Favorites From the Archives: “The Fairly Quiet Hour” (AJ 2013)


December 2, 2014 by Ray Yanek

Haven’t posted in awhile, but I read this piece from E.L. DeLeo that was published in a 2013 edition of Alligator Juniper and found it worth sharing. The piece is a memoir of a time DeLeo spent in a mental institution when she was 16 and it’s a fine piece of writing. What’s more important though, are the questions the memoir should raise in us as teachers.
As teachers, are we more like the employees of the hospital, or surfers on the beach?
Think about it.
Would love to hear your thoughts and talk about this so please leave a comment!

Alligator Juniper

                                   Alligator Juniper, 2013, Student Winner: Creative Nonfiction

After it appeared in AJ, “The Fairly Quiet Hour” was selected for inclusion in plain china, a national literary anthology out of Bennington College that showcases the best undergraduate writing from across the country.

“Achilles” by Kim Kapin

The Fairly Quiet Hour by E.L. DeLeo

There is a liquid line between those who are called sane and those who are not.

The night I am committed to this hospital, the intake woman leaves me waiting alone on a bench in a hall before beeping her way out through automatic locking doors. Feeling a confused mixture of boredom and terror, I watch normal-seeming adolescent girls approach the large desk to my right.

One by one, each girl takes a tiny paper cup in one hand…

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One thought on “Favorites From the Archives: “The Fairly Quiet Hour” (AJ 2013)

  1. I’m hesitant to respond to this because I can’t put myself if place of either the hospital staff or the surfers. Instead, I am much more like DeLeo. (You know I’m bipolar II, right?) My take-away thoughts come from almost the opposite angle.

    After reading the essay, I find myself contemplating the discipline and energy required to be sane enough to satisfy other people. (And being grateful that my moderate condition ALLOWS me to develop that discipline and nurture that energy.)

    Behaviors that might signal a need for immediate intervention to a teaching / care-taking professional strike me differently. I’ve been living in a world enlivened by such behaviors since the day I was born. I didn’t know it was a crazy environment for a very long time. (When you’re from an isolationist family, it seems like all the OTHER people are crazy. And when you grow up and enlarge your world, you tend to find others who are like you.)

    If what you’re asking is what you should do when you are faced with behaviors you don’t understand, than I have to say don’t model on either the staff or the surfers. Don’t take control. (Unless there is an immediate risk to life.) But don’t just hand the keys to someone who is staggering either. (There are a lot of mental states during which one feels completely immortal.)

    Do what you do: teach. Supply resources. Provide context. Encourage self-awareness and logical thinking. Teach that the world NEEDS all kinds of people, and maybe especially, people who aren’t just like everyone else. Do what you do best: make the world bigger … big enough to contain a saner but still authentic version of the person who is struggling.

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