Looking Back

Carol A. Hand

An excerpt from a work in progress – 35,000 words so far but many more to go…

we remember rough draft cover page


Thursday, November 19, 2015

As I read through these fieldnotes fourteen years later, I realize that I like the person I was then. But there are things I wish I could tell her. “Don’t worry and don’t be so hard on yourself. Everything will work out. You’ll finish and even be briefly recognized for the significance of this work. More importantly, your life will forever be enriched by what you learn from people here. Please cherish these moments of honest curiosity and respectful innocence.” Of course, I can’t tell my younger self those things.

And sometimes the notes I took just aren’t worth editing for others to read. I did rush off to the elders’ center right after Mr. Wilson shared his stories. I was grateful to him for allowing me to take notes while he was speaking, but when I arrived at the center, I stuffed them in my briefcase and locked it in the trunk of my car for safe keeping. Without even taking a moment to breathe and clear my mind, I rushed in to the dining room.

When I reread my fieldnotes these many years later, what I saw was clearly described but what seemed most significant today were the things that were missing. Looking back I remember the intense pressure I felt to “succeed.” It was such a narrow perspective – “to collect as many stories and experiences as I could, as fast as I could.”

I didn’t take any time to reflect on Mr. Wilson’s story, or my conversations with Maurice and Thomas earlier in the day. I just went rushing from one encounter to the next. It didn’t occur to me then how important it was to take time to debrief and prepare in between ever-changing situations and perspectives. The intensity of deep listening required for an individual interview doesn’t work in a chaotic social setting.

Thinking about the significance of attention and focus reminds of trying to take photographs. Adjusting the lens to capture the details of a flower or honey bee omits much of the surrounding environment from the photo and blurs that which remains to as a way to frame the object of interest. But shifting focus in the context of naturalistic research is much more than this one-dimensional mechanical focus. Good photographers recognize this. They’re emotionally present. Someone who works with people needs to be mindful that even entering a room affects the quality of social interactions. I didn’t take time to consider my state of mind as I walked into the dining room on this day.

Thursday, October 4, 2001 (Continued) …

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20 thoughts on “Looking Back

  1. Dear Carol, thank you for the reminder to be in the moment always. We need to be living and conscious in the moment and try to bring all at that time. Sometimes, I find myself not really listening to my daughters as I’m in the midst of something and not totally focused on them.

    This is a wonderful reminder!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “Someone who works with people needs to be mindful that even entering a room affects the quality of social interactions.”
    ~ What a valuable insight, Carol! I’ve given little thought to how my mere presence in a given place could change the dynamics of that place. Now I must ask myself: Is that change for better or worse?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comments, Rosaliene 🙂 Funny how something so obvious doesn’t occur to us, isn’t it? I’m not sure I would have seen this so clearly without thinking about these experiences from a different vantage point more than a decade later.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, but some days it’s hard! Today is one of them, but I still kept going. I don’t want to edit until I’m done, but today I had to go back to at least put all of the chapters and pieces together in order to be able to see the whole document.

      This experience is giving me a totally new appreciation for what writers go through!


  3. that failed to connect to finer details through timely debriefing, elucidated further vide the analogy of photographic lens. May the work in progress swiftly advance to its successful conclusion…best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is such a fascinating journey into the past to see who I was then, Raj, and consider what I saw and what I missed. Yet I’ve discovered what a momentous project it will be to see this through to completion…


  4. Carol, thank you for sharing this excerpt! I’ve always loved your blog voice and it feels the same in your book. I so look forward to reading it when you’re finished. You have such an ability for introspection. When I was writing my book, editors had to keep drilling into me than I had to bring out the VOE (voice of experience) as it was difficult to separate myself from my VOI (voice of innocence). You do a fabulous job at this. But that perfectionist in you-inner critic–will bark away that it’s not quite right. Don’t you believe it! I just feel crazy proud of you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for these lovely comments, Mandy, based on your VOE. I’m fiercely proud of you, as well, dear friend – working through the tears, fears, and pain to complete and publish, and now promote, your memoir. I wish I could read it now – but I have 2,000 more words to do to meet my quote today …

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for a timely reminder on the importance of ‘really’ being in-the-moment. Observation, listening and recording can be an overwhelming task. I only wish that I had been in-the-moment and on task when my parents and grandparents were with us. There is so much I want to know and so many stories that will go untold. But I’m still here and have work to do. Much success on your book. I look forward to following your After rereading your bio in-the-moment, it is clear that our hearts are beating to the same drum–social justice. Blessings to you and yours! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share your feelings about the losing the opportunity to gather stories from past generations, Bette. But I’m grateful that you are sharing your own in such beautiful and powerful ways. Blessings to you, too 🙂


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