Saturday, September 19, 2009

slavery and wealthcare

It used to be that I was scornful of those who clung to their jobs for the health insurance. I was sure that my good fortune would continue forever. Of course, it didn't. Even when I had enough money to buy individual, private insurance, I had what is known as catastrophic health insurance with a $5000, then later a $10,000 deductible.

I paid for all of my medical bills in cash. Is it any wonder that I chose to have two home births, totaling a mere $6000? I have no doubt that the docs at any hospital in America would have insisted that I have a C-Section for my first child, after 36 hours of labor, which would have driven up the cost of her birth quite a lot. Even under the company health insurance my ex-husband got later while he was gainfully employed, having my second child at home seemed a logical cost structure. $3K, cash from the insurance company that time, and they even sprang for a Douala, but I digress.

After I had my daughter I was diagnosed with my now "pre-existing" illness -- Hashimoto's Thyroiditus. It's an auto-immune disease that basically pits my immune system against all the thyroid, my little glad can produce. To correct this heinous disease I take synthetic thyroid to replace all of the thyroid my immune system kills off. It costs about $10 a month without insurance. Because of this life-long medical need, I cannot qualify for private health insurance.

I have not had health insurance since 2001. Nada. Zip. When my son landed in the emergency room from dehydration from a flu, we had to arrange a payment plan to pay them off. When I landed in the emergency room with pneumonia and a fever of 103, I paid for it through an "Indigent Patient" plan that's available in Colorado.

Being a freelance writer and teacher necessarily means that private health insurance is my only option...until new husband, a project engineer, seems on the precipice of being offered a company job, and with that health insurance. It's just shimmering out there on the horizon like the light of the rising sun on the ocean. I have to say that I'm excited about it.

What concerns me is though, that scornful shrug of my inner patriot, who says, "I should have the freedom to pursue happiness," and for me that is writing, and creating and teaching. I feel guilty and concerned that my husband now will take a job solely to get the health insurance. He is excellent at what he does, but will he be trapped by the company who hires him because if he leaves he risks not only his own health care, but mine as well?

It seems to me that this current system of wealthcare, serving only those wealthy enough to afford it independently, or those foolish enough to become indentured servants for its most meager benefits is very dangerous to the "pursuit of happiness."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

political discourse

I love a good political discussion. I've had friends of differing political views since junior high school. We've always been able to have heated conversations, then put them aside and go have a coke together laughing about all we have in common.

Lately, the level of political discourse has devolved to such a level of name-calling and hysterical, stupefying ignorant remarks that I'm finding myself thinking about the wisdom of keeping conversations limited to the weather and fashions of the day -- neither of which I care one iota about. That's the point. I truly care about politics and how discussion is being spewed all over the social media. My blood pressure, which is normally low, is palpably higher when I see how people are talking about these things.

I think it is time for Emily Post to visit Facebook, My Space and Twitter. We cannot survive as a society without rules of engagement, rules of etiquette. I'm troubled that people call our President by his first name, and use language not fitting to a respected office on his Facebook page! I believe his transparency may be the root of his problems. We are too familiar. Familiarity breeds contempt. President Obama may be reaping what he sewed with his Blackberry, but folks we need to step up and recognize the errors of our own ways...

As we've learned how to make television coverage of the Presidency graceful and official, we now need to learn a way to make the casual atmosphere of social networking a place where we respect each other and our elected officials. Self-control and a little bit of filtering wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Surreal Discernment

By all accounts Jaycee Dugard is as much a miracle as Elisabeth Fritzl and the young women who have escaped from the FLDS. Survivors all, they managed to manage their experiences in such a way that they could compartmentalize them. One might begin to think that they are women who are exceedingly present in the moment, and perhaps it is because the moment is all that they could ever count on.

Somehow, with a fifth grade education Jaycee managed to teach her daughters to read and write. She's used the internet and she had enough sense to put her childhood photo on the back of business cards even if no one was bright enough to figure out who she was in reality.

This is a woman who has been leading a double life. She was always Jaycee at some level, but at another she became Alyssa. Stockholm Syndrome suggests that she bonded with the Garridos and was able to see the good in them at some level. It is even possible that she factors into Phillip Garrido's "miracle healing." The reports from family indicate that she's adjusted to her reality, but can we even begin to guess what "reality" means to Jaycee/Alyssa? It's completely unfathomable.

One guess I have, based upon my own experience, is that she will find her own discernment more and more surreal as her freedom increases. Because she was able to hook into happy moments within captivity, the happy moments she experiences in freedom will be jarring, almost too much. It causes a lot of grief because only when one experiences the peace and contentment of freedom does one realize that one has been living without it for a very long time. The lack of fear, anger, and sadness feels unfamiliar and actually bizarre, like an emptiness one wants to fill up with doing and business creating a sort of echo of fear that repeats and repeats until one can finally be still.

There are likely to even be moments when she'll wish to go back to the familiar sheds and tents that were her home. Think about the fact that her daughters will now have access to a larger family, and world and they are her primary relationships. I hear she's beautiful and that will bring attention that she's perhaps longed for and also that will be strange and out of context.

Nothing will be so clean and clear for her new found family as it was when she was gone. Now they will constantly feel that they should have done more, that there were stones left unturned even if they turned over every stone they saw. They will have to let go and realize that Jaycee's progress and evolution somehow were served, and that is a very difficult task. It will take their lifetime I would think.

I think Jaycee's wiley-ness is amazing. I know she used every bit of herself to survive, and somehow kept her core tucked away. She must never feel guilty for her docility. She's simply done what women have had to do for millennium after millennium in circumstances not so different. The child brides of the Middle East, the slaves of the American south, the concubines of China, and so on, have all had to be beautiful and accommodating to the heinous desires of men and the power structure of her-rums.

I keep seeing these headlines that indicate that Jaycee and her girls are "normal." Maybe we're redefining normal more and more every day. That might not be a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Demons, Fires & Jaycee

A while ago a friend of mine was on a silent meditation retreat and nearly starved herself to death. When they came to take her away they had to physically drag her out of her little hell hole because she could not believe that she was sick. Someone had to rip the visor of their car off to show her a mirrored reflection of her gaunt features before she would leave. They put her in the hospital. They told her she had been possessed by a demon. They fed her and they put her back into the stream of life. She found out a Buddhist nun had died in the same cabin she was stationed in, and other women had had similar experiences there. The Order who owned the land destroyed the cabin so that it will never be used again.

I hadn't seen my friend in 8 years, and my memory of a very feminine woman who exalted in peacefulness and effortlessness, was profoundly shaken when she spent the past weekend with me. She came to me crushed and struggling to stay awake on herself. It's been a while since she was in hell, but hell seems to have followed her out. Some would call it depression, just plain and simple clinical depression, but had you known this woman prior to this event you would not have thought it possible. My feeling was that a residue of grayness hangs on her hips and keeps her from walking.

The struggle is not just about finding a job or a boyfriend, for God's sake. It is a struggle, a life struggle, to find herself at peace with the world. Her faith has been shaken to the core. The practice which garnered such insight and depth betrayed her, made her vulnerable somehow (or of course, it may have indeed saved her life).

It made me think once again of Elisabeth Fritzl, the girls of FLDS and dear, dear Jaycee Dugard. For, of course, these feminine souls were possessed by demons, and in some cases have been returned to the stream of life. We cannot even begin to have a normal conversation about these women without acknowledging that they may have been damaged beyond our understanding and may never be the same. It doesn't mean their story is over. In fact, their healing is of dire importance to all of us.

As anyone who has read my posts may know, I am particularly obsessed with these stories and I believe it is because after 20 years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the man I loved, and who said he loved me, I feel akin to them though I walked "freely" through the world all of that time. There are things that happen to us in life that change us profoundly. Healing is not straightforward. It's a meandering course that leads nowhere sometimes, and sometimes leads to most unexpected gates that we stand before wondering if we have the right to begin again.

The fires raging in LA will also be thus for those who have lost their homes. Here in Colorado we are breathing the smoke from fires all over the west. The sky is orange and gray with it. What does it really mean?

Can we say a fire, a man, a situation is evil? Things happen to remove the foundation of a life. In different gradations change occurs. Perspectives fail. What do we do? What can we do?

It is relatively impossible once the damage is revealed to move back into a burnt out hull of a life, and yet somehow we expect to do just that. Beginning at the beginning when you feel you're supposed to be at the middle is a real challenge. Life is often, often a page one re-write. The structures we built turn out to be fragile and combustible. We are left with very little beyond what matters most - people who remember our joys, who can offer nothing but a hug, a home-cooked meal, a pat on the back. In the heat of life, this is what it all boils down to - human connection and acceptance. I hope Jaycee gets a lot of acceptance. She lived a life without a good foundation, but it was a life, and now it is gone. I hope the folks back in LA can build again at some point down the line, but in the meantime receive home cooked meals and pats on the back. I hope my friend can sit at the hearth of her burned out body and rebuild the flame that keeps us warm on cold nights.

I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by folks who patted me on the back, let me sleep in their spare room, and by the unconditional love of a man who can see the burned out hull of my life and wait for me to figure out how to build the foundation of my next life with him. He says luck has nothing to do with it, but I have to say I feel very lucky.