NDJ:7 Danna Halpin, LCSW

Graduation Remarks: The Daisies

Now that my three-year enrollment in New Directions is coming to an end, it’s time I confess about a very troubled relationship I’m engaged in, and how, at its heart, are issues of time, money, mortality, managed care and even Dorian Gray.

I speak of the uneasy bond between my ordinary self and the writer who dwells (lurks?) within. I’ll call her Daisy after the goofy mutt I owned years ago, because the relationships are eerily comparable. In retrospect, I didn’t dote enough on Daisy the Dog in those busy days, and, being neglected, she whined and moped until I got around to attending to her, at which time, she’d shift abruptly from mopey and whiney to manic and whacky, knocking me down with her big, muddy paws and licking my face with her big, wet tongue. She an uncanny ability to escape her leash and run wild through the neighborhood, scaring children and old people, running in and out of the path of cars and finally tormenting me by sidling up so that I could almost catch her before she’d run off again. Because she was so wild and crazy, I began avoiding Daisy. The more I avoided her, the wilder and crazier she became.

Likewise, Daisy the inner writer wants more time than I can give her. She, too, whines when left alone and then goes crazy when engaged. Her writing jumps and licks, runs wild through the metaphorical neighborhood, such that she re-writes, fills in thin spots, adds new characters, starts over in the third person, redoes the story from the point of view of, say, odd Aunt Harriet, or, wait! how about starting over so that odd Aunt Harriet speaks from her deathbed, yes, and then go back and write a flashback about her childhood, her widowed mother, that stern figure in black who made Harriet slave in the kitchen for the boarders they were forced to take in, and why not include the recipes!

Characters multiply, plots thicken, widen, grow lopsided, loopy, lost, endless.

Years pass. Transience and mortality loom large.

Daisy! I say “We’ve turned sixty! At this rate, we’ll die before you finish anything!” We gasp and cling together.

But Daisy recovers suspiciously quickly! She calls forth the ghost of her namesake so that the two Daisies stand side by side, staring me down.

“If only you’d have given the dog and I the attention we deserved, she’d have been a more functional dog and I’d have been a more functional writer!”

Those four eyes, round, brown and filled with righteous indignation…

Oh, it’s true! I realize. I’ve wronged the Daisies! One has already died of heartworms (a broken heart?) Will this one die of neglect?

“Mornings are yours, Daisy,” I promise. “No more morning clients, no more morning exercise class, no more lingering over the morning news. “

“Really?” she says. Her tone is sweet, but do I sense a note of cynicism?

I hope it’s clear by now how time, transience and mortality are major themes here. But what about managed care and Dorian Gray?

On that first morning promised to Daisy, we find at the office the usual pile of EOBs disallowing payments, perhaps from Tricare, MHN, UBH, BC/BS, whichever, it’s all BS to me. I have no choice but to make Daisy wait until I make some calls, straighten out problems, assure my fee. After all, if I don’t eat, neither does Daisy. I hold the phone to my ear listening very carefully, as their menu options have changed, and, eventually I choose the wrong option and must be forwarded to another department, where the process begins again. As I listen to the elevator music and watch the sun in its rapid arc across the sky, Daisy makes a snarky suggestion that I hire someone else to do this.

“But that costs money!” I protest.

“Hello,” she says, rolling her eyes, “you could be making more than enough money to pay for help by seeing clients instead of waiting on hold.”

“But what about your precious writing time?”

“ Give up some sleep, lazybones!” she snaps, laughing haughtily. “Give up exercise! Give up your husband! Frankly, your problems bore me…”

“Maybe you could revise less, you ungrateful wench!” I say.

“Not a chance, philistine!” She pulls out her imaginary mirror and primps before it. “My stories won’t see the light of day until they’re perfect works of art! I’d sell our soul for it!”

We’re changing her name to Dorianna.