Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On Long Weekends...

Usually, my weekends don't seem like weekends. I work weekends at a sub-acute psychiatric residential treatment center for troubled teens. The girls I work with are choice human beings. I think that the more important someone is, the more difficult their circumstances will be. I've come to believe that there are things that can only be learned by going through the fires of adversity. Thus the children I have the privilege of working with are vital creatures. They're sweet and brilliant and funny and tortured and sad and scared. They like me (which continues to mystify) and seem to be perpetually interested in the comings and goings of my life. It's interesting to have been able to share my preparations for school with a few of them. There are a lot of things that I deal with that they understand, and the reverse as well. Most of them aren't as obsessed with film and literature as I am, but they understand the anxiety accompanying new endeavors, the debilitating nature of self-doubt, etc. Not sure why this subject came up here. Perhaps because I spent my weekend with them, and this post is on weekends.

So this past weekend was a normal one, with the exception of no school on Monday. Now that school has started, I will be able to appreciate the days when I don't have to go.

Labor Day to-do list:
*go to breakfast with sweetie
*do some homework
*watch Firefly
*write a bit
*be generally productive

Mostly this list was accomplished. My sweetie and I sat in a small cafe and ate breakfast sandwiches and watch the dreary drizzle turn into a downpour. He took a nap while I studied and we watched Firefly. I did a few other things. Things that I can't remember now, but that I'm sure were good indicators of productivity.

I need to purchase a stapler.

Classes yesterday:


I'm early to class. I will endeavor to be so for the rest of the semester. As long as I don't have anything distracting me from walking out the door, I don't have a problem being punctual. Cantrell comes in right when class-time begins. He is wearing the kind of hat that I picture a retired grandfather would put on to go fishing at four o'clock in the morning. He asks us where we left off on Thursday, and then asks us where the Behaviorists start in the book. I call out a page number and he launches into a disjointed lecture. He is loud and enthusiastic, punctuating his tirades with the question, "Am I making sense?" He talks about social cognitive theory, that a human being can learn behaviors upon observation. He speaks of life in the service and tells us of being taught how to kill someone with a bayonet. He lunges forward, thrusting an imaginary bayonet into the air before him and shouting inarticulately, as if skewering an enemy. He does this three times before telling us, "Just like that. We learned how to do it by watching someone else. That's not just something that you are born knowing. Social learning theory."

He mentions Seligman and his positive psychology movement. What are some positive aspects of psychology? he asks us. We throw ideas out: child development, relationships, self-awareness and personal growth. One boy says, "Happiness." Cantrell raises his eyebrows, "Very good," he says. "What is happiness?" The boy blinks, "Are you asking me?" Cantrell nods, "Yes, what is the definition of happiness? What does happiness mean to you?" He looks around the room, taking in more of his audience, "When does happiness occur? Where does that serenity, that contentment come from?" I consider this, and then write in my notebook: Happiness? ----> being connected to a perfect moment, connected enough to realize that it's happening, connected enough to cherish and remember it. Happiness: realizing moments of exquisite beauty can occur at any time; moments in one's self, out in the world, in other people; moments of transcendental grace.

He speaks of Nietzsche and says that he coined the famous quote about insanity, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As far as I know, this quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, but what do I know? I'm not the psych professor. Nietzsche did have some things to say on insanity though:

"Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule."

"There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness."

At one point in class, he has us close our eyes. He tells us to imagine the three most important things to us, to visualize them. He asks us to imagine that one morning, when we wake up, those three most important things are gone. Just gone, as if they'd never existed. This thought is distressing to me, and when he asks us to open our eyes, I have tears on my cheeks. This exercise is tied into what he is attempting to explain to the class about patients in the mental hospital who don't want to leave because they attach security, safety and stability to the hospital experience itself. I start thinking about a short story, where something like that would happen. The main character would wake up, and most important thing to them would be gone, as if it had never been there. And then a week later the main character would wake up and it would be back, as if it had never gone. Interesting.

Cantrell's quotes for the day:

"My daughter died almost two years ago and that was my question: how do I go on? How do I maintain sanity?"

"Freud was a nut. Yeah, he was crazy."


I come into class with my giant sketchpad and my sketchbook filled with two hours of drawing assignments. The sketchpad page is covered with a surrealistic doodle of girls and clouds and flowers growing out of the side of someone's head and a rain of blood.


Shepherd spends most of the class period letting us know what our assignments for the course will be. They include: contour drawings, one-point perspective, text designs, fantasy work. Then she suggests that we all go to our new classroom, which is at a high school in Highland. I am grumpy at this announcement. Please, driving to Lehi just isn't far enough, let's make it further. Thank you so much! Of course, it's out in the country and will probably be just as hard to get to as Wasatch Campus would have been once a week once the bad weather starts. Of course, I and another student (JD, also in my ART1400) get lost and are unable to find the campus. We finally give it up and decide to try next time. I find the whole thing to be ridiculous. Augh.

I turn in my English paper tomorrow. I wonder how it will be received.

No comments: