1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mea Culpa--My Bad?

Mea culpa. The Lily Briscoe in me wants to know: What does it mean? I will be doing my part to add to global warming in a few days when I board a plane which will take me away from Florida and back to my beloved in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. I will leave a part of me here (besides what's now working its way through the septic system) like a time capsule waiting to be opened at the appropriate time.

Our daughter has many admirable qualities, not the least of which is her empathy for the unloved ones or misfits she meets in this world. She is now 26 years old and has maintained contact with one such boy she has known since high school in Kentucky. His name is Michael. Consider, for a moment the meaning of that name. He has a long, social-services history of being passed from one relative to "friend of the family" and from "friend" to state mental facility in the hopes that he might someday find a purpose in life and be able to make himself useful to society. His profound speech impediment makes it difficult to understand what he says. It is unlikely that he will ever find gainful employment or live a "normal" life as most of us would understand that term. Sarah has a connection with Michael--they met in a high school art class--and she is probably the only true friend he has left in this world. Not too many people would give him the time of day, let alone care what happens to him, given the kind of "life" he has lived and the things he has done--or not done, like earn a living, marry, or raise a family. She just found out last week that the home of the family he was living with burned down under mysterious circumstances. The lady who took him in was the niece of a man he lived with for several years, whose house also burned down. Michael's life reveals a puzzling pattern which will probably never be solved, no matter how many social workers or psychologists get involved in trying to solve it. Why? He does not communicate very well, and even if he did, his tale would surely implicate the social service system as an accessory to the many, varied abuses he has endured for most of his life.

Sarah is approaching a major crossroads in her life right now. She loves being a massage therapist, but, the economy being what it is right now, her business has slowed to a snail's pace. I convinced her to take a couple of classes this semester, one of them an introductory social work class. I thought that career would fit her personality like a glove. Now, I am not so sure. How would someone so empathetic manage to negotiate and survive the bureaucractic, money-hungry nightmare which has consumed so many misguided social agencies? They were once created to feed, house, and protect the hungry, homeless, and abused souls among us. What has happened to them? I have always taught her to respect and love the unlovable. Now I wonder if I have done the right thing, encouraging the sensitive, gentle aspects of her personality to overrun its natural instinct for self-preservation. How will she take care of herself if something happens to us?

She will probably not approve of my using this video or talking so candidly about her. I could pretend nothing is wrong, smile, talk of inane subjects, and leave calmly in a few days. After all, that is the usual course my life has followed for the last, almost five decades. Yeah, you could say the idea of mea culpa has been working its magic on me lately. My bad?


  1. Oh boy..I have a daughter like that. She is a psychologist and she could go into private practice and live a nice life listening to people's problems. But she doesn't want to do that. She works in corrections, right now in a prison helping people who nobody cares about because. "Who will help them if I don't?"

    She is doing what she loves and has developed a very good sense of when things get dangerous and heads them off. How do I feel about my only child doing this? Sigh...I am proud that she is a good person who wants to give back..but does she have to give back in a prison...Good luck to your daughter...

  2. and good luck to you..Sometimes being a cheerleader is all we can do..

  3. My online class is Introduction to Social Work, a field I have no knowledge or experience with but it is interesting. I just interviewed a social worker today. Apparently a common thing in this field. I found the lady to be kind and noble in her desire to help the troops here at Ft. Campbell. It is too bad your daughter's friend has had a rough go of it but I am sure the people who have handled him tried everything within their boundaries to help him. Houses burning down is suspicious. Such a sad tale.

  4. Thank you, Michelle, for your encouragement. Your daughter has obviously learned from her parents that a life of service pays more dividends in the long run than a "nice life." Still, we can't help but worry about our youngsters.

    Tina, the interview thing must be a common requirement. My daughter also just lately conducted an interview with a social worker and has a paper on it due next week. She had trouble at first finding anyone willing or able to spare a few minutes for her. Finally, a lady from the local hospice agency agreed to talk to her, and my daughter said she seemed like a very caring, compassionate person. Good luck with your class!

  5. I too sometimes think I'm partly to blame. My parenting skills still seem inadequate, which could explain why my kids, including my adult children in KY, struggle for things; I have probably contributed to our country's economic crisis by using plastic instead of cash; I'm insensitive and uncaring at times; and weeds are overtaking the gardens.

    I tease myself into believing that things will get better before they get much worse. But there's always that measure of doubt, and it's growing as time passes.

    Your daughter's empathy for others will help her make decisions that are just and right.

    And you, me, and all parents will always wonder if it was "our bad" that might have caused more harm for our kids than good.

  6. Your feelings are very natural. We want our children to be caring and empathetic, but at the same time we want to protect them. Not only do we not want them to get hurt, but we also don't want to see them become cynical because of the harsh realities of the world.

  7. She sounds like an absolutely wonderful girl! She will find her way with all the great things you have taught her! She is a great inspiration to us all!!! God bless her!

  8. TC, you are obviously not inadequate, uncaring, or insensitive. If you were, you would not have admitted to making some mistakes, i.e., being "human." We all have done things in the past we are not proud of. The trick to making things better is to shatter that mindset-mold we have cast for ourselves and fashion a new one. I am still chipping away at mine--too afraid to take a hammer to it.

    Thanks, Rose, for lending a shoulder. You're so right about the cynicism part. It's a difficult pitfall of life to help others avoid, especially when it's so tempting a place in which to hide from either stinging words or deafening silence.

    Julie, thank you! She is teaching me more about self-less love and sacrifice than I have ever discovered on my own. I feel blessed to have been given such wonderful children.

  9. I think your daughter sounds amazing and something in this world looks down on people like her with grace and love.

    I wish I could do more things like that but I often too afraid to let go of the ropes society has given us.

    She is indeed a brave, caring and thoughtful person.

  10. Ted, thanks for the encouragement. You are right about something in this world. Whatever "it" is, it keeps all of us bound at some point in our lives by at least one of the following: fear, self-loathing, prejudice, greed, selfishness. Life's a struggle, a dilemma, confusing, you name it, but it's too precious to give it up or accept the alternative.