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I have spent my working life in a courtroom. My clients were the poor. Some were homeless, some were intellectually challenged, some were mentally ill. They were poor for a variety of reasons–mental health issues being at the top of that list. I have talked to the various stages and theaters that are schizophrenia. I have sat in the hole with the depressed. I have held the hand of the suicidal. I have ridden the roller coaster with the bi-polar.

I considered myself a person of acceptance. I didn’t care about their color, their religion, their gender, their sexual life.

But some ugly part of me did care about their brains. Some ugly judgement happened as I watched these people. Part of me recoiled inside. I ignored it. I didn’t address it.

Until one day, I stopped and looked.

It started with a client. A docile, quiet, gentle man in his late 30’s maybe early 40’s. He was accused of murder.

He had limited mental capacity. His comprehension was in the area of a seven year old. He had been living on the streets since he was 18. Only his sister communicated with him on any regular basis. He was “street-wise”. He tried to tell a listener what they wanted to hear. He was a child.

As was usual in cases where I suspected limited cognitive ability, I had him tested. His levels were higher than I had expected and I was puzzled.

I had his blood tested.

He had Klinefelter Syndrome. He had an extra X chromosome.

I focused on getting the court to recognize that this human being had cognitive deficits that made it impossible for him to understand 1) what was going on in a courtroom and 2) the consequences of being in a room when a fight and murder were occurring.

Eventually, he was found incompetent to stand trial and was placed in a State Hospital.

I left all the other feelings about him and his diagnosis locked up in a cage in some hidden corner of my brain. There were a lot of feelings locked in there. A lot of cases. A lot of people.

It scratched at its bars every so often. I would peek but I would not open the door. In retirement, I looked a little more often.

Then last week it came to my door.

It is not usual to have a two men walk up to our gate. We are a mile away from a paved road and several hundred yards from the main dirt road. You need to know where we are to find us.

But there they were. One an older man with Down’s Syndrome, the other his nephew.  The nephew, from their home on a ridge about a quarter of a mile from us, saw his uncle walking by himself and gave chase. The uncle believed that his dog had come into our yard. He had seen George and Gracie in our front yard and thought they were his dog.

The nephew tried to redirect his uncle several times and eventually the uncle left with him.

But the incident shook that cage in my brain.

I recognized fear. I recognized that my fear came from ignorance. It came from locking feelings in a cage in the back of my brain.

And then my fellow blogger, Lee Dunn posted Details of Pieces and sent me the link for the original post called Pieces of You

There were Pieces of Me in those posts.

I saw, so clearly, my fears. I did not know how to communicate with my client or with the uncle in my yard. My vanity, my belief in my superiority with words, stopped me from trying to understand. I could communicate. They could not. I was afraid of that inability. My defense against the fear was to become logical, to focus on the situation, to find a solution, to use words. Not to accept the person in front of me. Not to understand the real situation.

I saw many of my actions and thoughts in Mr. Dunn’s words. And I was ashamed. I can do better. I can be better.

As I watch the phobia and fear of a nation gone sideways, I know that my best efforts will be to accept my fears, to embrace them and, by doing so end them. I will be a better warrior for the fights to come.



Categories: Contemplation, Fear, Justice, Ruminations, Uncategorized, WritingTags: , , , , , ,


  1. I think you are closer to compassion and understanding here than am I. Thank you for the mention.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The point is you are working on you and I am working on me. Works in progress.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The challenge is real. Fear is a gut-level response which may not respond to logic. So the first step might be to find your inner quiet place. Calm, relaxed, then rational.

    Good Luck. John

    On Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 11:01 AM Talkin’ to Myself wrote:

    > gizzylaw posted: ” I have spent my working life in a courtroom. My clients > were the poor. Some were homeless, some were intellectually challenged, > some were mentally ill. They were poor for a variety of reasons–mental > health issues being at the top of that list. I have t” >


  4. We all have our prejudices and fears. When I went to my favourite folk festival last year, there was a young Downs Syndrome girl lying on the footpath. Everybody was just walking around her. I contemplated walking around her myself, but I asked myself what I was afraid of. Being embarrassed? I thought she was fine but I didn’t know for sure. I think you can learn compassion. Why does it have to come naturally. We all have to start somewhere.

    The young lady was a regular at the folk festival. After I had this chat to myself, I stopped and was joined by others too to help her up. Of course, she was completely fine. She just wanted a lie down. We called her dad on the her mobile and he collected her. Her dad was giving her some independence in a fairly supportive environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gael, this is a profoundly honest and empathic post with a significant link at the end to National phobias. I spent my working life with people such as you describe. A prime part of our training was the understanding of what we bring to the situation and what makes us respond in certain ways

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I hope you don’t mind me call you Gael. I enjoyed and learned from your honest introspection. Your deep reflective learning and your experience are part I feel, of a prime toolkit which could help others to empathise and upskill via talks, your blog or some means. Thanks for sharing. Marie

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I KNEW you would get it!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. it is such a challenge to deal with that which we don’t know and/or understand. Our neurology is wired (thank you survival brain) to be wary of difference or novelty. Depending on our life experiences, most particularly traumas large or small, it can take considerable effort to override the fear response with interest and curiosity.

    Sometimes there is the luxury of time and space for learning and growth, and other times (like as the busy professional you once were) not so much, and stuff does indeed get filed under “later”.

    As you rightly note, there is a whole lot of this fear thing going around in our society, and some masterful manipulation of peoples tendency to fear difference occurring, quite notably by the far right.

    Thoughtful post, thank you.


  9. Grizzlylaw! I usually just scan first person bloggers.
    Not this time. Very good. Your writing is clear as a bell, sharp. Hard at the edges. True. And what you tell is an honest story. Thanks.

    And thanks for the help with my ping-back problems. We’ll see, as the great frog in DC is wont to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really am trying to get away from first person. But it is a slow process. Your praise brings tears to my eyes. Really. Thank you.
    Do you think the pingback issue is with Ragtag? I have let them know but my skills don’t extend to IT. (BTW, no “r” in gizzy. My maiden name was Gisvold. Can’t guess how I got that nickname?!?!?! It was printed on my gym shirt in high school. And my first name is Gael.)


  11. Hi Gael-Gizzy! Not sure about the pingback. No biggy.
    First person is not in and of itself hellful. But when the writer is storyteller, narrator, and protagonist, it becomes, sometimes, banal.
    in the writelee blog I am consciously trying to speak in the third person. One exception is the series of sketches told from the pov of “Chi” one of which you read today.
    Your Fear was not.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Lee. I trust your opinion. I appreciate your comments and will use them!


  13. This felt authentic and for that alone I will thank you. It’s a tough thing to admit to but it is easier to drop your head, turn your eyes away and more turn your thoughts to anything else. Mental health is scary if only because it strikes anyone from any walk of life and at any time. We all can do better. Thanks for leaving this here it has made me think.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am glad that it made you think. It was hard to write and even more difficult to publish. I had to look at the fear of “backlash”. Then I realized that was the point of the piece!!! Silly me!


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