On the Corner

An open letter to someone’s daughter

by Robert Docter – 

I saw two brief pictures of you on television tonight, and they dictated a wide range of emotion within me. You didn’t say a word. They said you were twenty—beautiful and bright. I would have predicted they were right. They said you were a high school graduate going someplace.

The second picture showed me where.

It wasn’t pretty. There was nothing bright about it. It was dull. I wondered what had happened to your beauty. Your whole face changed. I saw no focus in your eyes. Somehow, you had extinguished the light. Your presentation and complexion now seemed to emphasize the gray hopelessness of a young woman now living only for the next fix.

I wonder if you have ever seen those pictures—if you were able to see what had happened to you over such a brief period of time. I somehow doubt it for we all are masters of skewed selective perception when viewing our selves.

Have you taken the same route into addiction taken by thousands of others—abandoning a clean orbit and getting sucked into a wobbly one—taking on the characteristics of those around you—traveling down nicotine alley on to booze boulevard—into marijuana circle—then leaping on to amphetamine freeway? Please know, a crash is coming.

Let me say quickly that I make no judgments about your worth as a person. While I don’t even know your name, I value you simply because you are human. You have potential— some realized, some not—just like me.

I suspect you want to stop reading now. I suspect you want to change the subject so you can label me and my generation—“old fogey”—“out of touch”—“not worth listening to”— and then you might even say: “I’ve had enough of this—I’m not dealing with this now—I’m outa here.” Are you a blamer? Is it always someone else’s fault?

Please—surprise me—keep reading.

I wonder if that flight from stress is a pattern in your life. Does it happen often? Do you regularly “postpone” conversations that might require you to think? Do you refuse to listen to comments from others that seem to deliver unpleasant feelings? Stress at manageable levels can be highly motivating.

Life is a lot more than simply chasing pleasure. Without some “downs” we wouldn’t even be able to recognize the “ups.” You see—when we try to eliminate the “downs” we need higher and higher “ups” to find the pleasure we crave. This leads to addictive behavior. Could that have happened or be happening to you?

We achieve maturity when we find an effective relationship between our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with an array of feeling when I look into the face of my youngest grandchildren. It’s kind of a happy, beautiful pain—but if I’m holding one of them, I think carefully about where I’m stepping to avoid tripping and falling. Feeling is in ascendance in that situation, but thought keeps me safe. Just wanting to stay in the warm, secure bath of happiness incessantly means I choose not to censor my feelings with intelligent thought.

Also—if I am rigid or cold— trapped completely in that which is rational—stuck in my thinking and unable or unwilling to reveal my feeling, I am an unapproachable piece of unfinished sculpture—incomplete.

You see—striving only for pleasure delivers only mindless unhappiness.

Here are some final thoughts. You are an adolescent. Adolescents identify closely with their peer group and test the boundaries set by their parents. With whom do you identify? Who are members of your peer group? What do they model for you? Know that soon you will be like them—for this is the way you learn how to “be” in the world.

What does it mean to “test” the boundaries set by your parents? It usually doesn’t mean that they are completely rejected. Boundaries are the rules by which we live with others. Were they communicated with rigidity or simply with loving expectations? Choices become the product of the boundary testing. Have you made safe choices – ones that don’t permanently disable you? It doesn’t seem so to me. I suspect that some have been smart and some have been simply dumb – really dumb.

I wish I knew you. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Maybe next time we can explore the essential aspects of one’s spirituality – about why living without a belief system is impossible.

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