Figuring me out

Written in June, 2014

OK, I have to practice writing. I constantly read things that others are writing, courses they are doing, books and systems they have developed; and I question whether I really have anything to offer.
Of course, the answer to that is a resounding YES! But how do I stay in touch with that knowledge? How do I remind myself that I have something to offer in my way, that cannot be offered by anyone else in my way?

The second thing that holds me back is doing for others before I take care of what I need to do for myself. This is a recurring theme, and probably why my mole became cancerous. Right now I am considering doing a house clearing and home goods sale, for a fee mind you, because we need the money to pay off credit card debt from the cancer surgery and also auto repair bills. It will take too much time to pay these off within our fixed income and budgeting. I have also agreed to do some shop tending for a friend of mine.

Rationally this sounds good and practical, yes? I need to clear it with myself that I am not just procrastinating and distracting myself from my primary work of writing my next book and setting up the resultant program and business. I remind myself that I have not yet promoted my previous book which, by the way, is excellent for the reason I wrote it. Would learning how to, and promoting it, be worth the while of not signing on to do other work? Can I do both efficiently? Can I do all three efficiently?

Then I think since I am so good at clearing out cluttered homes, and since I constantly find myself drawn to this work, should I explore doing it? I already have a local reputation for a few things and I’m sure I could get clients – or could I? How committed to this would I be? How long would it be before I got fed up with peoples’ junk and their attachments to it? Hmm… Looks like I just answered part of that question in the asking of it.

I know that I want to do something that I love doing. But I’m scared. Not the kind of scared you get when you’re on a rickety roller-coaster, or a when getting ready to bungee jump, or when you have to tell someone close to you something very unpleasant; but scared nonetheless. A kind of scared that comes from stepping out of my comfort zone. A fear that comes from committing to something that no one I know who is like me has ever done, and been both happy and successful at.

Sooo… I know I love exploring the topic of adapting in an aging body. I love talking about it. I love learning about it. I love dispelling false beliefs about it. I love finding that I’m wrong, because there is new information out there. Well, sometimes I don’t like that part so much, but I have already adapted to changes in accepted ideas and information better than most people I know. I have been at this physical adaptation and self-care bit longer than almost anyone I know – especially for not having been born into it.

Do I like people enough to spend my life helping them? Especially when they seem so clueless and dense? I have already spent a good part of my life helping those who are, by all observations, clueless about the thing I have helped them with. So I have experience and expertise at this as well. And I end up finding compassion in the action. I have often felt gratified and improved by the effort, even when I have not been paid for my efforts.

The not getting paid is the hardest part, when a lot of these folks are better off financially than I have been. But I realize that I often have felt that I don’t need to get paid for this work that I have done. Then again, when I get overworked or overwhelmed I feel resentful. That is not good. I need to make sure I get paid. I need to reassure myself that I am, indeed, worth whatever I decide I am worth. If my customers want this work done they will pay what I need to get. If I’m doing part-time, fun work in a shop, then I don’t need to make a serious commitment and I don’t need to get paid enough. I just don’t want to get sidetracked by having short-term fun either.

Overwhelm and resentment also come from having clients cling to me. That’s why I want to work with groups and insist that customers have accountability partners and companion cheerleaders. I also want to work with people who are self-motivated. I want to see customers take a small bit of control over a part of their lives that they may be uncomfortable with. That’s what I’m doing, and I want to surround myself with people who are doing no less. I want to inspire them to be better, and I want them to inspire me to be better. This will make the world a better place!

So, on this day, I commit to myself to write everyday. Even if it is a short note on why I can’t write, or why I’m pissed off at whatever. These will be the same challenges that my customers will have, and I might as well get a head start on documenting what I’m experiencing. These are the things that stand in the way of our doing what we have decided to do for ourselves. What we do for ourselves will automatically have a positive effect on those around us. That effect may be to simply make those who are comfortable in their status-quo uncomfortable.

The discomfort that comes from having someone else in our lives change something that WE are comfortable with, is our discomfort – our “choice.” So the same holds that if we change something, and someone around us is uncomfortable with that change, that is their choice – and often their projection. It behooves us to be a good example, both to others and to ourselves. Thus, If I can do this, so can you!

Part 2: Health Insurance is NOT Health Care

I’m sure there are some pharmaceutical researchers who are interested in making life more livable for some, and extending life to a reasonable length for others. However, the seductive public advertising for drugs that is rampant in this country continues to demonstrate that the bottom line for the pharm industry is money, rather than health. Any lecturer or teacher of pathology will tell you that, as disease symptoms are described, a high proportion of listeners will acknowledge those symptoms in themselves. The next step of fearing that one has the disease itself is often close behind. Both students and teachers have to be on guard for this tendency. The non-educated public, that sees itself as being educated by the experts in the field, has no such guardian looking out for its interests. When they go to the doctor to ask “If this product might be right for me,” the doctor rarely demurs, as they are taught by the pharmaceutical reps and ads. Besides they would be remiss and delinquent if they didn’t supply their patient with what they need (or request).

When it comes to medical equipment and testing, as with pharmaceutical drugs, the bottom line seems to be making money. Even the insurance industry is now realizing that there is excessive use being made of high-tech medical testing equipment. Some attention is being brought to research indicating that CAT scans, mammograms, and other radiological testing may be injuring health more than helping diagnose it. Again, we, as a society, have allowed ourselves to be led to believe that more expensive, higher tech, is better.

The companies that make medical equipment have the sole responsibility for education about them. The research is stacked in favor. Who is to question…until they have been used for many years at a very high financial cost, and maybe health cost as well. But insurance has tended to pay and money is being made. Even small medical devices such as wheelchairs and walkers, crutches, slings and other easily cleanable, reusable products are prescribed for each individual patient procedure. There is little to no attempt to notify a patient with enough advance notice that they can obtain these devices from a friend, relative, church or community organization. Besides, it’s usually covered by insurance. So that means we don’t end up paying for it?

Hospitals are often considered sacrosanct when it comes to criticism. There is a lot of overuse, of resources, waste, and misdirection happening in hospitals. They are good for emergencies, but bad for health maintenance. It has also been demonstrated that hospital administration comes at a high price, often raising the costs of essential services provided by the hospital, but not trickling down to medical staff or, God forbid, patients. Hospitals are often sponsored by large corporations, or by schools that are large corporations. Often their mandate gets lost in that “corporate-ness”.

Medical schools are often involved in more politics than should be involved in teaching doctors. They too, have donors and sponsors that help to dictate who is taught, what is taught, what procedures, equipment and drugs are preferred. There is too much ego involved in who gets admitted to which schools. Medical school is really about how to treat sickness, disease and trauma. That is necessary.

Medical school is not about keeping people healthy, keeping people free of dependency on medications, helping people to take control of their own health. Medical students still receive less than one term of human nutrition in their years of schooling. That has not changed since the 1970s. Medical students are not taught how to interpret labels on food, but they are taught the brand names of preferred drugs to treat conditions brought on, at least partially, by the ingredients on those food labels, and often on those preferred drugs.

When those students become doctors, some go into research, some into general practice, some into specialties, some into surgery and specialties in surgery. Researchers may or may not do work with others, not in their field of specialization. A lot depends on who sponsors their research, who might publish the results of the research and, finally, what the results of the research are. There is not often respect for open-ended scientific, medical inquiry when it is being sponsored by special interests. That’s one way that the FDA gets skewed information – especially when it isn’t looking very intently.

Doctors who work with the public, especially in a more general practice, still get educated about drugs by the pharmaceutical companies and about medical devices by the device companies. Continuing education is very often sponsored heavily by these same interests. Sometimes these interests are openly acknowledged, sometimes not.

All physicians are affected by the insurance industry. Insurance companies are not made up of doctors. They are administrators and bookkeepers. They are executives and analysts. Yet insurance companies have as much as, or more, influence on our health care as any of the other pieces. They decide what health is. They don’t recognize good health. They define what care is, and who gets what care for which conditions. They determine what doctors and hospitals get paid for which procedures, for which patients, and sometimes for which results.

Recent research has shown that these demands, determinations and decisions made by health insurance companies have great an affect on many results achieved by physicians and hospitals. Though malpractice insurance rates have been partly responsible for raising health care costs, many medical decisions are now being driven by the decisions of insurance companies themselves. Insurance personnel making medical decisions are not medically trained, yet they drive many of the medical determinations in medical care.

Medical insurance policies are written in such a flexible (for the company) and confusing manner that they fail to cover much of what should be covered at face value. Medical insurance does not reward frugality or good health. Medical insurance rarely pays the providers what they need to thrive, and to maintain enthusiasm for their good work. This is one factor which prevents medical insurance from being portable, from one location, presumably dense with their own subscribers, to another location, less subscriber-dense. Having medical insurance neither guarantees that you will get medical care, nor that you will be able to afford it if you do get care.

No part of the health care industry rewards good health. Good health would seem to be the perfect goal from birth to death. Our culture is more likely to prolong death and an unhealthy life, than it is to support good health.

Our government constantly reduces its recommendations for what it takes to be healthy. On the other hand, the fitness industry demonstrates good health with images of vanity and sexuality, both limited in their usefulness, while ignoring aging and well-used bodies and joints. The advertising industry is guilty of both of these biases as well. Sex sells, but why is it such a strong selling factor after prime mating age? Why do we let it be so? Why do we buy into it?
The more accessible media has become, it seems the more we give away our own personal expertise – what used to be called “common sense.” We have had financial crises when many put their common sense aside to be lured into deals they never dreamed they could afford. People are taken in by scams that their common sense says are too good to be true. Parents give in to public opinion about the needs of their children, over what their gut feelings combined with their common sense tells them. People eat more poorly and move less, because “diet” experts and advertising “experts” tell them, against their common sense, they can have it all – gluttony, sloth and good health.

Patients go in for surgical procedures, with no other lifestyle changes, and expect those surgeries to be successful, because they have given their expertise away, long ago, about how their bodies work. If we ever hope to have a working health-care system we must first take responsibility for our own health expertise or negligence; for our own intellectual and educational expertise or negligence; for our own political expertise or negligence; for our own social and family expertise or negligence; for our own spiritual expertise or negligence; and for our own communication expertise or negligence.

Remember this: An expert is anyone with an opinion, who goes out and gets information to back up that opinion. If we are to have successful lives, we must make our own decisions about what that means, and we must become the experts on ourselves and our own needs.

Part 1: Regulatory Agencies and Our Health

The conversation in the US over health care and its subsidization is misleading the conversation about our health. Yes, a comprehensive program that would make health care both affordable and accessible would probably need some administration. But the current industries involved in what we call health care are not visibly concerned with our overall health maintenance.

We can reference
the FDA
the agricultural industry
the USDA
the pharmaceutical industry
medical equipment manufacturers
many hospitals
medical schools and their sponsors
doctors and their continuing education providers
and finally, the health insurance industry

Even the alternative health industry is questionable on many fronts. Most recently the insistence on organic produce has missed the mark that if most of America ate any kind of fresh or frozen produce, they would be healthier and carry less body fat than by continuing to eat the processed foods that they currently fill up on. A friend of mine uses the expression “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The FDA is seen by many Americans as the guardian of our health, as regards food and drugs. That would seem to make sense, but the title doesn’t guarantee the fact. Most FDA officials are either former or future corporate heads in the food and drug industries. They drive policy from both sides. Since the 1960s our school health programs have been sponsored by specific agricultural interests. That moved on, later, to processed food interests. There is still no unaffiliated health program, when there is any program at all, offered in any American school. By the way, the FDA does not have funding to do medical research. They accept the research, complete or partial, presented to them by any given company.

In spite of all the labeling laws for vitamins, foods, cosmetics, and household products, deception continues to be commonplace in those labeled products. It often takes lawsuits (or threatened lawsuits) by consumer groups to enforce the labeling laws and their claims and definitions. The FDA continues to allow faulty science and justifications to be used to allow unhealthy chemical substances into our food, cosmetics and household products and, yes, many vitamins. This doesn’t even begin to address the problem of lacking enough FDA researchers and inspectors to enforce their own laws.

The FDA, at the same time, wastes countless tax dollars fighting common sense health policies. They continue to claim that food grown on a mono-cultural, mega-farm, many miles from intended markets. is as healthy as locally grown food. Non-organic, local food is usually more nutritious and tastier than even organic produce brought from a significant distance.

A policy that the FDA has recently been putting a lot of weight behind is eliminating the availability of fresh, unpasteurized milk sales by small dairies and farms, to local neighbors. When pasteurization initially began to be used, there was far less knowledge about, and ability to keep milk cold and fresh. Recognizing an unhealthy animal is easier in a small herd. And the bottom line… a farmer you know by name is far likelier to be honest and caring about what you think of their product, than is a huge dairy.

The USDA also lacks enough inspectors to provide oversight for its regulations. There is plenty of information in the form of documentary films and diaries to demonstrate the problems of run-away Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). But there is a bill before congress now (May, 2014) to outlaw secret or undercover filming of these operations.

Food is the original medicine – when it’s clean and pure. The only way to be as sure as we can be about it’s purity is to know the producers -which includes being the producers.

Remember this: An expert is anyone with an opinion, who goes our and gets information to back up that opinion. If we are to have successful lives, we must make our own decisions about what that means, and we must become the experts on ourselves and our own needs.