That Can’t Be Right

I’m embarrassed to admit much of my life is lived on a superficial level. Perhaps that’s not always been the case, but in recent years deep analytical thought seems replaced by a placid enervation . “Things” are “okay”. “It is what it is” rules the day.

That’s about to change. Will this new perspective change the world? Unlikely. But I’ll never look again with an unjaundiced eye at, among other things, the field of “behavioral health” hospitals. Having been exposed to that can of worms, I now wonder what other little messes I’ve been ignoring.

Let me provide a tad of background: our family watched a dear family member (henceforth known as XX) slowly slip into what we variously learned was either bipolar syndrom or chronic fatigue syndrome. The competing diagnoses were provided by two different bonafide physicians, neither of whom was particularly helpful in the long-term.

Soon XX couldn’t hold a job, exasperated significant others to the point of divorce and/or estrangement, and finally became dependent upon the state for food, health benefits, and housing. It was through the state’s hospital system that XX was sent to the psychiatric hospital, euphemistically called a “behavioral health” hospital.

Based on a single page, pre-printed checklist, a woman called a “doctor” diagnosed XX as bipolar, and then proceeded to commit XX to a 30-day hospitalization, with no possibility of discharge without the doctor’s approval. The doctor, incidentally, is actually a nurse practitioner, although a psychiatrist is listed as “on staff”. After two weeks at the facility, XX has never been evaluated or even seen the psychiatrist.

Most important to the facility, a nurse told XX, all of the beds must be kept full in order to protect their jobs. (No kidding – this is definitely a for profit facility! But can you even believe an employee was that blunt in conversation with a patient?)

The hospital itself is a large single-story metal building, very secure. Locked up tighter than a drum. Staff use keys to lock and unlock the doors from outside to inside, from waiting area to hall, from hall to offices. Very much gives a confined, imprisoned feeling both to patients and to visitors.

XX says at least the surroundings are clean and the food is adequate. The nursing staff is pleasant, but the supervisory staff mock the patients and are quite rude. Medications are strongly enforced and injections are given forcibly if pills are rejected. XX says several patients vomit every day. Who knows – that could be due to addiction withdrawal symptoms, but in XX’s case it was a reaction to the medication. Whatever the case, XX now finds it difficult to focus, is dizzy, slightly disoriented, and always sleepy.

Group therapy is on the daily schedule. However, that has only occurred twice in the past two weeks. There seems to be no real cohesive attempt at therapy, but only a “marking time” (cynically I think that will continue probably until benefits run out), hopefully to be followed by a miraculous discharge.

Only one wall phone for 20 patients, and only severely restricted times to make or receive calls. Forget about cell phones, laptops, note pads, or TV – ain’t happening. Staff members accompany all family visits, which are limited to a specific half hour dictated by the staff and at no other time. Visitors must leave wallets and phones outdoors in their vehicles. Visitors cannot enter at all unless they already know the patient’s identification number.

From the standpoint of the visitor, this place is the next thing to a benevolent prison. One thing for sure…the entire experience is designed to be avoided! My heart goes out to someone mentally challenged who lands here. If they’re not crazy when they arrive, they may well be crazy when they leave!

Advertisements

Fun To Watch? Disaster In the Making

Fun!

Our city received a deluge of more than 20 inches of rain in the course of a day and a half. There is historic flooding throughout the neighborhoods, especially those near the river. Rescuers and their boats and vehicles drew onlookers curious and worried about their neighbors. Secretly happy the damage is not (yet) their own – but more intense rain is forecast to begin momentarily. That rain will fall on over-saturated ground, unable to drain into a swollen river whose waters already exceed flood stage.

20160813_170905

A Novel Attempt: Name Change

One

 

The  assassin Giamonti could hear his quickened heartbeat pulse through an artery next to his left ear, another small clue that he was aging out of his profession. Here at the top of his climb, he cooled down, gulping fresh air while he looked across the sere desert early morning landscape to the distant shimmering horizon. Not a tree in sight, only yuccas and saguaros barely touched by the rising sun.

How could anyone live in this desolate place, he wondered, squinting cruel grey eyes against the sharp daylight. Brown, everything brown, everywhere. Giamonti was not the type of person to see nuances of color in the great outdoors, although his outdoor life had marked him permanently. Deep lines radiated from eyes to his salt and pepper hair, to deep furrows above thick black brows, and down along darkly weathered cheeks to merge with dual wrinkles like commas bracketing a narrow, mean mouth.

A stolen power and light utility van sat far below him at the base of the transmission pole.  Before starting his climb, Giamonti had donned the full array of protective garb stored in the van, including an insulated jumpsuit and gloves and requisite hard hat. The extra weight added more strain to his arms, back, and legs during the climb. He felt trickles of sweat begin to moisten his belt line as the sun climbed higher. The heavy image-stabilized binoculars swayed from their strap, pulling against his neck muscles, and a slight sense of urgency made him shift in the climbing harness. The bosses wanted visual proof  fast and offered a time-sensitive bonus that diminished hour by hour. Plus, he was ready to get the hell back home where dry hot air didn’t suck all your insides out. He resented that he was shooting only photos. He worried that the bosses thought he was losing his edge as a marksman. Giamonti’s worries, however, would soon be gone.

 

Two

The drawn-out squeak and crisp click of first an opening and then closing door sounded faintly but clearly through the dry desert air. Show time, Giamonti thought. He peered quickly through the binoculars down into the protected back yard of an adobe cottage halfway down the block, then let the glasses fall back against his chest. It wouldn’t be wise to be seen peering into folks’ yards.

Continue reading

The Mind’s Eye

It’s a struggle to provide descriptive content when writing fiction, isn’t it? At least it is for me, although that’s certainly not the case for everyone. For example, John Sandford, the author, doesn’t have that problem.  His prose flies off his fingertips, much like a gifted watercolorist shading stormy clouds and greening fields. I can see his characters. I can practically walk down to the lake at the rustic cabin he describes, and even hear the gentle waves lap softly against the hull of the boat moored at the pier.

It’s different when I write, unfortunately.  In my mind’s eye, every scene lies before me, rich in detail, opulently colored – so much so, that it seems that everyone who reads my words will see the very same things themselves. Therefore, my fingertips skip right past deep descriptions and plod along muddy sentences. The results end up more like Mondrian color-blocked canvases than the richness of a Vermeer painting. Not that I mean to compare my writing to any kind of artistic master at all.  My stuff is more like paint-by-numbers, when it comes to that!

Perhaps the only good thing to take from this is the recognition of a severe deficiency. That at least provides a goal to strive toward – and that gives hope (and change? But we know that seems impossible, don’t we).

 

Non-Sequiter

They sat in comfortable chairs across from each other, chatting, snug in the house, listening to fat raindrops outside plop steadily onto tropical leaves .

“Yesterday I struggled to remember the next door neighbor’s name before it finally surfaced in my memory,” she said.

“Huh! Stuff like that’s always been a problem for me, and it’s getting worse now,” he commiserated.

“For years I had a mental block against the word hydrangea before I figured a way to dig it out of my brain. Guess I finally laid down a new neural pathway because now I can remember it just fine.” She said it offhandedly, but recalled what a challenge it had seemed at the time.

How do I respond to that?, he wondered, so he simply nodded and shifted his weight slightly from one hip to another comfortable position as she continued to talk.

“In fact, I’ve decided to name my next protagonist Hydrangea…she’ll be one of five sisters, I think, whose mother named them after flowers.” She pushed a graceful hand out toward him, raising one slender finger at a time, giggling as she said, “Rose, Lily, Iris, Daisy, and Hydrangea!”

That’s funny, he thought, and answered, “Hydrangea will ask her mom why her sisters have such short,easy names, don’t you think? And her mom can say ‘you have a complicated name because yours was a complicated birth’.”

They snickered, living the moment and loving each other, while outside the fat raindrops made music in the tropical foliage.

 

That’s Great – As Far As It Goes, That Is

     Inner Fish, Inner Reptile, etc, etc. Fascinating, right? I’m serious; it is fascinating, especially for those of us who studied geology and fossils back in the good ol’ days BGS (Before Great Strides) were made with the help of PBS and the National Geographic Channel.

     However, these things don’t provide answers to my Inner Confusion. (Okay, I admit I’m Waay too lazy to do any kind of research on the matter – not that I believe I would ever get a definitive answer.) This is the crux of my inner confusion – at what point did some kind of creature develop the capacity to REASON? Do humans know for certain that any other creatures share that capacity? 

     Okay, I know that squirrels can figure out a complicated series of actions to finally vault onto the bird feeder. Does that mean they can reason? Is the cat, ready for a wild midnight foray outside in the neighborhood, using reasoning when he plops onto my slumbering chest in the middle of the night with a loud meow? (THAT’LL get her attention, heh heh heh!)  Are whales reasoning as they communicate with clicks and moans?

     And why did humans learn to invent? Or study? What process, and WHEN, precipitated the ever increasing capacity of the brain to assimilate knowledge? Back in those good ol’ days in grade school we were told modern man’s initial toehold on the future began with the accidental discovery that fire sparked (ha!) a cascade of changes. I can almost see a couple of textbook authors somewhere saying, “Let’s tell THAT to the kids. It’s as good as any other explanation.”

     And does reasoning and consciousness just die out when our bodies expire? Or does the energy of our consciousness and assimilated knowledge remain in some unknown state invisible but undissipated? I’m so ignorant, and will always be confused! 

     

Prognostications and Pigeonholes

What IS it about the United States? It seems as though everyone and his Uncle Tim tries mightily to cram each and every one of us into some kind of category, as though they themselves will not feel comfortable until their little (or big) pigeonholes have ingested another being. Put in conversational terms, it could go like this:

    “That’s right, darlin’, ease in right over there next to that big fella, why don’t ya? I think y’all believe most of what I believe. No, no, I’m sending that guy to another pigeonhole. I can tell he don’t have no idea about what is true or what is real, anyway. I have a SPECIAL place for him and others like him. You know what I mean?”

     “No, I DON’T know what you mean. My personal opinion is that most of what you believe is ca ca poule. Besides, the bottoms of your pigeonholes are slimy with crud-o-la. And I LIKE that other dude. Not only does his intellect challenge mine, his ideas are helping me refine my personal philosophy.”

     “If you refuse to be pigeonholed, then there must be something dangerous and very wrong with you. You have to accept the inevitable or there will be predictable consequences.”

     “And what might those predictable consequences be?”

     “You will be ostracized, criticized, mortified, horrified – called loony, called different, called alien, called an awful person.”

     “Wow!  I’d probably like that.  That would make me pretty special. I wouldn’t have to believe, nor would I have to disbelieve. The atoms and molecules that house my consciousness can do their own thing, and…… Best of all, I could stay out of the slime.

The Cosmos TV show on Fox

The reiteration of Carl Sagan’s original series on the Cosmos has me hooked.  I wait eagerly from one week to the next until the next program airs.  The graphics are stunning, and Neil Tyson, the astrophysicist, is great in his job as the apologist (if you can call him that in this context).

Why am I enjoying this so? For one thing, it is a refresher course of scientific history that hearkens to man’s earliest curiosity about the world(s) we inhabit. The program telescopes the centuries of discovery in a way that allows us to marvel about how a few men’s ideas lead other men to hypothesize about greater ideas and grander theorems.

Much of the program is understandable by nearly everyone, but there are tiny bits that provoke thought in even those who have already scratched the surface of astrophysics.

As I watch and listen, I think of the creationists I know, one of whom insists that Earth and the living organisms on it is no more than 6,000 years old. I doubt any of them bother to watch Cosmos, but if they did, the suppositions would probably horrify them as terrible blasphemy.

What I finally take away with awe from each consecutive airing of the Cosmos is that, regardless of one’s position in regard to the universe and humanity’s position in it, the program reaffirms each person’s beliefs. Yet another paradox for believers and nonbelievers…

Going Around the Block

 

Image Now that I’ve reminded myself this morning of the peacefulness of springtime mountains, the smell of mossy rocks, and the soothing sounds of burbling brooks, my breathing has slowed, my shoulders have relaxed, and creative thoughts flow easily, unblocked. Similar to the consciousness expressed in the book SIDDHARTHA, words and sentences now glide past the boulders and branches embedded in my brain.  Thoughts move my fingers on the keyboard. The tactile smoothness and springiness of the keys add to the rhythm of my thoughts.  Ah, yes – today is a good day to be a writer.

 

 

 

Get Offa My Back, Why Don’t Ya?

My usually intelligent self is having a tough time writing right now. I’ve been trying to figure it out. I think I jumped on William’s being shot as the chance to purely procrastinate. We haven’t even checked on William for the past few days, so we obviously know he’s doing well and getting back to normal. Still I procrastinate when it comes to the manuscript – but – the taxes are done, the piles of paper are shredded, the grass is cut. Heck, even the fan blades have been dusted and the AC filters changed. I’m running out of reasons not to write. I’ve read everything Lee Childs and Harlan Coben have written. It’s just about time for me to get this caravan back on the trail, don’t you think!