Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why is lack of productivity frustrating?

My friend Linda emailed, "I feel like there is so much potential inside me and I don’t know how to express it right now."

I know that frustrating feeling of not being able to express all that hovers untouchably within. I have periods when I just can't get anything out on paper (can we even say that anymore now that we record our thoughts using other media?). When latent ideas lurk unnoticed in my synapses, it feels like I'll never come up with another worthwhile blog let alone enough content for a new book!

After many gaps of productivity, I've realized: it isn't absent proficiency or failure of ingenuity, it isn't lack of technique or even that dreaded writer's block; rather, it is merely the calm of incipient creativity: the pregnant pause. I've come to think of those times as not fallow but incubating periods.

However, while allowing time for results to develop may indeed be a virtue, just patiently waiting it out isn't so beneficial. Just as fish never spontaneously leap into the boat, the next great project isn't going to spring from our minds, fully formed like Zeus birthing brilliant Athena (though that image does give context to the myth!).

Rather than just hoping for inspiration to present a finished work, we'll gain more long-term fulfillment to realize we are in the gestational phase. And we'll end up with a more fulfilling creation if we make the effort to nourish ourselves in all the right ways – with worthwhile books and stimulating conversations and walks in the sunshine and quiet reveries surrounded by nothing but silence.

I tend to spend my down-times regrouping my stamina, gathering new inputs, and mulling thinks over. (Well, that was a typo, but I think I'll leave it!) And then after enough back-mind churning to recombine it all into something more than I ever previously imagined, I find I have more than enough to write.

I hope you'll enjoy your incubating periods as much as I do mine!
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Friday, November 25, 2011

What makes Thanksgiving special?

For too many of us, Thanksgiving is the only time of year we pause to think of all the things about our lives we appreciate. So often it is only during the holiday meal preparations and around the feasting table that we feel special connections to those who are part of our everyday lives.

I think that's because when we're related or we've been with someone a long time we tend to come to a sense of equilibrium in which they can seem just part of life's background. We routinize life around their and our own weaknesses and simply accommodate what we must while contributing less than we could as our share in the joint effort of living. And we wonder why every day is so mundane, why only the holidays make us feel special and more fully connected with those we (really do at heart) love the most.

What we too often forget is that good relationships take time and effort, both in terms of sharing what's really going on inside (others aren't mindreaders) and in terms of finding ways to stimulate growth in the relationship as well as in each other (that's the point of being with them).

Simple as baking (or even just eating) holiday pies together is, you don't just create (and/or consume) a delicious product, you grow togetherness. That's one ingredient always essential for the camaraderie of family gatherings for the holidays. We could benefit if we'd learn from our successes on special days to carry over those interactive achievements into our everyday lives.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

What's there to be thankful for?

A twinge in my shoulder as I woke up this morning surprised me into noticing a lot of things I'm thankful for – not the least of which is having this blog to share them with (even if the Blogger glitch means comments are hard to leave – HINT: email yours along with the blog Wonder or date to Feedback@SocioEnergetics.org and I'll post them for you!).

Today, I woke up, as usual, noticing I'd slept wrong on my arm (I tend to dislocate it ever so slightly, unaware until it begins to drag when I swim), but today is Thanksgiving, so I was able to realize I'm thankful I have both the physical and mental capacity (unlike my mother and so many incapacitated others) to make corrective adjustments.

I'm thankful, too, that I can go (most days if not this specific holiday one!) to the local Y pool to work out my shoulder, even though I'm neither Young, a Man, nor Christian, and I'm thankful the YMCA lets everyone else Associate there, too, whether young or not, man or not, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew as well as eclectic others (like me!), and that members are welcome whether poor or well-off, physically fit or in need of major reconditioning; and I'm thankful that the Y (and lots of other businesses, too) gives its employees off for special holidays so that families have times they can all gather together.

On this day with its tradition of huge Thanksgiving feasts, I'm thankful I can choose to eat in moderation, that despite worldwide hunger and poverty, I can afford plenty, and that I have the discernment to opt for healthy foods instead of empty calories so that I'm not one of America's 60+% who are overweight or obese yet hunger still for more.

I'm thankful, too, that I recognize that not all hunger is for food, that although I often feel an aimless yearning urge within, I've come to realize that not all signals that I perceive as hunger indicate a need for food but rather are often a craving for nourishment of a different sort: mental stimulation from a good book, another's touching comfort, the challenge of not just envisioning my passion but of bringing it to fulfillment, finding a community of CommonUnity that shares my values and appreciates my productivity – and that I have the freedom, resources, and stamina to seek to fully fill all those hungers, to achieve personal fulfillment in the most satisfying ways.

And where those hungers go unmet, I'm thankful we who have plenty have become aware and can appreciate the need and yearnings of those countless unknown others and that this world of the internet and common compassion enables us to undertake many cooperative ways to extend help and hope around the globe as well as all across our own communities.

Finally, I'm thankful that you've read my blog! Thank you for letting me share so much of what I appreciate today with you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's wrong with Assisted Living?

And yet, the tales of bureaucratic ineptitude and exorbitant medical costs for my incapacitated 85-year-old mother's healthcare needs has not yet ended. This is another one on Medicare and on my mom's health service providers and her Assisted Living staff.

Ever since Mom's botched hip replacement in 2002 (which started her mental incapacity as well – had we known the extent of the problems then, we probably should have sued!), my mom has been unstable standing and walking. Once the post-surgery rehab was completed and she no longer needed to rely on the walker, Mom continued to be in pain (later revealed to be due to a protruding broken wire along with a mending broken bone), and she began to rely on a cane. Over the years, her dependence on the cane has increased.

When I visited early this fall, she seemed very frail and relied heavily not only on the cane but my arm and, wherever available in her Assisted Living facility, the wallrails. I requested her doctor to have her evaluated for physical therapy, and they determined she really needed a 4-wheel walker. After getting a loaner practice walker, Mom went to therapy twice and decided she'd had enough. So they just let her decline to attend. After a few weeks, Mom no longer recalled what the walker was for – she began using it as a clothes rack!

Meanwhile, oblivious to this turn of events, I was checking out walkers to purchase. Online, I found a perfect, barely used one for half the price of new. Since Mom has Medicare coverage, I called to find out what I needed for reimbursement. Well, you can't do that. I was told you can only purchase from a registered Medicare provider! And none of those seem to bother to offer used models or discounted prices. (Why should they when Medicare will pay for a full-price new one every five years?) How crazy is that? Once again: it is no wonder health care costs are breaking the budget.

The therapist Mom was refusing to see finally called to let me know she was concerned Mom could fall since she wasn't using the walker – or even going for therapy. So I got in touch with a Medicare supplier near the Assisted Living facility and motored on down to play the heavy and take the cane away.

When I arrived, despite numerous calls to the doctor requesting the required prescription, it hadn't been sent. For two days, I called the doctor's office. The phone either rang unanswered or put me directly in voicemail. I left messages whenever I could. Still, no prescription. Finally, midmorning on the second day, a real person answered – and explained she was a phone temp because they were short staffed. She took the message and passed it on (Later I learned the office was also moving its file room, so it must have been chaos.), but still, I got no call back and no prescription was sent. I was due to leave the next day.

I'd asked everyone I could around the Assisted Living facility for help, but only the doctor could write the prescription. Then, at 4pm I got word from the sitter we hired to help my mom when I'm not visiting: she'd spotted the doctor in the building! I enlisted everyone to track him down, and finally I spotted him myself! When I caught up with him, he claimed to have signed a prescription already, but I knew there was none where it needed to be, so I had him write a new one (fortunately, I knew what it was required to say because he didn't!). With it in my hand at 4:30, I raced to call before the supplier closed, gathered up my mom, and made it there at 5 before 5 – with a tornado warning bearing down.

Needless to say, the staff was anxious to get out and home before the storm hit, so they quickly filled out the paperwork (couldn't they have prepared it when they knew we were attempting to get the prescription?) and adjusted the walker for my mom's short height (too short it turned out) and off we went into the rainy, windy night.

Mom was remarkably compliant about using the walker that evening, but the next morning, she'd forgotten all about it and wanted her cane. I told her we traded it in on the walker. I stayed for the day to encourage her to use it and tried (futilely) to find the absent therapist to correctly size the handles. By the time I put Mom to bed, she was still grudgingly using the too-short walker.

I just hope the next morning, the Assisted Living staff didn't let her wander around without it! And that maybe someone even could have gotten the sizing right (as I requested they do). But I can only hope since no one has contacted me to let me know. You'd really think there would be more assisting going on there....
I wonder... what you think.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why is medical care so costly?

But wait! The story of my incapacitated 85-year-old mother's bureaucratic woes has not ended. This next battle is with Medicare and her BC/BS supplemental insurance providers.

Last February, my mother was transported to the ER after collapsing at her Assisted Living home. There, they kept her overnight to evaluate the possibility of a seizure and released her in the morning. During her hospital stay, they administered her regular regimen of medications.

In July, Medicare sent a notice that they had re-reviewed her claim. After months of calls and sleuthing and some truly incompetent clerks passing me along, I finally talked to a person who was able to explain what happened: Medicare retrospectively changed their coverage, and we were being charged $460 for one day's worth of her medications because my mother was not admitted to the hospital but was kept as an "outpatient" overnight.

My mother has Medicare Part D (Drug) coverage, so I called BC/BS to find out why they weren't paying for the same drugs they normally cover. Well, the nice lady there explained that Part D coverage only covers scrips from the doctor that are filled at a pharmacy and "self-administered." I explained that my mom is in Assisted Living because she can't remember to take her meds and the nurses at the facility always administer her drugs. This proxy assistance apparently does not negate the "self" part of the administration at Assisted Living, but hospital-provided and administered drugs are definitely not eligible for Part D coverage.

Thinking Mom's regular supplemental coverage for hospitalization might cover them, I checked that, too. According to the hospital, they've been billed and also denied the coverage – presumably because the drugs were not part of the hospitalization care or maybe because Medicare originally covered them. Who knows for sure? Not the hospital.

At any rate, because her Assisted Living drugs weren't sent along to the ER, we're supposed to pay MORE for ONE day's dosage($460) than her month's supply of the medications normally cost (about $350)? I don't think that is either fair or equitable for the hospital to expect – from us or from any of the coverages either for that matter.

If these are typical charges hospitals have been passing on to Medicare and insurers, it is no wonder healthcare costs are breaking the budget.
I wonder... what you think.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where's the security in these ID requirements?

My 85-year-old mother is being ripped off by the US government's Department of Homeland Security. I know, you probably will find it hard to believe that the idiocy of their mindless bureaucracy would do this to the incompetent doddering widow of a deceased WWII veteran, but here are the facts:

Since being ripped off by scam artists a number of years ago, my mom can no longer manage her affairs. My sisters and I have full power of attorney for control of her finances. Recently, my sister was going through some of Mom's many files of papers and found a $50 Treasury Bond. It hasn't come to maturity yet, but depositing the $31 value to Mom's account would allow her to pay for some meds and we wouldn't lose the piece of paper in the morass of Mom's effects.

I took the bond to the local branch of Mom's bank, along with my POA, but to cash in the savings bond and deposit it to her account, Mom would have to appear in person. She lives 400 miles from me. So I packed the bond in my bag for my next visit, and Mom and I dutifully went to the bank branch near her Assisted Living home.

At the bank, I learned that Mom's expired driver's licence, which the Department of Homeland Security's TSA airport checkpoints accepted for a flight ID just 18 months ago, was not valid for cashing in the savings bond. Since she no longer drives, the bank teller said Mom would have to get a "permanent non-driver's ID". Fortunately, that office was only a few blocks away.

At the "driver's services" office, I learned Mom would first have to get her birth certificate – the kind with a raised seal, not the copy she already has – because her expired license wasn't sufficient identity proof for the Department of Homeland Security requirements. Wait a minute – just because it's expired, a state-issued photo ID is less proof than asking for a copy of an 85-year-old piece of plain paper? Oh, but her name changed since birth, so she'd also need proof of her marriage. And a 5-year ID would cost $5 or $8 for a 10-year ID.

But what about the permanent ID? She's 85, not moving out of Assisted Living, and has the stamina, if not mental competence, to live past 100 – and I sure don't want to go through the escalating hoops of this process again! Well, the permanent IDs are issued to veterans or their widows by another department on the other side of town. And for that ID, she'd need proof of her husband's service in WWII and his death certificate. The driver's license department didn't know the cost for that ID, but clearly fees for the additional documentation alone would cost more than their temporary non-driver ID.

Are these people crazy? My mother is 85. She's never going to drive. She's never going to move. She might never even fly again. But getting the documentation to cash in a $31-value savings bond would cost me more than the proceeds from the bond in fees and the gas for my return trip (or to hire someone else) to take my incapacitated mother to get the damn ID. And that doesn't even count the value of my time to gather the documentation and drive there.

The excessive paperwork required to get a valid ID for an incompetent little old lady to cash in her Treasury bond is a barrier to my mom's financial security. That seems to defeat the concept behind creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
I wonder... what you think.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why is 62 considered an old age?

I'm thinking 62 is the new 40 – old enough to have outgrown the cocky immaturity of the 20s and the foolish egotism of the 30s, fresh enough to wonder what might come next, and not yet slowing down because of debilities, aging issues, or disappointments over life's possibilities.

In fact, this is the point of life that will never get old! I'm thinking this phase of living our FULLfillment can last forever.
I wonder... what you think.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What is life like behind the veil?

One of the acts of great fiction is to bring reality to life in a way that not only tells a revealing story about a slice of true life in some part of the world but also makes a point of cosmic truth about life. In A Cup of Friendship, Deborah Rodriguez does both.

Debbie writes from rich experience as an expat resident of Kabul who not only co-owned a coffeehouse and taught at the Kabul Beauty School but also founded Oasis Rescue, a nonprofit that aids post-crisis women. The plight of Afghani women and the conflicted moral quandaries of the modernizing Muslim community are portrayed with heartfelt empathy and deep compassion, if perhaps a fictionally easy optimism.
[H]er mother had told her before she died[,] "You will find that thing that makes you unafraid to die. That important thing that makes your life of value." All these years, Isabel thought that being a journalist was the thing of value that she was bringing to the party. Now she knew there was more. Now she knew that a person had to act, to be truly engaged, in order to make a real difference. Mum, Isabel though, it's taken me eons to understand. But now I do. ~ Deborah Rodriguez, founder of Oasis Rescue, in A Cup of Friendship
Certainly Debbie has acted her part in founding Oasis Rescue, but also she has opened her Afghani world to better Western understanding through her books. Without such reporting, whether in fiction like this or in her nonfiction Kabul Beauty School, the world would be lesser known. Debbie's books bring this world more understanding and help make our global community a more sympathetic place. Both roles, to act and to inform others, have equal value.

To pull back the Muslim veil enough for us to catch a glimpse of another reality as well as how American ignorance perpetuates Middle East strife, take in A Cup of Friendship.
I wonder... what you think.
Hardover:                   Or preorder in paperback:      Get the NonFiction:

Friday, November 11, 2011

What cosmic truth could your life reveal?

Hello all you wannabe memoirists. I just finished a great book on writing creative nonfiction: Storycraft by Jack Hart. The former Oregonian editor and narrative reporting coach covers the topic from a newspaper perspective, but the content applies not only to all creative narrative nonfiction but to many aspects of fiction writing as well. I recommend it to any author who wonders what "show don't tell" really means.

And I'll go even a step further: Storycraft is the perfect book for anyone seeking a better understanding of life. Jack writes, "The world delivers the facts, and nonfiction specialists have to make some sense of them," but all of us have the same longing when we encounter life's  inexplicable tragedies, foiled destinies, or even just worrisome little events we witness.

Every life is packed with scenes and stories, as much action as a rousing novel, but with all the boring routine intervening. When we ponder life's climactic moments, we find the context that links our  lives with humanity's common attributes. And just like an investigating reporter, we can use the techniques in Storycraft to wring meaning out of reality.

To paraphrase a point Jack makes, the ultimate payoff for Storycraft is when you can follow life's story from its specific unfolding to its underlying cosmic truth and then bring that new abstraction to bear on other specifics in your own and others' lives.
I wonder... what you think.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why is change so difficult?

While traveling last month, I lost my skinny pillow with its soft-worn allergen protective cover, and my whole body is stressing out. The achy results feel debilitating, but even worse, I can't find a replacement pillow or cover.

Sure, there are plenty of pillows in the stores, but there are NO skinny ones, and the allergy covers either crackle or feel like rubber. Since many pillows claim to be hypoallergenic, I could perhaps forgo the cover for a while, but trying to find the right-sized pillow is driving me (all over town as well as) to despair. For some reason fat, firm pillows are all that manufacturers make – or at any rate all that nearby retailers sell. You'd think inexpensive products would perhaps skimp more on the filler, but no, even the $2.99 pillows are WAY too thick.

So why can't I adapt to those big fat fluffy ones? It isn't that I haven't tried, but my body has small proportions. When I put my head atop a towering bolster, the rest of me simply doesn't fit against the bed: my neck is stretched and my shoulder left hanging. Quite literally, my bones are being dislocated by the misalignment.

Habitual years of living one way do build in self-limiting preferences. It's always easier to continue familiar habits than to venture into something effortful for body or mind to learn. When we refuse to keep up with the times, we are choosing to be left unchanged, so adamant refusals to adapt often become self-defeating choices as the world progresses out of our comfort zone.

But forcing conformity to inappropriate standards is even more self-injurious. Whether we are complying with rules that violate our inner values or allowing our bodies to be subjected to abuse, however subtle or unintended, we are setting ourselves up for debilitating stress. And negative stress always takes a toll. We can never become completely fulfilled when part of our energy is diverted from our own ideal.

In a functional world, we'd be guided to recognize the different types of changes and learn to choose appropriately. Change is difficult today because our childhood training focused on external measurements. With no inner scale for judiciously weighing our choices, we fall too readily into social but self-sabotaging behavior.

Without a conscious effort to discern our own ideal response, we react from habit or peer pressure. And so my thoughtful pillow search hangs in the balance – another metaphor for trying to find my uncompromising place in this conformist world.
I wonder... what you think.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What's worth attention?

The point of writing is to share what's gotten the writer's attention with those who would find it stimulating or gain new insight. Since so little I read reflects my point of view, I can find plenty of mind-boggling perspectives to read.

In fiction – like Stone Arabia – authors write all these delicate observations of life that somehow resonate of diligent attention to surroundings and other people, and I think: I could never write such things; I would simply never notice. It often makes me think I'm not pretentious enough to be an author: Not only are there many topics I am extremely indifferent to pursuing, but I'm just not into unraveling characters' psyches enough to analyze how such obscure threads weave into the minutiae of their underlying angst.

For a big-picture generalist like me, these provoking details explore mundane living from an unimaginably bleak perspective. It's incomprehensible to believe people really want to hone these intensely fear-based opinions into predominating motivations – and yet, even in memoirs (like Devotion or Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses) it's clear plenty of people in the world live these fear-gripping viewpoints.

If you're one of those people, it could be a relief to explore a different point of view because living in fear is what makes the world so full of inexplicable choices too many people perpetrate on each other – and themselves.

For a mind-opening, inspiring, maybe even enlightening POV, you could check out my website. I've got stories and even Ebook drafts posted as FREE .PDFs. (Just Email me some feedback!!)
I wonder... what you think.