09 January 2007

I'm Okay, You're Not Okay, but That's Okay, Because You Don't Exist.

A few years ago I came to a crossroads in my academic pursuit at the time, and due to circumstances both within and beyond my control, I veered off the academic road. This translates to: a few years ago, I was in nursing school. I'd wanted to be a nurse for many years, and while the time wasn't ideal, it was as good a time as any to be in school. But I took a semester off due to financial reasons and burnout from my work schedule, parenting, and heavy courseload. During that semester off, we had to buy a house (another story with another moral) and I got pregnant with Ingrid (already talked about). So I didn't finish nursing school, and it's doubtful I will before my kids are all in grade school. Which in a way is a shame, because I was really close to finishing, and I like to complete things I start. But not finishing was also a good decision in the long run.

Psych nursing was my thing. Talking to people about their shit, being able to balance empathy and detachment, all came naturally to me. I'm pretty good at listening to what people say and don't say. I'm not afraid of silence in a conversation. There's not much that shocks me so I didn't look surprised when clients admitted to doing fucked up things. And like my dad, I'm a people person with a dash of introversion, which apparently is comforting to some people. Incidentally, we also did a great deal of role playing in my psych rotation. My instructor said I played a very convincing drug addict. That was a complement. Better to be able to play one than actually be one.

So for better or worse, I psychoanalyze people a lot. Friends, family, co-workers, random people I observe in cafes, people that don't really exist. Primo does it, too, and we share our observations. Imagine Marion Woodman and Carl Jung sitting down with a glass of wine or a pot of tea and chatting about who they know. Okay not that high brow, but you get the picture. We're both people watchers, and people analyzers. In high school and college I wrote more short stories, and really focused on character development as a way to help propel action and plot. That way, my characters really brought their problems and conflicts on to themselves, and I just wrote about it. I generally drew from people I knew or had people watched. Same goes for role playing games. I tend to think of minute character details for RPG characters, ponder specific motivations for actions, and when all is said and done, I open them up, and pick them apart. There's always more there than there was in the first place. And that is so cool! It's like baking bread!

I had great fun psychoanalyzing my current favorite non-existent people/demon family unit. There's a little here. And poor Shizuka just developed even more after that. She baked well. I kept asking myself throughout the game, "Is she really as messed up as her actions indicate." I'd say yes, but I can also see her rationale. There's a neat dicussion on the Forge about our game.

I had a psych patient who was coming out of a really bad place, after hundreds of bad places. I believed that he sincerely believed he was going to stay clean this time, that this stint in rehab stuck, even though the odds were squarely against him. He was in his late 40's, a lifelong addict with multiple dependencies, he had a history of physical and possible other forms abuse at the hands of family members, facing hard time in prison, and had lost his support systems: church, family, home. I was haunted by his story, because it really sucked. He'd done some stupid things--really stupid because of a heroin or cocaine binge, or both. But I had empathy for him, and I hoped he could beat the odds. Writing his nursing care plan--essentially picking him apart and describing what could help him, helped me to let him go.

Here's a little of what I didn't write about Shizuka at the Forge. I had typed it up as a response to Ron's questions and thought it better not to post it. It hits a little close to home, and I felt it had a better place here (go figure). Thus, Shizuka gets no nursing care plan, but she was analyzed and picked apart suffiently this past week.
So I'd like to speak for my character, Shizuka, one of the totally
fucked up wives. I had so much fun playing her, but on many levels I found it difficult to play her. I felt like I had to make bad choices for her in order for her actions to remain in character. With her kicker, she believed that Tai, whom she more or less trusted and probably loved, betrayed her in a really awful way: she thought he was the one who left a dead baby in the attic. She knew he was lying about how it got there. And so she was emotionally unstable, depressed, and already prone to substance abuse. Not a fun person to be around or pretend to be. She didn't come from happy place.

I got my inspiration for her from personal darkness, and from patients I had cared for during my psych rotation in nursing school. A lot of these people were at some of the lowest points of their lives. They had hurt people they loved to feed their addiction, made unhealthy choices for themselves, and did just really stupid things. Still, my psych patients were likable people. I think all of our PC's and NPC's were likable people and demons in their own way. Even Prometheus, despite Joshua's attempt to make him otherwise. Even Tai. Even Sophie, who piled on the lies to protect herself and to keep from justifying the morally objectionable action of putting a demon into her dying husband--because she couldn't deal with him dying. [See the Forge post about how I liked Harriet]. I didn't like Shizuka's mother so much.

Anyhow, fucked up as it was, Shizuka and Tai reconciled. Shizuka's mother sent Tai back to her contained in a teapot. (Here's something odd: for Christmas, both my mother and mother-in-law gave me teapots!) At first she pretended to have forgotten everything that had happened up to the night before she found the dead baby in the attic--as if to say, "I'll forget what you've done so we can go back to the way things were before I found out what you'd done". Tai didn't seem to believe her, so she confessed that she remembered everything. Her price was large gap memory loss--which she tried to use to her advantage to no avail. I imagined that she had a file cabinet of things she knew she'd forget, but she never read what she wrote. Then *she* apologized for being disagreeable, promised to be more agreeable, begged him to stay, and they were once again bound. She accepted all responsibility for Tai leaving her.

Up until the very last minute, I couldn't decide if Shizuka would rebind or banish Tai. The healthiest choice obviously was banishment. Shizuka, however, was not a healthy person who was able to form and grow healthy relationships. In one scene, Harriet asked Shizuka why she wanted Tai back, and Shizuka admitted that she liked "bad boys". (This is something that someone once pointed out to me when I young and self absorbed. I did not deny it then, but years later, when marriage material presented himself, he was refreshingly not a total bad boy, but he was bad enough without being sociopathic or otherwise dangerous.) Tai's need was to make her happy, and other than the low level but constant bickering between them, I assumed that he usually made her happy, even with missing babies. So, in Shizuka's mind, there was marriage to Tai, which could be a happy endeavor as long as she ignored/forgot his transgressions. And it would be filled with good food, a nice garden, other pursuits of sensual gratification, and seeing the world, vs. no Tai. And from the glimpse she got of no Tai, that was dreadful, with the fingertip getting chopped off, the opium binge, being alone, etc. It was creepy and wrong, but reconciliation was the logical choice.

Marion Woodman
Carl Jung
Sigmund Freud
Pacifica Graduate Institute One of the places I'd apply to attend when it's time to go back to school.

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