Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Outside the Triangle

I am 40 years old.  This day of work has been curious.  I have had two students in the high school where I am employed tell me their deepest troubles.  One has been treading water for too long.  She has had a rough upbringing and in trying to survive her lot at such a young age, she is pregnant and hooked on drugs.  She thinks she has a venereal disease tooHelp for Teens at PP.  This is not a story that catches me off guard anymore, even in a school with high achievers jacked with money.  Yes, we have a school nurse, but these kids aren't about to go through the "appropriate" web of hierarchal channels.  They have seen the mess that makes. Already their trust is broken.  They are not about to enter a system that grinds it to sand and blows it away. 

I am a magnet for these kids.  I am an open book.  They know that I have had hard times, I have taken drugs, partied too hard, hit the ground hard- unable to get up at times.  They know I was abused.  I tell them  so that they can see that it is okay to own that and share it without shame.  I have made it a point to be plain with them.  I take an interest and ask questions which elicit guarded, but honest answers.  The more questions I have asked of the students and the more they have seen that it always remains confidential (minus the overt), the more I am invited into the labyrinth of teen-hood in the 21st century.  I am not surprised although I strongly feel that I should be, that not all that much has changed.  The worst of it is how little has been done in all of the years since I was their age, to do more than just talk about abuse, drugs, pregnancy, mental illness, but to act in ways that allow for them to trust adults enough to have open and honest dialogue that leads to growth, opportunity and finally, foundational building blocks.  

Today, between classes, just as I am headed off to retrieve a student I am working with in the Special Ed Department, a young man who talks with me often at lunch time about his general confusion about how to "be" tells me, with very little introduction, that he has been touching his 10 year old cousin in a grossly inappropriate way.  This stops me dead in my tracks.  I have not heard this one before. 

I find someone to take my student for a walk citing the need to exercise the legality of mandatory reportingWhat's that?.  I would so much rather talk with this student for hours, laying a foundation for him to build his own inquiries about his actions.  I want him to have the chance to think about why he has entered into this behavior before he is shuffled around the system and his thought process gets watered down.  We talk for a while- for just as long as I can steal from upper management before I have to hand him over.  I find that I am asking him many of the same questions I had once asked my step father-my abuser.  I am blown away by the wonder of having the opportunity to engage in this conversation more than once in my life, when many people will never touch upon anything like it. 

In the evening, after talking a walk to unwind my gnarled brain, I look at the day in short- not allowing my brain to become too involved.  My conclusion, always best reached by short analysis, is that this is life.  I cannot make everyone get on board with my way of thinking, so I will have to do what I can to find and hold my own truth and compassion and to find organic connection to all.  My entire spiritual understanding boils down to the fact that, though it sounds ridiculously cliche, we are truly ONE.  What I do effects "all" and what "all" do, effects me.  Simple, with a whole lot of responsibility placed on everyones' shoulders I believe it can be seen to fruition.  I will work within that framework for the rest of my life. 


  1. I too, seem to attract a lot of people, especially teens. I've been so open about my own troubles and don't respond with horror at anything they shared. Even in high school, after an awful breakup, my ex referred a girl in the foster home, to talk to me at school. She said, "Are you Erin? Jeff sent me." It was pretty amazing to be looked to, in that manner. Now I'm used to it and am honored but so sad for them. By the way, that poor girl was pregnant with her father's baby. It was devastating to try and "comfort" her....what "comfort"?
    Too many adults forget what it's like to be that age and too many more have NO clue or no care for what goes on.

  2. Yes, Carin's book has longed begged to see the light of day!

    She is an amazing lady with one of the most amazing stories (a misnomer, in that it is non-fiction) I have ever heard. She shared some of it with me in about 2005.

    I was astonished on three levels.
    [1] how badly abused she was by a psychologist, step father,
    [2] how she survived it and survived what it drove her to (including drugs—her self medication and escape), and
    [3] what a truly extraordinary survivor and human being she ended up being, despite of all she endured.

    As a professional and professor and otherwise, I have known a lot of women well in my lifetime. But Cairin is the most unique and most amazing women I have ever known personally. Perhaps the best quality of this amazing lady is that she not only got past the damage done to her, but that she had been doing all she can to help others who might be facing life with the same or similar burdens. She made me come to realize and research how many your girls are abused like she was, often—and most sadly—by the very men closest to them and whom they would normally expect to trust! This is a serious problem in America, I learned.


    This lady is a straight shooter, in every respect! Thus, her book would have all the authenticity and credibility that any victim of on-going child abuse could reveal and share with the world.

    She tells it as she sees it ... always! And she can be an "open book" and that is for 3 reasons (at least). First, that's her character. Secondly, she came to know that she had no fault or reason for shame. Third, she has a sincere desire to try to help other people and to enlighten us all, to try and prevent the perpetuation of the horrible experiences she endured and survived.

    That book definitely should be written and published; she knows I think so, we discussed it back in 2005. Perhaps this blog—which I am seeing for the first time now—is (even if not consciously intended by Cairin) the beginning of that book!

    God Bless you Cairin. You never cease to amaze me! I am sorry that I am late arriving here. But glad I did and, as usual, you still amaze me! I am glad to have known you and to have had you share your "story" (misnomer) with me; it made me come to understand this "dark side" of life in America that so many little girls (and beyond) have to suffer through. I shall always respect you and have a place in my heart for you for sharing this with me and the world and for thereby trying to do what you can to make a difference for others. I am pleased to say my wonderful daughter is now my law partner and she was spared anything like what you experienced.

    Ironically, it does raise one strange question in Cairin's case (not generally—i do not believe): If something horrible does not kill you; are you in some ways better for it in the end if you survive it? That has noting to do with whether it is right or good—obviously it is horrible. But, in the unique case of Cairn, she emerged from that "hell on earth" to become a truly amazing women who is now trying to help others (and there are many others) who are facing or faced a similar "hell on earth". And she does it so openly, honestly and altruistically and with great knowledge and insight!

    Bob Lippelman
    Florida and North Carolina

    May 26, 2012