Sunday, 21 May 2006

Being 'open' in speech

Bear with me - I'm very sleepy, and not sure I'll make all that much sense today. :) Last night, I was reading a souvenir insert in the Daily Mail, celebrating Carnaby Street and the sensational 60s. Funny, the things that enter one's mind - though I'm still, in many ways, 1960s to the core. It was a big time for being 'open,' and this indeed was an improvement of conversations in which previous generations engaged, which tended to be all politeness, no content, and, all too often, manipulative. (For example, women of a previous generation would 'go with' men in which they had no interest, indeed whom they may have despised, just to be 'seen' and have the opportunity to meet other men. People who ostensibly were friends for decades never shared much about their true lives.)

Well, all right, that is a bit of balderdash - we are working class people, so those rules did not apply, and our solidarity was strong if our refinement was non-existent. :) But I did have a thought. It is very difficult to strike a balance between openness and honesty and self-absorption. Today, when pop psychology is the rage, and everyone fears violation of 'boundaries,' paradoxically many are becoming so self absorbed that I am tempted to remind them that the population of the planet is more than one.

Pop psychology did not exist during my early adult years, but the 'openness,' which, depending on which speeches one heard, either would lead to closeness with others or foster an appearance of what today would be called self esteem (we called it being 'together'), was a double edged sword. Coming from an Italian background, where people are gregarious, hospitable, and generous, yet the first sentence one learns is 'don't tell anybody your business,' one could imagine the conflict.

Recently, two dearly loved friends of mine experienced having elderly parents become very ill. Lord knows I know that story well - I watched my dad decline for three years after a major heart attack, then saw my mother's suffering, mental and physical, as I cared for her over four years following a colostomy. Why I thought of this I do not know, but it may be worth a mention. In my convent days, when we were supposed to have smiles like plastic dolls to look 'recollected,' and speaking of oneself, even in an indirect fashion, could figuratively land one in the brig, I wonder if our pat answers ('God's will' and such) really did anyone to whom we listened any good. We must have seemed unreal.

I very much dislike when people who hear of another's problem try to 'top them.' That is self absorption at its worst. But genuine honesty can be supportive. For example, it was hard for me, when my mother was very bad, not to be able to confide my own pain and exasperation to anyone. The 'rule' was that all I should care about was her suffering - my own should not matter. How well I remember, when she was in hospital, how I'd return home, totally exhausted, and have endless phone messages. Ostensibly, and in accord with Italian 'respect,' these messages were caring - but the conversations were more often along the lines of 'you have the wrong doctor - do they know what they're doing...'

I think it can be valuable for us to share our own pain, provided we do not desire a medal for endurance. It is far easier for another to admit to his own exasperation if he knows that others with ill parents do not have to polish their haloes daily and congratulate themselves for thinking Mum the most loveable Alzheimer's patient on earth.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

Exams finally finished

I am quite exhausted, of course, and today's entry may be of little value. I've been glancing at some headlines this week (post exam collapse), and just had to shake my head. Why do people assume that the words of 'professionals' may be taken as gospel? I'm remembering one friend of mine, who had five children in the course of 12 years. She freely admitted that whatever the doctor told her about her pregnancy or newborn care with any one child had changed by the time the next was born.

So... now women who have pain relief during childbirth will have yet another reason to feel guilty, imposed by midwives who have to justify their own existence beyond deliveries. It appears that the latest wisdom is that, if any of the agony is compromised (I suppose it has some mystic significance, beyond any other dreadful pain), the woman later will 'feel she missed something' and fail to 'bond' with the baby. Ah, yes, the 'bonding' thing again. Until recently, for example, when families often shared quarters or at least saw each other frequently, it was perfectly respectable for family and friends to hold babies... now, isolation is the name of the game to some extent, lest another's holding the child ruin the bonding with the mother.

Has common sense expired? Last week, I saw a programme about a teenaged mother, whose midwife not only did not want her mother or sister to feed or hold the baby, but insisted that the little one had to be up and dressed very early before he was fed. I have enough experience of babies to know that they need to be changed most after that morning feed... who would wash and dress a baby before then?

I recall, years ago, knowing a couple from Spain who had infant twins. The twins did not talk as early as they expected (that everyone is different is never considered), and the couple were told by a doctor that, if the little ones heard both English and Spanish, they'd never learn English. It did not occur to the couple to question this, though more people grow up bilingual than do not... after all, they'd heard this from a doctor...

Why does this so annoy me? It is not related to children per se at all. What angers me is the false premise. People have always had problems - and we've all been different from day one. But each generation expects to produce the breed, finally, which is perfectly well 'adjusted.' That never shall happen. If anything, all that this approach will produce are other reasons for parents to torture and blame themselves.