Whispering Waldos

Published: Wednesday, 12 January 2011 02:42
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The lifestyles of those people, the ones who live in colonies or cults and pollinate from within, although contrary to the laws of the land – we are supposed to just let it be.  People dismiss it by saying: it is what it is. There is nothing that can be done to stop it.


Why do we do this? Those young girls, I call them the Waldos* of that world, are suffering in silence, hiding and hidden. They are very hard to find as they are smothered in an atypical dogma, indoctrinated and living under a dark secluded umbrella wrought with evil consequences for speaking out or acting out. Their private societies are protected by our Constitution.


Yesterday, I visited a friend in a mental institution. It was the third such place in as many months for me and each gave me a renewed sense of hope that, this time, it would make a difference and everything would once again be fine for a very beleaguered soul. I convinced myself of that; I believed it.


Why do we tend to do that – brush aside reality. I neither actually believed it nor had I convinced myself that she was in a place that would resurrect her, fix her and bring her back to a person of high self esteem and so much promise as a person and as a professional.   I could see that the patients were suffering in silence, hiding, hidden, drugged and alone; more Waldos in a complex, confused, mixed up environment with limited resources, mixed up policies and messed up people.


I could feel them whispering and I could hear them whispering, asking me to take them away from the holding cell where they had been for months on end without effective services to help them get better.  To retain my own sanity, I avoided eye contact with them. I pretended not to hear them; I pretended not to hear my friend cry out for different help, better help, as that place and the place before that and the one before that was just not cutting the mustard. I pretended because I did not have a solution to put forward and like everyone else, I gave the system the benefit of the doubt. At least that was better than dropping by her place to find her dead in her bed. Better, yes, but not good enough.


The treatment in those quasi-jail-like 24 hour care facilities for marginalized Waldos,  seemed to amount to drugs, verbal praise now and then for eating a full plate of food at dinner time or receiving award certificates for participating in the bead workshop.


It is what it is. There is nothing more that can be done for these people.


Last week, I was given a book entitled Eat, Pray, Love. The title drew me in and once I got started on reading it, I had a hard time setting it aside. It helped me to understand what it could be like to go through a tough divorce or other unplanned major life changing event.  Its premise was to go on a mission to find the missing ‘I’, much like finding the missing Waldo – missing because that is what happens in marriages that don’t work; the ‘I’ goes missing, falls into an abyss and becomes very difficult to find. The relationships become strained and separated.


So this book takes you on that kind of journey and the author goes to three places in the world – all of which start with the letter ‘I’: Italy, India and Indonesia.  The protagonist does a lot of ‘I’ searching and meets the right kind of people to help her out of the gutter in which her marriage and the aftermath of her marriage had put her. It is an interesting journey and seemingly more effective or at least more interesting than professional counseling or counseling from self-help books.


The bottom line remains though that just like people who feel compelled to stick with miserable marriages, many divorcees are Waldos suffering in silence, hiding and hidden, desperately wanting to be found as well. They don't all have the means or the self-confidence to step back and take the initiative necessary to save their souls.


Getting married was on the radar of their lives, but divorce was not. The reality is difficult to accept. It is a reflection of failure and that eats away at one’s ability to move forward.


Those close to the situation can feel and hear divorcees whispering for help, but, unfortunately effective adventures to far away places or professional counseling sessions are not financially feasible and so many suffer in silence, like Waldos seemingly lost but desperately wanting to be found.


So these days there are three things, three sides of a whispering triangle, that are currently occupying my thoughts. They are each weird and shocking realities: intra-gene pool colonies that can’t be touched by our court system; mental institutions functioning as basic holding tanks with well-monitored drug doses and minimal services; and, the lost 'I', all lost Waldos calling out.


All three examples involve human beings within our humanitarian and compassionate world. They are suffering in silence, hiding and hidden, often cast aside and left alone.


Our society has chosen to not talk about certain realities within our whispering world – we don’t rock the boat about intra-gene or wide age-gapped marriages; we don’t talk about people in mental institutions; we don’t tend to admit that we sometimes lose touch with our ‘I’ resulting in the need to change relationships. It is like those are taboo subjects or they are too difficult to figure out or deal with, cast aside – kind of as frustrating as trying to find a minute Waldo character in those very detailed, complex, multi-coloured, confusing, challenging lay-outs of camouflage and distractions all over the page. Once we find that Waldo, we should not lose sight of him; but, all too often, this seems to be happening.


The reality is that Waldo is there; his voice is not silent but his whispers are drowned out by so many other things going on around him: the rules, the drugs, the sudden outbursts, temporary fixes, ineffective laws, the lockdowns, the penalties, abuse, amorality, immorality, deceptions, expectations and ultimately the overriding codes of silence.


Waldo is carefully placed; carefully hidden, yet wanting to be found. Our eyes can’t see him immediately, but we do hear his whispers saying not over there, over here, look carefully, beyond that point, to the left, a little to the right, don’t give up. I am here and I need you to find me and to not lose sight of me. Lend me a hand so I can find my way.


There are people in messed up situations wanting to be found and others who are lost behind their own skin not realizing that they can be found – do we hear their whispers? Their whispers are now screams -- loud and scary screams. Are we really looking, are we hearing and are we listening?  Do we really care?


There are people who feel lost, completely lost, alone and lonely; they feel helpless, useless and meaningless – do we hear their whispers? Are we really doing anything effective to help them or to help them help themselves?


We tend to sit back and watch pine-beetle infested forests grow and grow and grow – suddenly someone steps in to try to stop the madness; but, it is too late.  The help came too late.


This parallels the gene-pool or cult colony mentality too. We have allowed the madness to continue. The colonies have grown and grown, with offspring from offspring from offspring. Waldo is lost in a sea of almost identical tadpoles. He is hard to find, but he is definitely there asking to be found, wanting to be found.


It is what it is. There is nothing more that can be done to change it.


This analogy also parallels our mental institutions – the patients get checked in, their possessions are locked up, they are assigned scrubs and prescribed dosages of drugs. They can wander to and from a common room all day, every day, with one short visit with a professional. Some get out and then end up returning shortly thereafter, time and time again. It is like a constantly revolving door.


Waldos are hidden behind the patients’ silent screams, in a context of chaos and complexities including their tears and fears, shame, embarrassment, the onsite violence, the sudden security alerts and constant doctor announcements loudly projected through the speakers embedded within the ceiling panels in the hallways. Beneath the silence, there is no peace. The nurses tell me they do what they can to keep them calm.


Sometimes when I was locked in the visiting space within a supposedly reputable mental institution, I could hardly remember who I was; I could not find myself within the eeriness, the coldness, the uncertainties, as it was all I could do to sit in those very hard, heavy and unmovable chairs to focus on comforting a friend in need of much more than what that locked and limited whispering place was offering. There were no ‘I’s in there – all ‘I’s were lost, hidden and nowhere to be found – including me, restricted and controlled within that place, without a voice. I, too, had to be buzzed in and buzzed out. The buzzing continued between my ears as I made my way out of that lifeless dilapidating building every night, and every weekend afternoon for six months, and hoped to get to my car safely. I felt like a happy escapee as I looked up at the darkened windows of the building that was merely a holding tank for the down and out.


I can hear voices out there suggest that we do a study on these highlighted wrongs – yet another study about these same wrongs that have been a part of our lives for time and memorial. The conclusions are always the same – we can learn from what we now know. The operative word here is learn. I don’t really think people know what that word means.  When does learned kick in? How many studies have been done about difficult subjects like intra-gene reproduction, mental institutions and the impacts of contentious divorces?


How many studies have been done on suicidal behaviours, depression, bipolar disorder and the myriad of other mental health issues?  The ‘learning about them part’ seems to be a continuous process, and ongoing trial and error experiments seem to dominate the problem solving process. The cycles repeat themselves time and again, and the problems grow and grow and grow some more.


“They” say – that’s just how they are or that’s how it’s always been or some people are born to be lost. Then there is the standard: it is what it is! – by far the most ludicrous expression I have ever heard.


I say: how lame is that; how stupid; how sad. There are jurisdictions out there that have effectively dealt with intra-gene colonies – that’s why we don’t see them in every community, province or country.


There are highly acclaimed mental health facilities that have effectively figured out how to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Why are those breakthroughs not shared and available universally?


If we know that three out of five marriages end up in divorce and that it is very likely to be devastating to one or both parties, as well as the children, would it not make sense to include a new module in the Life Skills curriculum, Dealing with Failure for example, to prepare human beings for the potential of failure happening to them. After all, we used to have serious concerns about ever-increasing teen pregnancies until we decided to include sex education into the regular school system. There are fewer teen pregnancies now than ever before.


I need and want this world to be a better place for me and for those whispering Waldos who need our help. I need and want people to learn and to apply what’s been learned and proven to be effective, so we can move forward and be helpful to each other and to those in line to joining this world for generations to come.


Lost people are like little hidden Waldos in that complex and chaotic maze we call LIFE – they are whispering out to us, suffering in silence, hiding and hidden, saying: don’t walk away; don’t dismiss me; help me find me; guide me out of this mess.


I question what I have experienced personally in the three examples above and many other similar scenarios.


We can do so much better.


*I am using the word Waldo in this story as a metaphor of the character of the same name found in a series of children’s books. Waldo is a colourful character hidden in and amongst many other people and objects on a page, in a context of chaos and complexity, invisible only until he is spotted and then becomes difficult to miss. His whispering voice tells your subconscious mind to not lose sight of him. Once seen, the light transforms the picture from what it seemed to be to what it is. The key is to find those lost souls and to implement the right help to enable them to see brighter days. There are many whispering Waldos out there, yearning to be heard, to be found and to be helped.