Sunday, August 22, 2010

Someone Else's Head - A Scary Place to Be

In an hour I'll be leaving for my bi-monthly writers' group.  This time the passages I will read are a little bit different.  When I write, I try to take on the mindset of the character so that what I'm having him say or do is appropriate for that person with his or her particular personality.  If I can't get into that persona, it just reads like a writer telling a story.

In the new book I'm working on, there is a serial killer.  So you see the problem.  I have to sort of think like a killer.  If you know me, you're having a laugh about now.  If not, you're wondering what kind of crazy I am.  I don't know if I've accomplished the right attitude or not, but I can tell you I came out of the room after my last writing session feeling pretty down.  To go to that place I had to imagine a lot of anger and resentment. I worked for about three hours and maintained a pretty hateful attitude toward most everything and everyone in the killer's world. I had a depressed feeling for hour after I'd put it all aside. 

The experience started me thinking about the many people who truly have suffered difficult lives.  If a person grows up watching or receiving constant hatred and rage, s/he must internalize a lot of that.  The abused often become abusers, after all.  I'm not saying everyone subjected to regular mental or physical violence is a potential killer. 

I'm actually wondering just the opposite.  How is it so many people rise above it?  I have to ask myself what someone finds within to become a successful human being. For some it seems to be the strength of religious faith.  Others attribute their success to hard work or education.  I wonder if anyone knows?  Psychologists continue to debate whether it's "nature or nurture" that influences our development more profoundly.   They do know, however, as all of us do - love and kindness always helps.  

For a while I don't plan to go back to that twisted killer mentality.  I think I'll spend a little time extending a hand to a kid I know.  She's stuck in a tough situation, and maybe a hand is all she'll need to climb out.  And if not, maybe she'll remember someone tried.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Minimum Sufficient Level of Care

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I've been training to be a Guardian ad Litem. In classes, we discussed what is called the Minimum Sufficient Level of Care.  The term means, in case you don't know, the basic needs of the child are met in the home.  In other words, children will typically be left in a home that offers adequate and essentially safe food, shelter, clothing, and faciliities for personal hygiene. 

I have to admit that I have had some difficulty in believing such a low standard as acceptable.  Maybe it's because I know of homes in which this is exactly what the the children receive from their parents:  the minimum.  I understand not everyone has the same financial ability to provide for his or her family.  That's not the issue.  The house being large or small, mansion or log cabin isn't, in my eyes, important.  What does seem to be vital to a child's care is having an involved, interested parent making an effort to guide and protect his son or daughter.  For me, when that isn't available to the child, the standard of care is not minimal. 

However I maybe feel, I do realize that my personal feelings are irrelevant.  I must understand and comply with the established definitions. I believe I can do this, but I will ask the program's supervisor to keep an eye on me.  I don't want to be judge and jury.  A child who has been removed from a parent suffers from the separation.  He or she nearly always wants to go home to be with their mom or dad, and I would never intentionally want to make a kid's anxiety worse.

So what do I want?  A change in our standards, that's all.  Is it really asking too much for parents to spend time loving and teaching their children?