The Difference between Hope and Optimism

Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

I’m not a fan of optimism.  It strikes me as irrational.

But this poem, fully recognizes every goddamn thing usually does go wrong and reminds us that sometimes the world steps forward into the light and things go right. We survie a new day better than the previous one.  Sometimes.

What I find most encouraging is that those sometimes moments seem to have more power than I give them credit for.  Because the arc of history suggests things are improving for humankind.   Slowly creeping toward a place that in the exhausting daily battle of today’s world affairs it seems impossible to achieve.

Fewer children die, more diseases get eradicated or controlled,  there is less war.  It feels impossible to believe but it is true. And it was achieved by just a few people.  A small percentage of us took initiative.  A few people were the sometimes and things got better.   The power of those moments of sometimes is great.

It’s important to remember when the world feels like it is sliding irrevocably into a pit of despair.  There is a crack of light in the distance.  The darkness, while deep and present, is not complete.

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WAKE UP!

I would like to celebrate that Moore wasn’t elected.

But all I can do is see the demographics.  2/3rds of white women voted for a man who preys on teenage girls.  

TWO THIRDS. 

Jones, and the nation, was saved by black voters.  By a smart, well run, get out and vote movement among black citizens.  People who recognized a racist sexual predator was NOT  a good choice for congress.

I don’t know how to make white women pay attention.  To stop and think about the things that they have just accepted as part of the nature of life WHICH DO NOT HAVE TO BE.

I don’t know what will make anyone stop and think about the broader context.  To look beyond defending their identity and into facts in context.

And the lack of thinking is what has led to the state of this country.

 

Customer Service Skills for Health Professionals

It’s a thing that should exist.

People think customer service office work is low end mindless work.

But if you do it well, if you want to be good, it requires skills.  Interpersonal communication skills that require effort and intention.

And I think those skills should be REQUIRED learning for healthcare professionals.  Particularly doctors and nurse practitioners.

A huge amount of diagnosis is getting the relevant information from the patient. That requires guided discussions and active listening.  That requires making sure that both people are sharing understanding of what is being discussed.

Another huge part of healthcare is communicating clearly about diagnosis and plans for fixing problems.  Again, that requires that both parties fully understand what is being discussed.

And finally respect must be communicated.  Fully 80% of what is communicated in a person to person conversation is inferred by body language, tone and assumptions about shared meaning.  Respect is part of that 80% but it is also a pivot in how a person accepts the information they are being given.

There is a reason that some people look at a news story and see truth and others see fake news.  We filter information through our feelings.  The feeling we have about an interaction quite literally changes the understanding we have about the information.

Customer Service, when it is done well, is not so much about happy customers.  It’s about clear transmission of information.  It’s about solving a problem with communication.  Because a person doesn’t feel their problem is solved unless that customer service person made them feel confident that it was solved, regardless of whether or not it was solved.

Studies have shown that people sue doctors that they don’t like, not doctors who screw up.  In other words, if a doctor is likable but makes a bad diagnosis they are far less likely to be sued.  Because people trust the communication more than they trust the ACTUAL SOLUTION.

Insurance companies try to leverage this point to reduce malpractice by teaching doctors to be likeable.  But I think a much more salient point is my original one.  The one that is buried in why people don’t sue doctors they like.  Because HOW people understand what is said is deeply embedded in the feeling of respect and understanding they get from a doctor.

Shared understanding is sitting on a platform of respect.

Medical Schools need to require, at MINIMUM, the level of customer service skills that get taught to the best customer service centers.  And frankly they ought to be taught at the level of a counselor.  If they were, I would bet that the outcomes would be markedly improved.

Capitalism is the Heart of Christmas

It’s not God.  It’s not Jesus. It’s Money.

And that’s not a horrific thing.  It’s an annoying thing if, like me, you dislike crowds and don’t particularly participate in Christmas.

But this is the season that feeds the Western Economy.  Indeed, because of globalisation, it feeds the world economy.  It’s the engine of spending that employs most of us in one way or another.

I find this idea that there is a war on Christmas amusing.  The strongest power in the world is firmly entrenched in the idea of Christmas.  The power of money.  Christmas isn’t going anywhere.

Even today, most Christians have melded the holiness of the day with decorating, buying, cooking and commenting on people who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

But, sadly for those who still think it’s about religion, Money is all about leveraging for more money.  And so it’s inclusive.  It wants there to a gift giving Hanukkah and it wants Kwanza to be about gifts as well.

Mark my word – it wants Mawlid to be about gift giving too.   Someone, somewhere is working on a way to change a festival for Mohammed’s Birthday into a retail bonanza.  Christmas used to be a festival holiday too.  Now it’s a season of shopping.

AND I bet if they pull it off, the division between Muslims who celebrate Mawlid and those who don’t will disappear.  Because big business always trumps religion.  ESPECIALLY if it can somehow leverage religion into it’s drumbeat.

100 years from now imagine the incredible booming economy that would exist if we could add in a gift exchange for 2 billion Muslims!   Imagine if you gave it a nice unique set of colors and symbols that they would display each year, creating entire industries out of decorating for the holiday.   Almost everyone benefits when the economy is booming.

 

 

I need a list

of things to do when my brain is functional.

Inside my brain are a dozen or more nagging things I should do .  Things that don’t get done because during the brain stillness, I function on a rail.  I do the habits. I walk through the day by doing the next habit.  I focus on conquering the small stuff.

But depression is not a static state and when it moves into the zone of normal I very often get less done than I should because I can’t really seem to put my thoughts into gear to get those nagging tasks done.  I can’t remember them.

I think I need a list.  It has to be on something easily accessible.  So when the nagging thought shows up, I can put it immediately on my list.  Thus removing it’s anxiety from my head.

And when I realize I am in functional normal mode, I can grab the list and do something I wouldn’t normally get done.

I also need the list to be already set up as a functional to-do.  Ie – task broken into it’s component parts.

I will try to do it on one of my phone apps I think.  Although I find writing things down easier, I no longer carry any pad of paper.  I have a phone after-all.

But breaking down the task means it can’t be an app like Remember the Milk.  It has to be a proper to do app.  But that will be an additional electronic nagging rather than a place to put my nagging thought that safely removes it from the anxiety place until I can do it.

I think finding the right app might end up being the first thing on the to do list?  Or at least figuring out how to make an easy app like Milk work for this.

Anyway – that is my current state of mind.  I need more lists in my life.  My brain is way to full of holes.

I bought a cat tree.

I got it quite cheaply compared to most of the cat trees you see, which was why I bought it.  No doubt it’s not as high quality, but…

Anyway, I bought it online in a fit of kitten love.  Then 24 hours later… it occurred to me to check how heavy the delivered box would be.  50lbs.  Huh.  OK.  I can lift that I guess… Up two flights of steps.  I guess.

Then it arrived.  The box was very large.  I was NOT going to be able to carry it.  But I triumphed.  I got out my two wheel cart, essential tool for all single people, tied the box to the cart and pulled that damn box up 2 flights of steps.  And didn’t kill myself by falling head first down the stairs.

Now it’s a box in my living room.  It’s still not a cat tree.

Apparently, cat trees don’t just happen when you open the box.  ASSEMBLY IS REQUIRED.

Assembly has not shown up and the box been waiting since Tuesday.

Saturday – the traditional day to celebrate the Assembly is Required footnote.  I think Assembly must show up today because the cats are currently entertaining themselves by stampeding through the apartment like buffalo.

Happy Cat Stampede is a sound that I personally enjoy, but it is my understanding that other people do not.  And I am going to assume that the downstairs neighbor finds the cat stampede to be annoying.

Hopefully if we assemble this cat tree they will focus their play on the tree and do fewer stampedes at 6am.

I doubt it though.   Maybe she’s deaf.

For the 1st time in 7 years I put up Holiday decorations.

I strung lights around my front window.  I’m rather proud of that step into normal behavior.  I haven’t involved myself in Xmas since my mom died.  But I feel more human and interested in making a pretty place for myself.  So I pulled out a box of lights I bought in an after Xmas sale, with the vague idea of making some kind of decorative element for the bedroom.

Now I need to watch the kitten and how he treats them.  He and Bijou were on the balcony while I put them up.  It’s a beautiful sunny warm winter day and kitten hadn’t been out on the balcony much.  Bijou supervised.  NO GROWLS!!

But I think it was serendipitous because then they weren’t involved in putting up the lights and didn’t see them bouncing about like a toy.

You know.  I really am a WHOLE lot better than I was 5 years ago.  It’s been a long VERY slow slog that feels like nothing gets better.  But it really does.  And it has.  I doubt I will ever be Mrs. Mental Health.  But I’m getting to be Mrs. Mental OK Sometimes.

Maybe I will buy tiny tree too.

Meet Rebel Tim

rebel tim day one

He is about 14 weeks give or take.  I got him from a woman who runs an informal rescue out of her pet supply store.  She can be counted on to have at least a few kittens and cats needing homes.

I introduced him to Bijou who is acting traditionally by hissing and growling as is prescribed by millennia of custom among cats.

Tim is not very impressed by her threats and has explored the entire apartment thoroughly, eaten a good dinner and now feels it is time for a cuddle.

BUT there will be NONE OF THAT.  Boundaries have been laid and he is not allowed to get on the bed.  Indeed, I have also gotten growled at for inviting him.

Tim and I are properly chastised.  We might seek solace in the dining room.  Where cranky pants calicos aren’t staking arbitrary claims to space.

I am hopeful that they will come to a completion of this cat meeting ritual sooner rather than later, if I just stay out of it.  But it’s hard not to participate in having a new kitten!

But I got the kitten for Bijou, not for me.  So.  I will attempt… Probably unsuccessfully… not to lavish a ton of attention on the kitten.

The Dentist – a lesson in depression management

My mouth is a disaster.  A disaster created by lack of maintenance which is a byproduct of depression.

When the stillness of depression overtook me I didn’t go to the dentist.   My teeth are not great – very prone to cavities and so they need regular attention.  But I didn’t go.  Until a painful tooth pushed me there and I had to have the tooth pulled because I didn’t have the money for the root canal.

That was the first of 3 teeth I had pulled in that fashion over 6 years.  Those were the only time I went to the dentist.  All of them were visits to the Urgent Dental Care.

But the painful teeth wasn’t the worst.  The worst was a cavity in my front tooth that was visible as a divot on the side of it.  It made me feel shame.  It made me feel like I couldn’t go on interviews because people would think badly of me for having a hole in my tooth.  It made me ashamed to see old friends and family.  It was a huge mental monster in head.

The last tooth I got pulled was earlier this year.  The dentist was very kind.  He suggested we tackle my mouth one tooth at at time.  He didn’t suggest a regime of dental cleanings or plan a giant trip tick of my mouth problems.  He just said – when you have some money saved just walk in.

And that’s when I realized that this was how I could make it work.  The Urgent Dentist is obviously more expensive than most dentistry, but not exorbitantly so.  (at least this practice.)  But they offer something that is invaluable to me.  They work 7 days a week, 5 of them until 10pm.   They encourage walk ins.

Convenient hours is a huge plus and when it’s tied to walk in it works with my brain dysfunction.  It takes a whole lot of self talk and consideration and aborted attempts to get me to the dentist.   And when the moment gels – I can just go.  No need for an appointment – just go.

An appointment would create a whole new layer of problems.  I would miss appointments if my brain moved into stillness at the moment the appointment came up.  That would make me a persona non-grata with a dentist.  And I would create a larger thing out of potentially missed appointments than they might in reality be so I would just make that into a reason not to set up appointments.

Yesterday, a Sunday afternoon, I walked into the dentist and got my front tooth fixed.  It felt like a triumph.  It’s been a source of shame for years and now it’s fixed.  In an  hour.

It’s not the dentistry tradition I grew up with.  And so it never occurred to me that I could do my dentistry by just walking in, but I can.  So, now for the next few years, I will be saving money and when I have enough, doing next tooth.  By walking into the office when my brain will allow it.   I am not rich.  But the extra money is more than worth this benefit to me.  I wonder how many other people would benefit from it.