Carolyn Wing Greenlee

On the Cutting Room Floor

On the Cutting Room Floor

You know how Directors often appreciate being able to include the Deleted Scenes in the Bonus Features sections of the DVDs of their films? It’s because they loved those scenes—the acting, the setting, the lighting, the music…but in editing, where final decisions have to be made, they’ve had to “murder their children,” as one poet said regarding what it takes to write a really good poem. In assessing the pace and movement of the film, that scene wasn’t necessary or slowed the film down. In every deleted scene I’ve watched, I agreed with the Director. It’s better without it. But I have also been touched by the way they’ve expressed such fondness for a scene and such joy that they get to share it after all.

Such is the content of this post. I’m writing a new book, What Can Wreck Your Kids and What To Do About It, and I wrote these stories to help make the points, only to find them unnecessary. So, rather than dump them into my computer trash can and press Empty Trash, I’m posting them so their messages and encouragement may live on, even without being printed in the pages of a book.


Where Do We Go From Here?

When I was in guide dog school, I had to do routes. The instructor would tell me the turns, and then walk with Hedy and me and watch to make sure we were safe and also to see how well I was managing my new “mobility tool.”

Even though I still had residual sight, one day I chose to go occluded, that means I had a mask over my eyes that blocked absolutely all light. My instructor directed me to leave the downtown lounge and step onto Fourth Street, the main drag in town. I listened carefully as she gave me the directions—a left, cross the street, another left, cross the street to the right, and so on. Okay. I was ready. “Hedy, left,” I ordered.

Hedy started left, then fishtailed and doubled back, twisting around while I tried to get control of her. At last I had her settled back by my left side, but now I had no idea where I was. I tried to recount the moves Hedy had made, retracing so I could reverse them and figure out my location.

“Where are you now?” the instructor said.
“I have no idea.”
She waited a moment, then said, “Your near parallel is to your right.”
I knew that was a huge clue and I should have immediately known what it meant and where I was. But I didn’t. I was still trying to retrace what Hedy did.
“Your near parallel is to your right,” the instructor repeated, patiently but firmly. I didn’t remember what that meant. I was totally confused.
After a few minutes and increasingly larger clues, I was so frustrated I pulled off the mask saying, “I can’t do it. I just can’t figure it out.”
I was two feet from the curb on Fourth Street, exactly where I had started out.
The instructor recommended I not wear the mask the rest of the route, and Hedy and I did the whole thing without a hitch, but I was humiliated and defeated. If you can’t manage your dog and if you can’t get from Point A to Point B, they don’t give you a dog.
As we neared the downtown lounge at the end of our route, the instructor said, “I’ve found that analytical people like you get hung up trying to figure things out. It isn’t necessary to try to figure out what went wrong. All you need to know is Where am I now? and Where do I want to go from here?

Weight-bearing Faith

One of my friends sat on a large, inflatable exercise ball designed for durability and reliable weight-bearing. But this one exploded beneath her, violently throwing her into a glass door and causing severe injuries that have taken years to heal. Most damaged is her faith in that kind of exercise ball. You can be sure she will never trust her weight to one of them again. But wait! There’s more. Now she doesn’t trust any chairs. She tests each one before she sits on it.

We walk in a world where we trust past experiences to provide confidence in that for which we have evidence-based faith.

Some Bible translators said they were searching for a word for faith in the language of a tribe that had never been exposed to the Gospel, and whose language was unknown in the rest of the world. Finally, the translators settled on one. To avoid wild animals and floor-creeping things in the night, these people would hang their hammocks on strong hooks in the walls of their homes. The word for the hook became the word for faith. You can trust your full weight to it.

Social Security

One of the thrills of my life was walking into my room at Guide Dogs for the Blind and seeing, next to the bed, a bolt in the wall and a cable that was a couple of feet long. That’s where my dog would be on tie down-right next to my bed. I had always wanted a dog, but my mother was allergic to fur and feathers, so I made pets of whatever I could find, including a black widow spider I kept in a jar. Her name was Gwendowyn.

For the first week after getting our dogs, we didn’t take them into the dining hall with us. We left them on tie down in our rooms.

One night I returned from dinner to find Hedy completely tangled in the cable. She was sitting quietly without any anxiety or panic. She looked at me calmly and patiently waited while I untangled her legs.

I thought of that quite a lot. Most animals go into a frenzy when they feel anything binding them like that. Why wasn’t Hedy in the least bit upset?

About a year later, I was interviewing puppy raisers for a book I was doing about what it took to get a puppy ready to be trained for service work. It’s not just socializing them. They have to make them confident, eager to learn, ready and willing to work, and aware of the needs of their handler.

One of the raisers told me about taking a new puppy to the grocery store, standing outside so she could hear the swish of the automatic doors, the clatter of carts, voices, smells, visual confusion. After the puppy was able to be calm in that pre-store environment, she was taken inside, but if she had any signs of anxiety, worry, or fear, the raiser immediately left the store.

Really? I remember being terrified in a movie. It was “Forbidden Planet” and I didn’t want to go into the theater, but my mother said it was sci-fi and would probably be funny. It wasn’t. It was terrifying. I had nightmares for weeks. But would they leave when the huge invisible cat monster came to rip the spacemen to shreds? No. They wanted to see what happened.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. Outside my window, giant footprints were appearing in the leaves as the big cat stealthily passed by looking for someone to rip to pieces.

Why am I telling you that? Because my parents were totally unmoved by my tearful pleas to 1. not make me go into the theater and, 2. not make me stay in it when I couldn’t deal with the violence. It was clear that their interests, not my fears (which they thought were silly) mattered most. Maybe they figured I’d get over it. I didn’t. I still hate that movie.

But Hedy’s puppy raiser had made sure she was secure in all circumstances. Hedy knew she would always get help, so she didn’t worry when she found her legs so tangled in the cable that she couldn’t do anything but sit. I wonder how many adults would be much more emotionally and mentally stable and have far fewer phobias and neuroses if, when they were children, their parents had noticed their disquiet, acknowledged it, and helped them resolve it.


  1. chuck Sturges

    August 20, 2020 - 9:52 PM

    I always enjoy Carolyn’s writing.

  2. Mary E. Trimble

    August 9, 2020 - 3:47 PM

    These are wonderful stories, Carolyn. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Kathie Fong Yoneda

    August 8, 2020 - 7:30 AM

    Aloha Carolyn: I very much enjoyed these stories…just a thought —

    You may want to consider sharing some of these stories with senior homes. Oftentimes seniors have shorter attention spans & some of these short stories might be a possible way to engage them.

    xoxo kathie

  4. Scott Kies

    August 3, 2020 - 8:56 PM

    I love this idea, Carolyn’s pearls of wisdom. You know I am going to borrow the one about 4th Street and the occlusion. Each of these snippets are like reading a novel. Love it.

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