Tue 6 Dec 2005
Today I visited the Carlisle House for the second time with Maddy and Jackie. When we arrived at the Carlisle House, none of us were as apprehensive as we were last week. We quickly took our coats off, and walked right in to greet our friends. We spent the first fifteen minutes talking to Ron and Brenda. We talked about how their past week was and admired the Christmas set-up. Then the three of us walked around for the next ten minutes. We talked to two other female members who were making hot chocolate and taking pictures. Then Maddy, Jackie and I looked around for Scott for ten minutes, but did not find him. While we were looking for him, we said hi to other members. For the next ten minutes, I talked with Christy about the holidays and what she would be doing for them. After that, we spent ten minutes discussing Dickinson and what I am studying. We talked about our families for the following ten minutes, and she told me about her dogs. I told her that I used to have a dog who looked like Toto, from the Wizard of Oz. She told me she doesn’t like to watch movies like that, movies with people stabbing each other in them. For the next ten minutes, she explained why that is to me. During this time, I got to know more about her family. Then she went to have a cigarette for ten minutes, and I spoke with Ron and Jackie. We talked more about cars, and shared stories about our families. We watched Brenda paint Christmas decorations while we did this. When Christy came back, I sat with her and we talked a bit more. During these ten minutes, she told me about someone she had a crush on and we talked about some famous musicians that she finds attractive. Then Christy showed Jackie and I where the members moved the pool table, and we spent the next ten minutes talking about fashion. Then we started to say good-bye to everyone, and they asked us when we were coming back. After telling them we did not know because we have a long break coming up, we left.
My conversation with Christy was probably the most rewarding and interesting interaction that I had at Carlisle House. I was struck by the fact that she is a lot me, and has a very similar appearance to someone I know very well from home. Only three years older, we are very close in age and therefore have a lot in common in terms of where we are in our lives. I really enjoyed talking with Christy. I felt just like I was making a new friend, which is a feeling I have had many times before. But this time, I recognized the fact that this friendship, if you could call it that, was different because Christy is a unique person in terms of her life experience. Indeed, the stories Christy told me really struck me. Perhaps this was because I found myself able to relate to them, and able to relate to how she felt when she experienced the memories she was sharing with me. I found myself completely unaware of the fact that she is a person with a mental disability, and glad that I found someone I could relate to.
Though I really did look beyond Christy’s appearance and though I did disregard the fact that she is a person with a mental disability, I find it interesting that I chose to bond with her out of all the members at Carlisle House today. It was less obvious that she is a person with a mental disability compared to all the other members. Additionally, as I stated earlier, she has a similar appearance to someone I know very well from home. I wonder if I gravitated toward the person who I thought would be most like me. Or if I applied one of the cultural strategies of coping that Mary Douglas outlines in her “Dirt” theory. Perhaps I interpreted those who did not look like me as dangerous, and therefore avoided them. I certainly did avoid the members that were less friendly and less groomed, because I was unaware of how to approach them and how to interact with them. I think a part of me irrationally was still a bit uneasy around the members that did not seem most like me. I think this was a result of the fact that I did not know them well. Though I am very aware that all members of Carlisle House are not in any way dangerous or worthy of being avoided, I believe I reacted this way because I have been taught to do so my entire life.