How Many Balls…

…can we keep in the air at once? We are currently besieged with change on many different planes. On the one hand, we continue to battle a worldwide pandemic and everything that comes with it, including massive unemployment and economic shutdown. On another hand, we are in the midst of a long overdue assessment of our horrific legacy of racism and discrimination. We are also suffering through what may be at least a partial return to the Dark Ages in the form of the exultation of foolishness at the expense of rationality. Many people don’t seem to grasp the difference between opinion and fact, while others deride science in favor of superstition.

Meanwhile, those advocating for change are demanding that we all get involved in their cause the way they would have us get involved. Most all causes believe theirs is the only one that should receive our attention, an attitude that is bound to backfire. After all, if the only help you will accept from me is complete full time dedication, then the odds are you will get nothing. If you don’t understand that, please reread the first paragraph of this post. Many of us are experiencing our coping ability wearing thin. Having multiple causes vie for our attention, all of them asserting they are the only cause, isn’t helping – especially when many of us are struggling to put food on the table or secure the non-corona virus medical care we desperately need. What’s a poor boy or girl to do?

The first thing to do is recognize that we are all in charge of our own decisions. At times such as these there tends to be no shortage of people volunteering to be in charge of everyone else’s life. While we may or may not appreciate their service, we don’t have to partake of it. You are still the only person who gets to make decisions about how your time and energy are allocated. Don’t let anyone pressure you into surrendering your autonomy! When Sally from down the street starts paying your bills, you might give her some input. Until then, send her packing.

The second thing to do is to recognize our own need for nurturing and understanding. Take time to do the things you enjoy. Be aware that those things may look a bit different now than they did a year ago, but they can still happen. Your gym might be closed or you may not be comfortable going there, but the outdoors are still open for business. Get outside, get exercise, eat as healthily as you can, get sleep, and socialize – even if only virtually. Take regular breaks from screens and especially the news cycle. They will be there when you need them. Stimulate your mind with something healthy. Read a book, watch a documentary, sit in a park and observe nature. If you are tired, take a nap. Listen to your body.

Finally, insert a sacred pause before every substantial action or commitment. I used to be an Oblate of a monastery that had a policy of never responding to email communication the same day. We have all had the experience of hitting “send” and regretting it. They never did. Before agreeing to something, ponder it overnight. This also helps put requests in their proper perspective and thereby reduces stress. Everybody wants our answer now, but it is seldom needed now. A sacred pause helps us see the truth of that. Unless a request begins with words like “look out,” “duck!”, “fire!”, or “get out of the water!” the request can wait.

By taking some simple, concrete steps we will better be able to navigate these unknown waters in these confusing times. If we will trust ourselves and care for ourselves and each other, things will get easier. Don’t confuse how things used to be with the only way things can be. A new normal will emerge. Who knows, it could be much better than the old normal in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine!

I am a strong person?

I have noticed something in the midst of pandemic life. I have seen many people interviewed who have expressed surprise they have contracted the corona virus. They often say some version of “I am a strong man/woman, I am really active, I keep really busy, and still I got this virus.” I find the number of folks who say some version of this to be quite intriguing. I started reflecting on the sentiment and have some suggestions.

Our culture equates busyness with strength. If we are constantly on the go, involved in many different things, dashing from here to there, we are strong. We confuse endurance with strength, but if you compare the physiques of marathon runners and power lifters it’s easy to see there is a difference. More importantly, there are important differences between physical strength and endurance and psychological strength and endurance. We really need to consider both kinds of strength to assess what constitutes a strong person – and then remember that a virus is no respecter of strength. All it respects is immunity, and we don’t have much when dealing with a new virus.

I am interested in why we are so busy. Could it be that we are busy because we are hiding or running from something? My father once counseled me that if you have problems the best solution is twelve to sixteen hours a day of hard work and a twelve pack of beer. That’s terrible advice, but it revealed his strategy of not solving his problems but instead being too busy and too intoxicated or hung over to think about them. That strategy isn’t unique to him. When I hear people with corona virus saying the worst part is having to sit in their hospital room, I can’t relate. When I am sick all I want to do is rest, I have no problem sitting still. What is going on with these people?

What’s going on, I suggest, is that sitting still allows all of the issues they have been running from to catch up with them. Those issues, even when ignored and repressed, increase our stress levels which in turn decreases our immune system’s ability to fight off illness. There are real physical consequences to our avoidance. We need to come to see that frenetic activity isn’t a measure of strength at all. We need to practice spending some time each day sitting still. When we do so, if we feel compelled to get up and dash around it might be time to sit longer – and consider finding a spiritual companion and a good therapist. Your health depends on it!

Unseen Casualties

chronic painThe most important casualties of the current pandemic are those with COVID 19. They are the victims and they are receiving most of the attention – as they should. Then there are those who desperately want to be victims, the conspiracy theorists and those who feel their rights are being impinged upon when asked to wear a mask to protect their fellow citizens. They are the infantile cry babies, and should be ignored completely. In the middle are those of us with chronic conditions who have been unable to get treatment during this crisis. Some of us remain unable to get treatment because of irresponsible behavior on the part of our providers.

Consider Advanced Pain Management, a multi-State pain management conglomerate. Closing all their clinics on March 17, they assured patients that it was for everyone’s protection. For profit healthcare rarely does anything to protect anyone other than itself. More than two months later, the vast majority of their clinics remain closed. The exceptions are a few in towns so small they couldn’t even get a bus to stop at the local gas station. Meanwhile, patients in metropolitan areas wait for some movement and cannot get answers. We can get phone appointments, but if we need more than a refill or a phone call we are told to go to our primary care physician or the local emergency chronic pain cycledepartment. Neither of those places will treat someone with chronic pain, of course. They may order imaging or lab tests, but whatever the results we are referred to the still-closed pain clinic for treatment.

You may be thinking we should suck it up, but some of us are risking permanent injury while we wait for our clinics to reopen. In my case, I now have involuntary muscle movement and loss of range of motion. You may be thinking, “find another clinic.” The problem with that is the pain industry has made it very difficult to switch clinics for fear the patient might be trying to get more narcotics – even when your clinic is “temporarily closed.” Further, there is no way for a new provider to get medical records from a clinic that isn’t open. The clinics hold all the cards, and right now some of them aren’t even coming to the table.

Every time I pass a “heroes wear scrubs” yard sign I have to laugh. Yes, some of them do in fact wear scrubs. Others have been withdrawn from the battle by irresponsible employers like Advanced Pain Management, their patients left to fend for themselves. That’s not healthcare, it’s cover your ass behavior by the worst of for-profit medicine. Tell me again that we don’t need healthcare reform, please.

Cabin Fever?

solitary

One of the things I find fascinating about the experience of safer at home during the last several weeks is the number of people who are struggling with perceived isolation. I don’t refer here to people who live alone and cannot go to work. I refer to the rest of us. We have social contact. Perhaps we go to work, or visit with friends and colleagues virtually, we might work virtually, we go to the grocery store and other essential places, and yet to hear some people tell it you would think they were in solitary confinement!

I would like to suggest that if the above describes how you are feeling you would benefit

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from some self examination. If you are partnered, I would ask you to consider that maybe the only reason the two (or more) of you aren’t doing well is because the only time you can tolerate each other is when you are separated most of the time. If that’s the case, it might be time to ask some serious questions about your relationship and consider getting some counseling when this is all over. There are concrete steps you can take to improve things, and at this time you have a great opportunity to begin!

marathonThe third possibility is that you are hiding from yourself. There are things about yourself or your history that you don’t want to consider, and all this time with less to do than normal increases the possibility that they will surface. In normal times, you can keep nearly perpetually active, stopping only to collapse into bed at night and hitting the floor running in the morning. Now, however, when you are alone you may be experiencing anxiety and the need to find something, almost anything, to do. The answer is to engage in some grounding practices and just be present to what you are feeling. Running away isn’t going to help, it’s just going to kick the problem further down the road until you have no choice but to face it. That’s always more traumatic that choosing to face it. Don’t waste this valuable time. It may not come again until fall!

How Can I Cash In?

quote-the-secret-of-being-a-top-notch-con-man-is-being-able-to-know-what-the-mark-wants-and-ken-kesey-36-63-08When confronted with adversity, most of us try to come up with a way to overcome it. Only the most twisted among us look for a way to profit financially from the adversity others experience. Often, but not always, they are politicians. Other times they are little more than small time crooks looking to turn a quick buck. In most every case, they are sociopaths devoid of a conscience, the most severely mentally ill among us. They don’t get the same attention as the pour souls whose illness leads then to more dramatic outward evidence of their illness, and so they operate under the radar.

I once knew someone whose ex-husband was caught on hidden camera by a local news station trying to sell worthless products to the elderly. Most of us would have been humiliated by that experience but, ever the true sociopath, this guy claimed that he was victimized by the television station that caught him, unfairly persecuting him when many others were doing similar things that made his offense seem inconsequential. I ampatriotismlastrefuge quite sure his victims, living on a fixed income and defrauded by him, didn’t find his acts inconsequential at all.

Sociopaths can be quite charming, which makes them ideal politicians. They are more than capable of lying to our faces, saying they have our best interests at heart. They know what our best interests are, they just don’t give a damn. They are incapable of moving beyond their own interest, and for them the rules are something to be bypassed. If you believe you can change them, you are deceiving yourself. The only treatment for the cancer they are is removing them from positions of trust.

Selective Social Distancing

I know these people, really nice people, but dumb as a box of rocks. They are really concerned about keeping their toddler, who they still take to daycare despite not really needing to, away from other people. Except the daycare people and kids, and various members of pregnant couples they have had over to the house to give away some of their baby stuff they no longer need. Then there are his fishing trips in a canoe with his buddy. Oh, and Healthcare provider caring for intubated patient in intensive care unit.don’t forget the occasional friend that drops by “just because.”

That’s not social distancing, people. That’s the kind of stupidity that will delay the curve on this virus from flattening and put other people who are at risk in danger. That’s the kind of stupid shit you would expect from younger adults who haven’t figured out they aren’t invincible yet, but would hope they could see that this is serious. That’s the behavior that will kill your toddler’s grandmother just as surely as if you put a gun to her head and pull the trigger.

Fools Driving Disaster

20200323_104650Our nation is being led by a bunch of fools who value their wealth over your life. Let that sink in for a minute. Profits motivate more than science, lies more that facts, hallucination more than reality. Ego rules the day, bluster is valued more than fact, and the very party that prattles on about states’ rights when it is convenient to them are not making noises, along with Faux News a.k.a. State TV, that they the cure may be worse than the disease and shut downs may well have to end after two weeks.

The truth is that an overwhelmed medical system and a skyrocketing absentee rate due to illness will cripple the economy as surely as anything else. We can allow businesses to reopen, but if there aren’t enough healthy people to work they will simply close again in a month- likely for much longer as they struggle to replace workers who will not return. Even for those with microscopic attention spans, limited ability to understand things that cannot be seen, and profound struggles with math, the impact of a forty percent or trumpangryhigher absentee rate is something that people should be able to comprehend – especially if they are wonderful, successful, terrific businessmen.

What we have is a President who was elected by greedy people. For him and his ilk, greed is God, and their primary concern is enriching themselves. Their secondary concern is accumulating power to serve the first concern. Perhaps ironically, many of these people lack the intelligence to stop playing on the railroad tracks, even as the train of pandemic is honking its horn trying to get them to move. We all know how that story ends.