, first my girl cousin, then we told our Grandma, then my Mom. Nobody believed me except my girl cousin. She said He’d done the same to her, and also to another, younger girl cousin. Nobody believed me or us, so it wasn’t reported or dealt with, and it burned inside me like acid. It still does. He had a lot of access to me during that summer vacation trip.

      Like you, Mary, I prayed and prayed and prayed to God to help me understand. What do I do? Is it true, God? You let Him do that to me. Is this really Your will for me? Now I’m not a virgin, and I guess I’ll have to marry Him, but why, God? Why? I don’t understand. I love Him as my cousin, but I don’t want to marry Him! But I’ll have to, or I’ll be a slut and then who would want me? Is this really your will, God? What if I’m pregnant?

      All this was several states away. Back home, I continued to pray and cry and worry. I hated my mother for not believing me, for not helping me when I really needed her. A solid glass wall had slid down between us. I knew I could never trust her again. Every day, every night, I wondered when He would arrive to collect me and drive me away to that mysterious other state where He would marry his underage cousin. Then I wondered if He would change his mind and I’d have to face maybe being pregnant all alone. Eventually, my sacred blood flow brought tears of relief and joy. At least I wasn’t pregnant.

      I used to dream I could be a nun and go to a convent. I wanted to be like my 4th grade teacher, Sister Augustine, the tiny nun from Ireland, who laughed and smiled and played kickball with us on the playground in the hot Arizona sun, in all that black nun getup. But I knew God was angry at me. I had sex when I wasn’t married. With my cousin. I certainly wouldn’t qualify for a holy life now. I saw myself as a thing. I saw myself as a sexual toy for men.

      And then, your closing, Mary. “I needed love. I needed to be shown respect. I needed to be treated as precious. I needed to not be ‘used.'” This is exactly perfectly true. You do deserve love and respect, and you are precious. I love this because here you have taken back your power and can choose to only spend time with people who do love, respect and honor you as the precious person you are. Brava!

      • Laura Davis says

        Dear eAft, Thanks for this moving account and welcome to the Roadmap Blog. I just wanted to let you know that this community generally focuses only on the current week’s post (they come out each Tuesday), so this response will not be read by many people. But I read it..and was moved by your words. You may want to join in when the new post comes out–that’s where the lively exchanges are taking place.

        • Jane says

          Hi Laura,

          The post by “eAft” was from me, Jane, but I messed up and someone changed my name when posting. Also, I thought I deleted most of the “story” to save in my personal log, but I guess it’s okay. I’ve been working on how to write these stories, but hadn’t planned on putting them here. Mary’s story brought back a lot of memories.

          Also, I don’t use the “pro-life” icon anymore, but can’t figure out how to update it here.

          Once again, thank you for this online writers coaching forum. I am learning a lot.

          Jane (alias “eAft”)

  6. Ritch Brinkley says

    Going to Hollywood as a hopeful 25 year old character actor threw me into a boiling pot of hopefuls all hoping for the legendary “Big Break.” The first role I was offered that paid ($25 a day for about 5 days as I remember) was “an adult western.” I quickly learned that “adult” was a more attractive word to describe the burgeoning business of pornographic films, for which there was a huge demand.

    Most of these early products in 1971 were literally Sunday school lessons compared to the vast world of perverse offerings now available to people in the intimacy of their home on their computer. The first of these I ever saw cost fifty cents in the outer salon of a bordello in Juarez’ profligate Cherry Hill. Titled “Smart Alec,” it starred a famous stripper named Candy Barr in a grainy black and white silent film in which she went “all the way.” Today I am stunned by the plethora of explicit, perverted, tasteless offerings on the information highway. It appears doing the same as Ms. Barr is no more unusual than posing in a pair of shorts for a calendar in the Fabulous Fifties.

    My first outing in the field was a comic western in which I played a bumbling sheriff-no sex please for this fat boy from west Texas. Titlled “Stick ‘Em Up, Up, Up” it was written by a high fashion Russian model for her Israeli husband’s class project for film school. Because I could act (a rarity), I talked her into 15 pages rather than the original two pages of the sixty page script. I chose the pseudonym “Vinnie Hardin (frequently misspelled in the ads), after a bad man played by Broderick Crawford and the real outlaw John Wesley Hardin. I was afraid to be linked to this scandalous world. The lead villain was James Myers, who described himself as “the poor man’s Ernest Borgnine. He was financially secure from penning the simple lyrics to “Rock Around the Clock.” It had already been used in 17 films. The picture was snapped up by the 300 theater chain called “Pussycat” the distributor told me, based on the actual comic acting I brought to the amateurish piece. The title was changed to “A Fistful of 45s”.

    I did three more that year before I retired Vinnie. Recently I was appalled to discover Vinnie has his own page listed in the Internet Movie Data Base.” Who knows-perhaps times will become so hazardous that it becomes necessary for Vinnie to ride again. “Hi-Yo Silver” and drop ’em…..

    • beverly boyd says

      Hi Ritch,
      I enjoyed reading your up close and personal and often amusing look at the world of pornographic movies. I don’t blame you for taking a pseudonym!

      I wondered of you were able to transition under your own name to other movies.

      • Ritch Brinkley says

        Halloa Beverly-

        The “adult” movies I did numbered only four, all in 1971. The last one was originally entitled “Cozy Cool”, in which I played a mafia boss in San Francisco. The only version I ever saw was in a Beverly Hills hotel room with my roommate, the producer, the director, and Arthur Knight reviewing it for Playboy’s “History of Sex in the Movies.” It was a rough cut, I.e. a loosely spliced version sans editing, sound effects, or music. I tried to find a copy of it over the years to no avail. I went on to enjoy a forty year career in legit projects understand my own name. (A modified list can be reviewed on I now enjoy pensions from all three actors’ unions and in so doing had the first opportunity to know what sheckles tomorrow brings. Actors save for a rainy YEAR. My old stuff still runs frequently on tv. This writing gambit partly satisfies my lack of creative expression so dominant in my first career. People have often asked why I became an actor and I candidly reply: “Because I couldn’t figure out how to do anything else. The thespianic choice was literally a box canyon to survive.

        • beverly Boyd says

          Thanks for the addition. I’m glad you were able to make a career that you enjoyed and is contributing financially to your retirement.

          I bet you have a lot of stories you could tell!

        • Jane says

          I’ll try this again. I somehow typed over my name on this screen, so it wasn’t accepted.

          I guess I wasn’t being myself.

          Hi Ritch! Thank you for an entertaining account of early porn filmmaking, and also a glimpse into antique blue films. My 1st husband and I were in international folk dancing and theatre for fun in high school, which continued in college. I have to laugh when I remember some of the wretched faux musical shows we did in high school (e.g., “Corndoggie” the cheap mock-up of “Grease”) and the fun we had doing classic musicals with regional theatre during college. Although we didn’t stay married, we are friends, and he did go on to unfamous although well-paying success in musicals, choreography, and film review. I like to think my loss was the theatre’s gain! Thanks again for a fun read.

    • Laura Davis says

      Ritch, I loved this peek into this world. And also was taken with your comparison between old time blue movies and today’s pornographic choices.

    • says

      WOW! this was interesting! You were deft in pointing out the differences in attitudes and times in this piece. Everything in the movie/video industry has changed so drastically over time. You have to wonder what is left to show perhaps morals will take a swing back to normal one of these days but I do thing the “genie” is out of the bottle.

      Thank you for a great read.

    • jo says

      Hi Ritch – What a fun read this was! I enjoyed reading about some of the exploits of “Vinnie Hardin” and it was a fascinating peek into the ‘blue’ world of the 1970’s.

    • eAft says

      Hi Ritchie, thank you for an inside look at the early porn film business, as well as the antique porn film business. I was married to a student, then professional actor and dancer who went on to mostly choreography and film reviews and musicals. Some of what you said brought back good memories of the lousy shows we were in because any show was better than no show at all, and good memories of the great shows we did, too. And to think we started off in a college international folk dance club. And terrible high school musicals that were cheap, wanna-be imitations of Broadway shows. Example: “Corn Doggie” a hilariously bad mock-up of “Grease.” Thank you for a fun read!

  7. says

    This one has stymied me. I’ve started and stopped many times. What is the ugliness? What is the underbelly of my profession? I could have told many stories, but I’m not sure they’re about ugliness. I think they’re about wounded people. I think the underbelly of being a self-employed person today is that there is a constant challenge to value your time, yourself, and your work. It feels to me that particularly after the Crash, that if I wanted to, I could find many people who would say that my rates are too high, that anyone could do my work, and that I was being replaced by technology. (I am a transcriptionist. I received my editing certificate this past December.) It is a weird feeling to seem like a walking anachronism. I guess I could commiserate with many other people in various fields who has also had this happen to them. However, if I choose, I could also talk about the many clients who I have worked with for over a long period of time. I really enjoy their work, and they value what I give to them. There is less transcription work now, but there are still jobs, and my clients are loyal.

    I am still new to the editing profession. I thought I would want to work with writers, and maybe I do, but I’m finding the challenge is that their dream is not always synched up with reality. They want to hire me to copy edit their work when the work is not ready for that type of edit yet. That has felt tricky to me, and I have taken solace in doing very straightforward copy editing work for nonprofits.

    I don’t think it feels ugly, but what I’ve been really thinking about, which I wrote about last week, is that notion of feeling that if I am self-employed, that I am basically on call all the time. It feels to me in our culture now there a lot of status given to people who say, “I’m so busy.” It’s the reality for many, but I don’t believe it’s something to aspire to. Right now, I dream of having a reader’s couch, kind of an indoor chaise lounge where I could read and think for an hour a day. I would love instead of feeling the stress of busyness to feel engaged every day in what I do.

    • says

      Dear Wendy,

      What a beautiful dream. I appreciated hearing how you’re thinking about your life post-crash and how you’re thoughtfully constructing your identity as a self-employed person.

    • Laura Davis says

      I love the reader’s couch idea. Just adore it. Perhaps because I, too, and self-employed, and I too drive myself….

      Thanks for sharing this window into your work life. I could relate to so much of it.

    • says

      You have shown us how the world of self-employment leaves you putting pressure on yourself to be available all the time. Maybe you can turn your statement, ” I would love instead of feeling the stress of busyness to feel engaged every day in what I do.” into I am engaged every day in what I do. More of a mantra.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Hi Wendy,
      This really struck me.”It is a weird feeling to seem like a walking anachronism”

      Even if a computer named Watson could beat a couple of Jeopardy’s best, there is still plenty of need for the human brain to get those transcriptions right.

      My daughter and I often laugh at the silly options our text apps suggest and the odd named persons my phone announces are calling!

      • Jane says

        gotta love that autocorrect – – somebody sent me a message today to thank me for helping them with something, but when they typed in “thanks” and hit send, the message I got was “LOL – – OK thanksgiving” which made no sense at all in April.

    • Jane says

      Hi Wendy, YES! please do the reader chaise lounge idea – – way cool. I love how you described the challenge of setting limits – – enough to create your career and income but at what point is it too much and where do you draw that line for yourself? And how do you paint that line for others to heed? Wonderful that you have a certificate and new skills. I used to type for court reporters and they called me a transcription typist, but they did the court stenography and dictated on cassette tapes what they wanted me to type. I listened to the cassettes and typed it out and got paid so many cents per page. It’s a great way to build up speed as a typist! Thank you for an interesting inside look at entrepreneurship.

  8. says

    I’ve had two or three professions so far. I think I’ll go back to my first profession which was in college student development and administration aka specializing in college programs and services that support ‘student learning outside of the classroom.’ I had started as an undergraduate business major at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. I became a disenchanted business major in my junior year when I took a consumer behavior class and learned how to use psychology and subliminal messages to get people to buy things. I found this distasteful. I could have switched majors but I was much more interested in getting out of school than changing majors and having to stay any longer than necessary. Classes bored me so I decided to buckle down and stick it out and just get my degree.

    Since sophomore year I had become increasingly involved in the University Program Council, the campus-wide programming board. We brought music, comedians, lectures, major concerts, and all forms of entertainment to campus. At first I was on a committee for the winter festival, then junior year I was the chair of the committee and finally senior year I was the president of the overall Council. As I became more involved what I liked most were the year-round leadership development programs and the one-on-one, supportive relationships with my programming advisers. They were mentors to me and I’m still in touch with most of them. Around the end of my junior year or beginning of my senior year my adviser said to me, “You know Gayle, you might want to consider doing what I do as a career, you’re pretty good at it.” This hadn’t really occurred to me. Student Affairs work is one of those careers that nobody knows exists unless they happen to know someone who does it. It’s something that you might discover at college is a profession if you happen to be involved in campus activities or leadership as I was.

    That fifth year at UNL I worked in the activities office practically full time as a peer advisor to the programming council. I finished my undergraduate business degree that fall and started taking graduate classes that spring. Mostly I worked in the office advising student committees, teaching leadership development workshops and getting some really great work experience.

    Then I went to graduate school in Wisconsin for a couple of years and got a masters degree and some more good experience advising programming groups and developing leadership programs. My first full-time professional job was in Philadelphia. I was there primarily because my boyfriend at the time had been transferred there by the company he was working for and I honestly would not have chosen this school or even Philadelphia beyond that I had made a commitment to my boyfriend to meet up with him after graduate school. I managed to get a job at a Philly area university in my field of student affairs administration.

    It turns out my boss who was the director of the student center was an alcoholic. When I couldn’t find him most afternoons he was upstairs in the student center at the faculty club drinking with the bartender. Then there were the Playboy and Penthouse magazines that they had been using student fee money to purchase subscriptions of for the barbershop in the student center basement. A university providing pornography? The campus chapter of the American Association of University Women was very interested in this fact. My boss stopped purchasing the magazines. I only lasted there about a year.

    This was just shocking to me at the time. I was in my early to mid-twenties. I was from the Midwest, little old conservative Nebraska and I’d had this life-changing experience at the university as a student leader because of the learning environment created by the dedicated student affairs professionals at that university. The experience had made me want to go into this career, this calling. What had made these people whose values were apparently so different from mine apply for (and be selected for) the jobs they had in this field?

    About the time when all hell was breaking lose in Philly I was recruited for a similar job with more responsibilities by a school in Washington DC. I went on the interview, they offered me the job and I resigned. I was very excited; the position was working with someone who was considered to be one of the leaders in the field of campus activities, and, he was a person of color which thrilled me. There weren’t very many of us in the field at the time.

    When I arrived in D.C. I could hardly believe it. The scenario was not good for different reasons than in Philly. I guess the best way to explain is that my boss was being blackmailed by this white guy who was his assistant and it turns out my boss was having a fling or an affair with said assistant. I still don’t know the exact nature of the relationship between this assistant and my boss. My boss was supposedly happily married with two kids. So after the Philly experience and this Washington DC experience at this other school I remember thinking “What are these people doing in these jobs? All they seem to care about is screwing around or partying; what about their job of being there to educate students outside of the classroom? What about their job of being a decent role model? What about their responsibility to model ethical choices?” I didn’t stay at this school for very long either.

    I tried to have some compassion for my boss. I remember talking with one of my colleagues as I was exiting school #2 and he said, “Wow, so-and-so has treated you like shit and you have way more compassion for him than I would in your situation.” I guess what I was remembering when I was talking with this colleague was this one conversation I had with my boss in his office after an incident where his assistant verbally attacked me during a staff meeting. My boss asked me to come back to his office later. Part of the discussion was a thinly veiled, “You know things aren’t totally as they seem,” and he basically told me this story about how his assistant had created this close relationship with my boss’ boss the vice president. His assistant would throw parties for the vice president’s kids and babysit the vice president’s kids and my boss was basically telling me that he was in between a rock and a hard place with this assistant. My boss was not of course revealing anything about his relationship with his assistant or the full extent of the relationship which was revealed to me by other people that I worked with who had been witnesses to certain acts in the student center that I won’t describe here.

    I find myself going back down this dark memory lane and getting a little bit lost. After these two experiences, one right after the other I didn’t know if I wanted to work in the student affairs profession anymore, although I was probably attributing the ‘cause’ of the problem to the wrong reasons. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that these kinds of things didn’t happen in other professions or work environments. I clearly had some expectations of this profession based upon my experience in Nebraska. I began to think that my Nebraska experience was a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly. These were quite confusing experiences to have at the beginning of my career.

    This was my experience of the dark underbelly of the student affairs profession in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. I am not mentioning the names of the schools although I’m sure that the players are all different now. I know that some of the players I’m speaking of continue to do the work that they do in this profession and some of them at different universities.

    • Laura Davis says

      Gayle, it’s so hard when we’re young and idealistic and naive and want to do good in the world and are thrown up against people who are only in it for money, for hedonistic pleasure or their own self-aggrandizement. Your piece spoke vividly of your disillusionment in your chose field. Thanks for sharing these painful experiences with us.

    • says

      Gayle, I love that you really captured here what went down. I thought that you wrote about it in a very honorable manner. It was really interesting to read. Thank you.

    • Magali says

      This is an awesome piece, Gayle. You conveyed so much about human corruption and mediocrity with those stories about your colleagues. It gave me all kinds of flashbacks to situations where I worked with dishonest individuals, people who abused their power, were full of entitlement, and did totally inappropriate things like cheat on their spouses with other colleagues and then be surprised about the blackmail that resulted… Your profession does not have the monopoly on these things, though, you described a very real slice of the human pie. When clients tell me these kinds of stories in the therapy office, I enlist all of their intelligence and ingenuity in figuring out how to deal with corrupt people, and we have a growing body of knowledge about it, because the sad truth is: we will in all likelihood encounter those situations again. It is so hard to know what to do about it. To act, yet not feel like a snitch or become the victim of retaliation. I would love to hear more wisdom from you on this.

    • says

      Nice read. You gave good details like, “The scenario was not good for different reasons than in Philly. I guess the best way to explain is that my boss was being blackmailed by this white guy who was his assistant and it turns out my boss was having a fling or an affair with said assistant.”

      Young and idealistic, we set out into the “real” world that is so much different from what we see as students.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Thanks to you all for your comments. It was a bit difficult to go back in time and recall living through these professional experiences in my 20’s, but distance does help with perspective. I dreamed for years of writing an expose in one of the professional journals on the ‘addictive organization’ in student affairs until I realized that there were many different lenses through which to understand these experiences through my PhD program in organizational communication.

      Luckily I knew that I needed support during this time and a wise therapist reminded me every week that I was not crazy. I can look back and not have any regrets about how I responded to any of the situations I found myself in, which offers some peace 25 years later.

    • Jane says

      Hi Gayle, and who’d a thunk it? It must have been very difficult for you to reconcile the realities you were discovering, with your character and moral sensibilities. I remember the student services people in college were cheery, vague, and usually helpful. When one of our girls was on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the student services people really shone for her. They let her stay in a private apartment, usually used for visiting parents or visiting faculty. They let her skip classes for several days. They let her take the bus downtown to visit the art museum. All that peace and quiet gave her a chance to heal.

  9. Magali says

    Someone hijacked my profession, and we, the resistance, are fighting to get it back. As things stand now, I am a rogue psychotherapist. I am a barefoot social worker, building justice undercover, helping others to heal, one survivor at a time.

    Did you know that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was written by rich white straight men who don´t give a damn about your mental health? That’s right, this big purple brick of a book, otherwise known as the DSM, was written unscientifically, not to make you better, but to get you to take drugs. All the while, the men who wrote it have had their pockets filled from the swelling coffers of the psychopharmaceutical machine.

    How do I know? It’s not so hard to figure out. For starters, the purple bible of mental disorders contains no definition of health, let alone thriving. That’s right, these rich white straight men wouldn´t know happiness, or satisfaction, or life purpose if it hit them in the face and broke their smug, ugly nose.

    Did you know that it`s 900 % more likely that you’ll be diagnosed with a “mental illness” if you’re the victim of violence, rather than a perpetrator? I wish I was kidding, but I`m not. For all the hundreds of mental disorders listed in there, only a handful apply specifically to people who abuse, attack and rape others. Which is why, most of the diagnostic labels are meant for women and children, and gay people and brown people, and everyone else who is most vulnerable to the violence and discrimination offered daily by Western Civilization.

    You see, in the 1980s we had a very important realization: war veterans who had seen bloody combat in Vietnam had the exact same symptoms than women and children who had been terrorized by their husbands and fathers in the familiarity of their own homes. We understood that war is war, and regardless of where it is waged, it yields casualties and injury.

    So we devoted ourselves to learning about the opposite of war, and found it very lacking in our relationships to other humans and beings. The opposite of war would have to be the opposite of beating children into submission. It would have to be the opposite of raping girls and boys; the opposite of rejecting anyone who is different; the opposite of driving gay teens to suicide; and the opposite of a husband acting like he owns the life of his wife. The opposite of war would mean that humans wouldn´t kill humans over money or oil or drugs or water, and it would have to mean that humans wouldn´t kill wolves or whales, lions or elephants. It would also have to mean that humans would not clear cut and frack and strip mine and bomb.

    Because, in a world where all those wars are happening, who wouldn´t be depressed, or anxious, irritable, in pain? Only someone who’s numbed out on drugs (or television, or fast food, or shopping). But, you see, if you are depressed, or anxious or god forbid, you have an “anger problem”, the purple bible of bullshit would paste a label on you and send you on down to the pill department to be zonked out again because the television, fast food and shopping aren´t doing a good enough job. But they wouldn´t call it zonking or numbing you out, they would say, “it`s for your own good”, “we just want you to function in daily life”. Is that what you want? Do you want to “function”, like a machine? Or do you want to rise up to claim the fullness of your life, and help us build a world that is not organized by violence? Are you willing to pay attention, feel what you feel, and use that to move you to action?

    • Laura Davis says

      Magali, thanks for this wonderful articulate rant about “the purple bible of bullshit.” I loved the whole thing and was roused to anger and the desire to act.

      Of course I love your call to action at the end, “Is that what you want? Do you want to “function”, like a machine? Or do you want to rise up to claim the fullness of your life, and help us build a world that is not organized by violence? Are you willing to pay attention, feel what you feel, and use that to move you to action?”

      Bravo. Thanks for telling it like it is with such articulate, powerful language. I love the “no bullshit” tone of this whole piece.

    • says

      Right on Magali!
      You, Lady, have laid it out there. I really liked your challenge at the end, “Do you want to “function”, like a machine? Or do you want to rise up to claim the fullness of your life, and help us build a world that is not organized by violence? Are you willing to pay attention, feel what you feel, and use that to move you to action?”

      Thank you for sharing. Well done!

    • says

      Thanks so much Magali. This is a heartening cry from someone in the trenches of a profession that is still primarily focused on fixing what is deemed ‘wrong’ with individual humans instead of building upon what is healthy, whole and possible.

      I too like your call to action at the end, reminding us of the choices we all get to make in living a full life.

    • beverly Boyd says

      These words really stood out for me.
      “But they wouldn´t call it zonking or numbing you out, they would say, “it`s for your own good”, “we just want you to function in daily life”. Is that what you want? Do you want to “function”, like a machine?”

      As I read them I remembered standing in front of the navy Dispensary after an appointment with my doctor. The Elivil he had prescribed had been a blessing getting me through the Christmas holidays when I had been almost inert. I thought of the chaos that was in my life at that time and realized I had no feelings. Without feelings, how did I have information to know what was going on with me. I knew I needed to get off that drug and I had told him so. He didn’t believe I was ready to do that but acknowledged that I had enough “ego strength” to try it and gave me some suggestions about how to get off of it and let me know he would be happy to see me if I needed to.
      I think a lot of doctors would not have had the insight to help me that way. It’s too easy too just write a few words on a piece of paper and make another appointment.
      Thank you for your impassioned call to action in the last paragraph.

    • Jane says

      Hi Magali, and what a delight to read this! I also read that one reason they turned to the victims of domestic abuse was they set out to do a study to find out why men become abusive, but the men wouldn’t talk to them. The women couldn’t stop talking, once they got going, and as you have so clearly explained, the focus shifted to the victims as the problem patients. The men don’t want to be fixed. They don’t see any problem with their behavior. But the women are asking for help. They want to be fixed. Let’s fix the women!!!

      I am happy to say that I am a survivor of a garden variety of abuses. I have tried nothing, counseling with no medication, medication with no counseling, and counseling with medication. But I also am a Clinic Defense escort (volunteer) at the local abortion clinic, and journal, and play the piano, and have my own support network, which I could not live without.

      Don’t you love how when we get more awake and aware and start asking questions, sometimes the doctor wants to increase or change the medication? Then it’s time to find a new healthcare provider.

      Thank you again for your spirited and insightful expose!

    • Jane says

      You have also reminded me of something a good friend used to say all the time. “If you aren’t depressed by looking around you at this fucked-up world, then you simply aren’t paying attention!”

      On the other side, though, are the people who really are seriously impaired by a mental illness or brain injury or whatever, who are self-medicating with sex, drugs, alcohol, online gaming, etc., or who had meds but not the right balance and went off them.

      I just can’t understand how they can justify calling toddlers bipolar and putting them on antipsychotic meds.

  10. jo says

    I’m a therapist and I’ve always seen my job as one of helping people reveal the pain of their lives so they can heal. When people start to reveal their damaged childhoods, broken marriages and unhealthy patterns, I get to see people who are honest, true and real, with no artifice or falsity. The paradox for me is that the ugly part of my profession – seeing people’s pain and damage – is also the beauty of my profession. When someone sits in my office and sheds tears over brutal hurts that happened either years ago or as recently as last week, their pain is actually quite beautiful because their pain shows them the strength and resilience that has always been within them. It takes releasing the pain for folks to see how courageous, gifted and creative they really are. I recently watched a documentary called “That Lady in Number 6” which is the inspiring story of pianist Alice Herz-Sommer, a holocaust survivor who always saw the beauty and grace in life. She was imprisoned at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp for two years and she and her son Raphael survived but her beloved husband, Leopold died at Dachau, a short six weeks before the camp was liberated. In the documentary, Herz-Sommer said, “Even the bad is beautiful.” Her spirit shone through when she said those words and I found it incredibly inspiring that despite what she’s been through in her life, she still felt that no matter what happens, life is still beautiful.

    The only underbelly for me in my profession is something I ran into years ago. I used to do play therapy with children and absolutely loved it. I loved working with kids because they were so innocent, despite what brought them into therapy. Even the kids who had been terribly hurt by abuse or neglect still maintained an aura of innocence, and most of them would begin to smile and laugh again as they moved through the therapeutic process. I’d take kids into my play therapy room and listen as they told their stories of terrible abuse by family members, neighbours or strangers and yet they still carried the energy of hope, no matter what they’d been through. The problem I often ran into was their parents. I am a firm believer that in order to work with kids, the parents have to be part of the healing process. I’d explain this to parents and they would initially agree but as we moved through the therapeutic process, I was often met with the parents’s resistance. They wanted their children to change, but they themselves didn’t want to change. I’d explain to them that if they didn’t initiate their own process of change, their kids would be returning to the same unhealthy dynamics when they left my office. The kids only had an hour a week with me, if they were returning home to old, unhealthy patterns, therapy became more of a struggle for the kids than a help. They wanted their kids to be less depressed, less angry and more compliant at school but they didn’t want to do the work needed to support the kids to achieve those goals. I had so many parents get frustrated and irritated with the kids when the kids got to a wonderful place of expressing themselves loudly and adamantly. So many parents said the right words about wanting their children to ‘get better’ but they struggled with it when it actually happened because it seemed to challenge some deeply held beliefs about children being ‘seen and not heard.’ It was an ugly underbelly that surprised and saddened me, so much so that I stopped working with kids because I was so disheartened by what most parents weren’t willing to do. Now that I think of it, it still makes me sad. I miss working with kids but I don’t miss that nasty underbelly of the parent’s resistance to embracing their children’s true essence.

    • Laura Davis says

      Jo, thanks for this eloquent and honest post. I completely agree about parents who think someone else can fix their kids for an hour or two a week.

      I also loved what you said about the beautiful eloquence of pain–and how it can underscore a person’s inner strength.

      In particular, I loved these lines: “When someone sits in my office and sheds tears over brutal hurts that happened either years ago or as recently as last week, their pain is actually quite beautiful because their pain shows them the strength and resilience that has always been within them. It takes releasing the pain for folks to see how courageous, gifted and creative they really are. “

    • beverly Boyd says

      Jo, You did a really good job expressing the reality of working with children whose parents are not willing to participate in the healing process with their children.

      My daughter who teaches second grade was expressing the same frustration with parents, who seem to think that an hour or two with a therapist and an understanding classroom teacher, who has twenty-five or more children all day, will be enough.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Jane says

      “The older, the sicker.” Sometimes we old people need a jackhammer to cut through the layers of concrete and sheet metal covering many years of healed scars and still infected wounds.

      I don’t know how to do your job, Jo, and you are a very special person to commit your abilities and talents to that work. Does it ever seem like they wish they could be part of the healing process, but their belief in the despair and hopelessness keeps them stuck? I know it felt that way to me sometimes, both on the child side, and on the parent side.

      (cue: “Both Sides Now” and “Send In The Clowns”) 🙂

  11. says

    Thank you for doing this work Jo, and understanding so clearly what children (and all humans) need in order to heal. I liked this line:

    “I had so many parents get frustrated and irritated with the kids when the kids got to a wonderful place of expressing themselves loudly and adamantly.”

    I think it is a wonderful insight to share with others that there is beauty in pain. We seem to have forgotten this in our society. If we allow ourselves to lean into our feelings (rather than numb them) there are often great treasures on the other side of the experience. It has taken me a very long time to remember this and put it into action in my life on a consistent basis. Being a parent has helped to bring the lesson home.

  12. says

    What I do is a mixed bag. First, I am a writer, advocate, and activist, with a wacky sense of humour sometimes. I have a twitter following which is quickly honing in on 10K and a growing FB audience. I talk with survivors of all kinds at all hours of the day and night, providing whatever support I can. I am considering the revival of a global anti-human trafficking group I led years ago on FB.

    The underbelly of what I do with anti-human trafficking is that it is painful to witness what people do to each other. To keep this a bit lighter, however, I choose to remember a moment in Scotland at Cairngorm National Park. I was walking with one of our guides. We were chatting freely and enjoying ourselves. Hugging trees. Savouring the stark beauty all around us. I learned that ‘loch’ meant lake. She told me about her work, hopes and life goals. Then it was my turn. When I got around to my activism, I spoke of this group as an example.

    Suddenly, everything changed. “Why don’t you go on and leave me here?” She seemed a bit cool and I felt dejected. What did I do? I let it go quickly. Everybody else was long gone at that point and she left me on my own to find my way. Quickly, I romanticized it, reciting Robert Frost in my head. I hurried along the path but saw nobody. It was dead quiet.

    Finally, I heaved a sigh. I came upon another retreat participant who was all by herself sitting on the ground. I knew she had pain with movement sometimes and became concerned about her. “Hi.” She looked up and smiled. “How are you doing?” I studied the mound of grass and sticks she was shaping.

    “It’s a fort,” she said. “For a porcupine.” She was very lost in her work.

    “Are you okay?” I sat with her, unsure if she could walk or wanted me there. I thought it was better to stay together and eventually talked her into walking with me, offering my walking stick if she needed it…

    The end of this tale involves that very stick and a Master Chief but that is another story altogether. And, cruel soul that I am, I don’t want to satisfy too many of my dear readers’ yearnings at once. ‘You’ve got to leave ‘em hanging’, says an unknown and craggy male voice in my head.

    It turns out I sometimes need to shake my walking stick back at Twitter. There, I write funny stuff when the mood hits me and gain many people from that. I also use that account to support other authors, friends, and the many groups of people who have their basic human rights trampled upon every single day. I advocate for the voiceless and those who don’t have internet access to make their words heard.

    Sometimes this brings out the bizarre. I am always dumping people who do porn or get excited by stories of abuse. It is a bit like when I was a rape crisis counsellor: sometimes men called the 24-hour line and recounted a tale of what happened to their girlfriend. We took every single call as serious but had to listen to our instincts–and his breathing–to determine if it was a genuine distress call or a titillating distraction. With the latter, I brandished my sword and cut the connection immediately.

    Finally, the underbelly of my work is the downside of being an adventurer. Who would have thought there would be a soft vulnerable spot in that scenario?

    Unfortunately, there is. I run my networks on air. I cannot advance anything because advertising costs huge wads of money, as does getting fancier, having a paid membership on LinkedIn to make progress there, consultations with people who might answer my many questions, back and believe in me. There is no encouragement, cheering, nobody proud of me, no written endorsements. No money to pay for an editor of my memoir and poetry book or to self-pub, if necessary. Although I am struggling to work, surviving on a disability pension of $10K a year, in everything, I am all alone. However, I am not whinging. With only one choice, I try to find the upside.

    This is it. On the rare occasion, I like myself. I admire the spirit that fights on and am so happy I have it mucho gusto. Yes, I choose how I spend my money and I am proud of what I do with it. Also, I just finished a pre-employment program and will now make the price of a postage stamp per hour of work. For how hard I work, and the wealth of experience I have, it is the ultimate insult.

    Why is this my life? I ask often, while banging my head against the wall. Why do people find it so hard to know me? If I was a good Buddhist, I would say, ‘Being exactly where I am gives me the best means to work inside and really connect with the hearts of other people.’ Not for my personal advancement, you understand—now there’s a real joke!–but to feel and document the suffering of others like me.

    Guess what? Like you, dear reader, the universe leaves me hanging. I wonder what happens next. My creativity feels infinite sometimes. Every day, I am rewriting my story. Adding to it. Erasing the unimportant. Challenging my energies, self-defeating thoughts and self-sabotaging tendencies—all of it. Tunnelling for the facetious in every damned thing.

    Even being a full-time student, in courses that might yield no recognition for me at all! I am laughing—while studying hard—because I feel as rich as Oprah. It is all about confidence and I am building it. Where will I end up? Who knows? But, by God, I will have fun getting there! Underbelly or no.

    Besides, in the gym, I’m pumping iron and contorting myself into all kinds of shapes to toughen up. I even seem to have picked up a new hobby. Collecting postage stamps.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Hi Terry,
      I loved this line: “This is it. On the rare occasion, I like myself. I admire the spirit that fights on and am so happy I have it mucho gusto.”

      This is the Terry I have seen so often on this site, who is willing to throw caution to the winds and fight for what she believes is right or to save another’s life even as she puts her own in danger!

    • Jane says

      Hi Terry, and thank you for tackling the global anti-human trafficking problem. I know very little about this, and there was a radio show about the Polaris group and their hotline so anyone could call to report that they were being trafficked or prostituted against their will, or to report suspicious activity. I really love your story, and your writing kept me with you each step through it.

      In this age of crowd sourcing, have you considered GoFundMe or some such option? There are several of them. You probably know all that, though.

      Favorite part: “Guess what? Like you, dear reader, the universe leaves me hanging. I wonder what happens next. My creativity feels infinite sometimes. Every day, I am rewriting my story. Adding to it. Erasing the unimportant. Challenging my energies, self-defeating thoughts and self-sabotaging tendencies—all of it. Tunnelling for the facetious in every damned thing.”

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