Friday, August 13, 2010

In Search of...a mad, mad, mad, mad world

It's Friday, the 13th. Personally, I have always considered it kind of a lucky day, but then again, I've been known to step on cracks, and occasionally open an umbrella inside, all of which I've been told would bring sure doom.

It's about 152 degrees here in Nashville, and I can't seem to remember a time before it was 152 degrees. The heat is making people crazy. I think we can safely say that this summer has taught us all the secret to achieving peace in the Middle East - air conditioning. Seriously, it's too damn hot and it makes people cranky. And by people I mean me. So I'm thinking that goes for Arabs and Israelis too.

While we're on the subject of cranky people, well, maybe just a tad more than cranky, how about that lady who wanted her chicken McNuggets and went a little mad when she couldn't get them at six in the morning? I think that McDonalds should give her a free lifetime supply - well, after she finishes serving her jail sentence, that is.

And the Jet Blue flight attendant, how crazy was he?! But come on, haven't we all wanted to do that? We shake our heads no and scoff at him, but secretly we wish we had the guts at one time or other. Did he hurt anyone? I don't think so. Did he endanger anyone? Again, I don't think so. So he got angry, cursed a bunch, took a couple of beers, and slid down the airplane slide thing and walked off. All in all, it's been cathartic for all of us, hasn't it?

These kinds of things seem to be happening every day now, though. And I'm wondering how we got to be so mad. You don't really have to look far for the answer. The thing that bugs me most is that our ire is misdirected. It's easier to think we're victims of corporate America. It's easier to blame BP for the oil spill than it is to stop using oil, isn't it? It's easier to blame God for natural disasters than it is ourselves for ruining the environment. It's oh so much easier to blame banks or Wall Street than it is to learn to live within our means. Fires are raging, glaciers are melting, and venom is spewing forth from our lips and our souls. We blame the left, we blame the right, and the only thing our anger is doing is masking our immense fear. We are a generation ill-equipped to figure out our own survival, and so instead of taking a moment to get quiet and tap into what connects us to one another, we run around screaming, arms flailing, trying to drown out the deafening terror we feel about our own mortality. We have a need to be right, to be exonnerated, to rid ourselves of the guilt for making such a mess of such a beautiful world. But blame, even when directed inward, is not a healing force. So what is? Uh oh, here it

When you love something, you treat it thoughtfully. You take care to preserve the integrity of it, the longevity of it, the form of it. You make an effort, you give consideration, you think before you jeopardize something when you love it.

So yes, I'm back to my hippy-dippy love-fest, because I wonder what the world would be like if we not only behaved that way toward our flat screen TV's, but toward each other. I wonder what the environment would be like if we treated it as well as our favorite sweater. I wonder what our relationships and politics would be like if we cared about them as much as the tiniest possessions we cherish.

We are living in a time when kindness is suspect, when peace seems like a quaint antiquated idea as realistic as Santa and the tooth fairy, when love has been made a mockery of. But the only way out of this is to redefine our priorities, to redirect our thoughts and beliefs, and to act accordingly. We want the quick fix, the diet pill, the immediacy without the long term effort. We want the reward without the sacrifice. I hate to break it to you, but it ain't gonna happen. Even a lottery winner had to make the effort to actually go to the store and purchase the ticket. It's crazy to think that we can all sit back and be rescued. Haven't you ever watched them tear down a building? One, two, three, they blow it up and it comes crashing down. But to build is arduous. It's brick by brick, hour by hour, painstaking work. But in the end, the building that's built with care stands stronger, lasts longer, is a reflection of the work put into it. And so it is with our lives and the world we live in.

I wish you all the feeling of knowing you did your best, the peace that comes from seeing the outcome as you wish it to be, and the soul-felt certainty of a love that is beyond what we mere mortals can conceive.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tells your friends.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Search and death and the American dream

Compared to my previous hippy-dippy-love-is-the-answer-we-are-the-world blog, this one might seem like a little bit of a downer, but I've had a rough morning. Those of you who know me at all know that good quality affordable healthcare for every American is the issue I have been most passionate about and will most likely continue to be until my demise.

"Oh, Ilene," you're saying to yourself, "must you bring me down?" Well, yes. That's my answer. There is a horrible reality in this country with regard to healthcare and that is this: If you have money, you live. If you don't, you die. That is the beginning and the end of it, the simple truth that we would like not to think about, let alone rectify.

When it comes to freedom and democracy, we enjoy viewing ourselves and our country as morally superior. But I would like to throw this out there whilst we're busy patting ourselves on our proverbial backs. As long as Americans are dying because they can't get the care they need, and as long as that's okay with us and we are willing to look the other way, then we are far from morally superior, and certainly far from the greatest country on earth. And I say this, not because I'm unpatriotic, but because I am patriotic - because I know we can do better, and we have a moral obligation to do so. When the poorest American gets the same treatment as the richest, then we'll be the greatest country on earth, and not a moment sooner.

Yes, I can tell you that I am impacted directly, that my premiums have just gone up to $600 a month - for a single person. I can tell you that those premiums do not include my neurologist with whom I just had to work out a payment plan. I can tell you that I called two internists this morning whom I was referred to by a doctor whose opinion I trust. Neither one of them will take insurance. I can tell you that it pushed me just a tad over the edge. While sheepishly backing out of any appointment making, I weighed my options - drop the insurance and pay totally out of pocket? Randomly pick a doctor just because they're in my plan? What is the answer when healthcare costs surpass every other expense I have?

And while I'm on a healthcare roll, lets talk about my fellow Nashvillians and our upcoming elections tomorrow, because indeed, all politics is local. Our TV is flooded with ads, and for the first time I can tell you that I've met both the Democratic candidates running for our State Senate seat. I wrote about our current state senator, Douglas Henry, in a previous blog - the one where I went to lobby with the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign to keep centers open for the mentally ill. He told us he wasn't going to vote for anything that cost money, despite our desperate attempts at explaining the bigger picture - that it would cost far less in the long run to keep centers open than to pay for stints in prisons or hospitals. So if you're in Nashville, vote Jeff Yarbro tomorrow. Jeff actually came to the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign's annual meeting, as did our congressman, Jim Cooper. Douglas Henry - no where to be found. And I say that with all the love in my heart for dear, old Doug. Vote Jeff Yarbro tomorrow.

Friends of mine have asked me when I will run for some public office. Truthfully, I'm not sure I have the stomach for it. I tend to call it as I see it - and that's a quality that successful politicians seldom employ. So for now, I'll just keep fighting the good fight of striving for real equality in this country.

A final note about another current trend in medicine - concierge doctors. First of all, I thought it was a fictitious term made up for the TV show Royal Pains, which I love because of my many year crush on Mark Feuerstein, which is neither here nor there. But it turns out that this is a real thing going on in this country. So for X amount of dollars a year, usually in the thousands, you can have more attention from and access to your doctor, and more thorough testing. That's nice...if you have the few thousand extra to spend. But what if you don't? You miss the attention and life saving tests? Again, what does that say about our values?

Call me whatever name you like, I think it's a sin to grant one person the gift of good care while denying another. I think we should have a single payer system. I think healthcare should be a not for profit industry. I think healthcare providers and patients should be making decisions and that insurance companies should be banished from medical decisions and from campaign contributions. I think we should care for one another the way we all pray that we be cared for should we have nothing. I think we should all hold our elected officials on every level accountable for truly representing our best interests. I think that we can and must do better than we are currently doing. There is only one playing field on which the rich and poor are exactly equal, and that is in the voting booth. So vote. Write. Call. Make your voice heard.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And good health to you all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

In Search of...a happy occasion

I think we can all safely say that as a country we have been in need of a pick me up - a little something to brighten our day and make us smile. And I, for one, think that Chelsea Clinton's wedding has provided us with just such a pick me up.

First of all, who doesn't love a good wedding? No one, that's who. Second, seeing the Clintons, well, doesn't it kind of make you hearken back to that blissful period when we were all employed, when our retirement money was intact, and before we knew that danger lurked around every corner and on potentially any commercial airliner? I get all misty just thinking about it - a sure sign that I'm aging.

The other night, thanks to my favorite invention of recent years - the DVR, I was watching two concerts I had recorded on PBS. The first was Paul McCartney at the White House receiving the Gershwin Prize for songwriting. The second was a concert with Carole King and James Taylor. For a few hours I was in heaven. I remembered when songs were things with melodies and lyrics that everyone could sing, and even when it was just "Nah, nah, nah" at the end of "Hey Jude," it still seemed more meaningful to me than what is currently passing for popular music in our culture. For some blissful moments I was transported to a time when we could work it out, and when saying "you've got a friend" actually meant something.

So it's been a reminiscent few days for me, and I wonder if remembering how things felt can somehow summon better times to appear again. I wonder if seeing a beaming bride and her proud parents can remind us all that love is truly all that matters in the end. I wonder if pausing to join voices in song can heal the world, if only for a few moments. I wonder if making a conscious decision to focus on what is to be celebrated can make us all happier. If thinking makes it so, then so it shall be.

Peace and blessings to you. Have a great day. Thanks for stopping by.