Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being Wrong

I tried to look up one of my previous posts, one I knew I wrote sometime, but alas cannot find, about Being Wrong. I can't find it because evidently, and this surprises me, I never actually wrote it. This is surprising due to the fact that I am Wrong, and think often about how I am Wrong, and kvetch and worry about said Wrongness a lot - but I hardly ever say it out loud.

Not that I don't try to admit it and make amends, but if I'm thinking it then surely everyone "knows" that I have acknowledged it - don't they?

Yeah, I don't buy it either. One of the things Margaret has a difficult time with is telling Honey about the things she knows for fear of Being Wrong. This fear must be universal, but it plays out in so many ways that it is really hard to pin bad behavior on this fear. It is a driving force in her character though, so I pay attention to how people react to Being Wrong. Sometimes it is exquisitely painful to watch.

Much of medicine is practiced based on fear of Being Wrong. I know, I know that Triage nurses know what's wrong with a patient within 5 minutes as do the doctors who see them next. But for fear of Being Wrong (and a little thing called avoidance of distasteful consequence), we do a bunch of tests and generally come up with the first assumption. Of course, it really isn't quite that simple, and oh yeah, sometimes we are soooo wrong, but wouldn't medicine be much more efficient if we could go with what we knew?

But what if we are Wrong?

The risk, the cost is just too high. No one in medicine thinks for a moment that we should just go with what skilled clinicians know to be true. The cost of Being Wrong is not worth it.

How many things, right now, would the cost of Being Wrong not really be too high?

I don't have an answer. It is just a question. Actually, it is a completely terrible sentence, but I'm leaving it because it's Wrong. And the cost is . . . some of you think I'm a toad.

Oh the horror!

Wait . . . I . . . I think I'm okay.

My fear of being wrong in my writing has much to do with real life fears - Being Wrong and making something bad happen, fear of no one reading all the words I took years and years to write, fear of zombies.

Nurses feel this stomach dropping fear of Wrongness in a whole different dimension than most people - if we are Wrong patients can DIE! That is fear let me tell ya. So I don't mean to equate fear of Being Wrong as a writer to fear of Being Wrong in medicine - it is different.

It's just that . . . you know . . . in writing and in character is much more interesting and believable if the writer has experienced it first hand. And so I practice being, you know (wrong).

I've been excellent at it lately. Home, work, the bank (oh that was baaad). What has struck me as funny even though I detest Being Wrong is how wrong is one of the things that doesn't improve with practice. I find it impossible to believe that I could be More Wrong, or somehow do it better even though I've given it my best shot.

So I would really like to stop Being Wrong as I have not improved at it even with all the practice I've had. Oh, if it were only this easy.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I hate to admit it, but I am one of those people who tend to say the same thing over and over in certain situations. You'd think a writer could be more verbally creative "live," but lack of snappy comebacks happens to be one of the main reasons why I "write" as oppose to "speak." Not that I don't speak.

Some of my sayings are from a childhood spent all over America. In Texas, we say, if we do not care about something, that we "don't give a rat's ass." I have no idea why, but we Texans say it anyway. In the South, if someone has done something stupid, we'll say "bless her heart" with just a hint of disdain. I don't remember where I got "fixin" from, it was either Alabama or Texas where we were "fixin to go to church" and all that was implied.

Someone I knew, once upon a time, was from Tulare. I was friends with her daughter and when we went to Sherry's house after school, we'd ask her mom if we could do something just to hear her say, "Don't make me no nevermind." I still laughed just now writing it.

Medicine has its own entire language built around sayings.  FTD - fixin to die,
DRT - dead right there, you get the idea. The funny thing is, "sayings" are not the only things we say without really thinking about it.

The perfunctory "how are you?" when we pass in the hall, the "fine" thrown around like a midget wrestler on Sunday, the "have a nice day!" flying off my tongue like I really mean it . . . wait . . . do I mean it?

I don't too often think about the things I say being sincere or truly inquisitive - I just say them out of habit - don't I?

At the risk of being called Sheldon by those who know my slightly retentive tendencies, I pose an experiment. For the next whole day after you read this (how could you do it before you read it), I challenge you to  not just say the same thing in the same way for just one day. Try something that will take a moment to consider, let the people you see every day know that you have one or two whole minutes for them, not just the seconds we parcel out like cards on a table.

I'm not sure I can do it. And if I did do it, would it annoy the living hell out of those I tried it on?

I think it is a fine goal, to really be asking and want a true response when we ask "how are you?" but frankly, society is not set up to deal with that. Imagine how many hours we would add to our days if we had to think through the entire communication labyrinth without a few easy coins thrown in here and there?

And yet, it is the uncommon statement or question or greeting that means the most in this harried world. I sat down to write this tonight because Karen asked me to, just after "hey, how's it going? . . . work discussion redacted . . . when are you going to write on your blog?" A simple thing perhaps, but thank you Karen for asking and thank you for saying something that touched me.