samedi, mars 03, 2007

I brought Colin with me to Park Slope while I am here over the next few days. We are staying with my dad and his team of home health aides. The aides he has are, by and large, wonderful women. And my dad is, most of the time, polite and pleasant. Whatever the toll of this set of diseases, he hasn't yet lost his quick wit.

Colin and I walk the streets of million dollar homes, hip restaurants and amazingly skinny women. I don't like it when my clothes get tight, I confess. But I would never have the discipline, could never care enough to be that slender. As I walk towards the grocery store that has not changed much since I was a child, I look at all of those tempting shelves of cookies and speculate: how do they stay so skinny? What social pressures make them care about being tiny so much? Or is there some kind of Darwinian survival of the thinnest ocurring among Wall Street lawyers, actresses, and stay at home moms? And, a horrible thought-maybe they don't work at being that thin. Perhaps it doesn't take sacrifice, discipline or neurosis. Aw, nuts to that, I comment to myself- as I pick up a box of Vienna Fingers to go home with the broccoli and apples.

Walking on Seventh Ave. a few weeks ago, I overhead a woman selling bags on the sidewalk say something like: "You can get it for $275.00 here-in other places, you'd pay $350". I actually still don't really believe I heard her aright. Let's take off a zero, shall we?

Fortunately, the third-grader who walking beside me keeps me pretty grounded. As we check out the Community Bookstore, people, especially men, telegraph me amused smiles. Glancing at the exuberant freckled face beside me, I tell my son that it's because he never stops talking. For some reason, he doesn't respond to this, but keeps on chattering about an online game he is playing. He and his sister share a virtual Penguin-and they both get to choose clothing for it. With my son at my side, I am safe from the siren song of envy for the riches I see around me. I'm not going for that matter how large the discount!

mercredi, février 28, 2007

Workplace, kitchen, bedroom

Recently I spoke to a business acquaintance about the behavior of someone we both know. A fly on the wall (if flies talked) would say that we were gossiping! She wanted to vent, and I had been close enough to the "third party" to be able to listen and, hopefully, empathize. Our mutual acquaintance has a habit of forming inappropriate relationships. Not blatantly sexual ones, but ones that crossed boundaries that ought not to be crossed. Having had a few of those myself, I could talk fluently about them for hours. But could I avoid one if it (read: he) was smart, handsome, and interested in some of the ideas and people that attract me? Hmm...I hope so, at this point. In fact, I have openly talked, in general terms, about my mistakes when counseling others and haven't ventured into anyone elses turf recently. But it's only due to dumb luck and God's grace that I didn't end up in much bigger trouble.

In love, in families, and in the workplace, we seem to move from anger to denial, from fusion to avoidance-somehow that healthy interdependence and independence seem to elude us.

And, at the root of this problem is probably a man or a woman's lack of bravery about appropriately confronting a problem he or she has with a spouse or a partner, a sibling or someone at work. Or it may be too painful.

It puzzles me that even the sharpest tools in the shed can do such damage to themselves, and potentially to others. Why do we avoid confrontation and hopefully reconciliation with the people who are so close to us? Why do we seek out others to meet those needs before putting appropriate closure on a previous relationship? This is certainly as true as much in the workplace, an organic system, as it is in the kitchen or the bedroom.

The only good thing? We are keeping a lot of therapists and organizational development professionals in business!

The Hollywood producer

Yesterday Sian told me that she was going to marry a Hollywood producer. And I didn't even know she had met a Hollywood producer-that's how difficult it is to keep an eye on your kids in these days of chat rooms and MySpace.

While waiting for her tutor at school yesterday, Sian got bored. She decided she would play Mash (or Match? oh no, has she been on an adult dating site?). It sounds incredibly complicated, with arcane numerological rules. But do you remember some of those games we played with folded papers on our hands? As I recall (dimly) these, too, were supposed to predict our future.

Because even eleven year olds try to play fair, Sian had to include some unsatisfactory choices for her future mate and career in the game of Mash. But she lucked out, avoiding a career as a garbage collector or housecleaner (a honorable one for which she is hugely unsuited). In addition to marrying the producer (unnamed) she is going to be a dress designer. Her salary? A hundred million dollars an hour. Perhaps all of us should have gone into dress design-or perhaps everyone in the year 2020 will be wearing the same suits and dresses.

We didn't explore such complicated questions as what would happen if she fell in love with a struggling actor before she met the producer, or if she lost her passion for designing clothes. For this girl on the cusp of adolescence, life is complex enough already. Why create more stress by breaking the news that she has as much control over whether she will meet a Hollywood producer as I do of having an article published in the New York Times (maybe less)...In the meanwhile, it is fun to observe her starting to choose a life for herself-there is no harm in daydreams.

dimanche, février 25, 2007

Purgatory, pt II

I spoke to Dad for a few moments this afternoon. He was totally exhausted, almost unable to imagine that he was, indeed, going home tomorrow. Imagine being a frail gentleman in your mid-80's swept up into the chaos of an emergency room with a non stop stream of crises. Add to the chaos the fact that they could not find his medical records (he has three sets of medical records). Pile on top of it an overworked staff that didn't have any time to really attend to his physical needs because they had people with major heart problems. Then pile on top of it a space shortage-the man in the bed next to Dad had spent two days waiting to move out of the ER and upstairs. Dad didn't get a room until 2 a.m. the next morning-heavens knows what they did with the guy who had been in his bed!

Let's not even mention the bright lights, lack of chairs, number of elderly disoriented folks wandering around...I don't need to spew out any more details to give imaginative readers the idea that something is seriously wrong with our health care system.

I'm not really surprised-after all, I recall some scary occasions with my mom at another hospital-they tried to give her insulin when she wasn't a diabetic, and, in her last nights, gave her a sedative when she had problems breathing. I don't have a clue as to how to fix the huge organizational crisis in health care. The only lessons to draw, fresh from this horrible experience,
is that, particularly if you are ill, you need someone to speak up on your behalf. My father was fortunate in having both me and a tremendous home health aide, Tschera, too minister to his basic needs. It may even be that, if you are with a spouse or relative at the hospital, you will be called (by God or your own inner voice) to step up to the plate for someone else-a person without a voice who needs your help.

Hours in Purgatory

I came back an hour or so ago from Philadelphia, where I presided at the blessing of a marriage. In a swanky city restaurant, hardbodies, family members and slender women in short and longer dresses sipped wine and celebrated Jami and Llloyds wedding (last week in Vegas). But as I clapped for the happy couple, my mind was many miles away-in a hospital room in Brooklyn.

While in New York yesterday visiting dad, he had a medical crisis that meant we had to summon an ambulance to his home. Most of you know that if you call 911 for somebody, the ambulance has to take them to the hospital. By the time the EMT's got to the brownstone, the crisis was over-but my father's time in purgatory had just begun.

Having spent most of my adult years in suburbia, I was not truly up to date on the realities of Brooklyn emergency room. Walking in the frigid air, welcoming its freshness against my skin, I was happy to have the opportunity to regain my composure as I trod the well remembered and yet unfamiliar streets of childhood. On my way to Methodist, where my dad had spent about a month this past fall, I prepared myself for a few hours of routine discomfort in the ER. Little did I know I was about to begin a trial that would bring me face to face with a reality from which I am usually shielded-and to which so many are routinely exposed.

More later