So, I’m comfortable with being unusual. In June, 2014, there was a move to that island where we used to spend summers, where I would write and revise while my kids ran barefoot and swam and caught tiny fish with their bare hands. But living there? That was not the same as a summer there. Living on an island with no bridge, only accessible by boat, with two teenage boys and a 10 year old girl for a year? That was different.
The kids made use of the Florida Virtual School program, a computerized version of home school, one where I was not the teacher, thank goodness. While living on the island, my daughter and I started a book together. It’s got fantastic potential, but has sat untouched for months. Work meant nursing jobs at two facilities specializing in care of psychiatric, detox and substance abuse clients. Early on, a coworker asked me how the shift was going and I said it was like being paid to go to a family reunion.
But, as I became more involved, I saw more. Living in an isolated environment while caring for those the every day world is incredibly uncomfortable discussing at Chipotle was incredibly draining. Always observing, I absorbed new people, their mannerisms, tics, what they tried to hide and could not, their grammar, body language, their lies, their undercurrents, reactions to other clients and to the staff, all this new information flooded me and I absorbed it like a sponge. But by the time I got home, I was dazed. Journals wouldn’t hold my new understanding of human behavior. I needed sleep, but there were children. Learning personalities of staff at two facilities, which soon became three, exhausted me more.
My writing friends keep saying, this will show up somewhere, everywhere. I did not have time to review books; I did not have the brain space, or the emotional bandwidth. All the synopses sounded too close to home or far too unrealistic. I turned requests down, one after another, out of fear I’d critique too harshly.
We left the island for the big city of Sarasota once school started again, because… socialization. Which sounds minute compared to Atlanta, but Atlanta is made of thousands upon thousands of suburbs and not many people who say they are from Atlanta LIVE in Atlanta. Moving from suburbia to island to city has changed conversations in our family considerably, but it is also a combination of my kids’ maturation, their increasing awareness and my job. Nine days into the school year my two younger kids were pulled to a TAG school located around the corner from one of the facilities where I work. Across the street from them is Planned Parenthood, the Salvation Army and a cemetery where some homeless clients sleep and pass the time.
One morning walking them in, I spotted one of my regular clients, running through traffic in cut off shorts and a yellow t-shirt, leaning into every SUV and Audi, shouting, “Hey Mister! Anything you want for a 20.” This is not something my kids were exposed to in Alpharetta, Georgia. Also fantastic book title: HOW TO SPOT A HOOKER ON METH. Send me that for a book review and you have my attention.
With all this activity, I have been creatively drained, or should I say, my creativity has been diverted to other areas for quite some time. I’ve been actively navigating new territory and giving quick, neutral, humorous or encouraging responses on the fly, keeping my cool when threatening clients act out. I’ve found that psych facility staff offer creative and fun friends that write, draw, paint, sing, and make music. We make jokes faster than I can blink while holding a psychotic man down and giving him a shot in the ass. With the sadness and the sadsacks, the environment needs a turn of phrase, a laugh as often as possible. And what is storytelling, if not plunging into psych? The reasons why we all do what we do? Yes, my writing friends are correct. Something will come out of this.