“Should I publish this poem?”

A reader down the coast asked a touching question. She wrote a poem about her son’s addiction. She had obtained his permission to start submitting, and was interested in my take. After reading her piece, I asked her to consider several things:

  • When did you ask for permission?
  • How old was he when you asked?
  • Was it during an in-patient treatment stay?
  • Was he new to recovery?
  • Was he emotionally and financially dependent?
  • Is he emotionally and financially dependent now?

If the answer to any of these is yes, to publish before her child had the maturity to understand, really understand, the emotional impact of being published about would be taking advantage of a minor or dependent adult.


Writing Prompt: You are in Denial

A tsunami survivor who insists, “It was a great vacation with one bad day.”

Should la title not suffice, consider the following:

Denial is not relegated to the epically screwy. One of the ways that we allow denial to flourish is to assign it only to the extreme cases, a tsunami survivor who insists, “It was a great vacation with one bad day.”

A lot of what passes for acceptable parental behavior seems to me to be abusive. Some obvious examples are screaming at our children, or slapping them because we are not able to control our own anger. I am not saying it is not human. It is very human. It is also abusive.  I would not allow a care provider to behave like that with my child. Why did my parents? Why do I?

To dismiss your parents abuse because “there’s worse” out there is to miss a great writing opportunity. To dismiss examining your self is to miss an even better one.

Ranked high in the There’s Worse category is a common action: leaving a child in the car while the parent runs into the 7-11 for a soda.

I don’t care if the car is locked.

I don’t care if you “can see the kid the whole time.”

I don’t care about “It was just for a second” or “What are the odds?” 

If a child is truly safe, alone in a car, why is it illegal?

The Longest River in the World

The people whose denial really hacks me off are generally related to me.

Somewhere on the West Coast, JS writes: You mention that some of your family members don’t acknowledge the extent of the “epically screwy” parents. Their response seems not that uncommon, but it’s hard to fathom. What is your take on why people seem unwilling/unable to face reality, or they seem to think that victims should just “get over it?” 

It’s called denial, JS.

When I am  feeling charitable—which is not often; I am not that nice a person—I focus on “unable” over “unwilling.” People use denial as a way to continue living in the face of an intolerable reality. The people whose denial really hacks me off are generally related to me. That, or the specific instances of their denial trigger in me a reaction that has more to do with the child I was than the adult I have become. I do my best to ascribe to them as much pain around their issues as I feel around mine. I pretend that individuals who want victims (and I will add: survivors) to get over it are not hopeless assholes. I make up that they are in the most denial, and therefore the most pain. So much, that I cannot expect them to acknowledge my pain. They don’t acknowledge their own.

If I can’t stay in “charitable” around them, I give them at least ten feet. When the Anglo-Saxon expletives threaten, I leave.

It is important for me to remember that everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe. As long as someone is not physically or emotionally abusive, it is my job to be polite in public. (As I am responsible for small children, it is also my job to protect them from abuse until they can do so for themselves.)

If I cannot seem to let go of the fantasies where I drill this one in court or denounce that one on their deathbed, well, that’s a good time to open up a blank Word document. Job security!