In the last column we explored how our stories informed us about time, motion, and place. In the following stories Joseph Stanley shows how silence and breathing, two other themes that have emerged from our study, are an important part of our work with youth.
It was new. I found where I was going, arrived an hour early, parked a few blocks away, turned off the car, practiced deep breathing, and visualized myself in a sunny clearing by a waterfall. I approached the home – took deep breaths as I rang the doorbell. The door opened. I saw his back as he walked away. “Watch out for the fucking dog." I took a sip of coffee – moved forward – deep breathed – thinking to myself remember to breathe. “Hi Bob, you didn’t remember I was coming?" No response. Quietness filled the air – more than ten minutes passed. Bob filled the time cooking. I breathed and visualized a warmer setting, the waterfall again. Hot wisps of warm, violent air, blumented against me. After a few minutes, Bob expressed, “What the fuck do you want?" I responded, “I want you to have a say in what services you receive from Wraparound, and you haven't – I am here to advocate for you to do that." Silence met me again, for over ten minutes .... “You angry?" .... “Yes." ... “Thanks for letting me be here – and do you need help remembering the next appointment?" .... “No" .... “Thanks."
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Youth called: “Hello!!!" “I told my mother that I got kicked out of summer school .... “I’m proud that you did that!!!" .... “She’s pissed." .... “What would happen if you apologized?" .... “Nothing." Silence Silence .... “I'll try" .... “Hold on" 5 minutes pass. “She’s better I guess." .... “I’m proud." .... “You took a chance .”Also, I'll see you tomorrow – thanks for the call – I’m proud" .... “Thanks" .... “Yeah" .... “Bye."
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I received a call from a youth. It was his 15th b-day. He said, “You need to come and get me Joseph. I’m at my mother's – she’s being such a bitch."
The youth explained that he was at his mother’s home because she took him to an appointment.
I pulled up to the youth’s mother’s home (he’s currently in foster placement), walked into a shouting environment, felt overwhelmed by the sharp and quick exchanges. It seemed as if neither the youth, nor the mother, were ready at that moment for a positive exchange. I sat back with my feet firmly planted so I wouldn’t get blown over by the conflict between them, and practiced deep breathing. I visualized every cell in my body. I visualized them relaxing. I breathed and centered myself, both feet firmly planted.
I expressed to the mother that it seemed difficult to deal with the anger, language and threats. I expressed my empathy with the situation. I told her I understood that she was upset that the youth wasn’t staying in school, and that she didn’t know what to do. I told the youth that he needed to stop yelling at his Mother, that it wasn’t okay. The youth and I gathered his belongings and exited the home. I thanked the mother as we left.
The youth turned to me as we drove away, and expressed that his mother just flipped him off, saying, See Joseph, I told you she was like that. I expressed that it was hard to deal with that, and that I would be hurt and angry.