Smooth

At work we were talking about the relative rates of decline in our health of late. We’ve been drinking more, eating our feelings. A lot of us were caught at one of life’s crossroads when the pandemic hit, and never made it to our intended destination. This is what happened to me last year, when I finished my nutritional therapy course and got my certification. I’d planned to become an NTP at the clinic where I’d been employed for six years, but that opportunity withered during the months of quarantine and left me without the reward I’d been working toward. I guess the disappointment hurt a little more than I would have acknowledged at the time. I let my interest in the subject fade, and I spent a lot of time writing — never a health-enhancing activity at the best of times, but especially hazardous when mixed with middle-age defeat and existential angst. Of course I gained weight. Of course I felt like shit. Everyone did, because 2020 sucked with a Trump-level suckage that made the previous three years seem like nirvana.

Enter 2021. Joe Biden. Shots in arms. Visits again, and signs of life — daffodils, hummingbirds, the occasional sliver of bright blue sky. I’m drinking mango smoothies. Eating salads and harvest bowls, and vegetable soup, and kale. I’m down nine pounds with six more to go. So far it’s been breezy, and not because of some groundbreaking new formula or product or nonsensical gimmick from late-night TV, but because I remembered that I get to choose what I eat, and that fact alone is something to be grateful for.

I’m not mad at myself. Chips happen, right? I kept my skinny jeans and my 34Ds. Soon I’ll put them back in the rotation and move past this current problem and on to the next.

What are you attending to?

Mantra

It’s hard to let go. To be one among billions, and really appreciate your smallness against the mind-blowing scope of the cosmos. It’s hard to come to the point in your life when you begin to know yourself and understand that you are nothing — and at the same time everything, but only to yourself. It imposes a certain humility which doesn’t come easily to a society obsessed with fame and the unparalleled value of the individual. We want so badly to be special, to make our atom of time become relevant to someone other than ourselves. To be seen, to be heard. Not to drift alone in the vastness of space-time, but to link ourselves with others and inflate our existence beyond its natural limitations. We leave words on the path behind us. We show each other pictures, relics we’ve picked up along the way. We share our stories — each so very like the others, each convinced of its meaning and uniqueness, its sovereign right to exist.

I’ve been struggling with this myself. Humility is my superpower, my cloak, yet even for someone accustomed to smallness, there is the awful human tendency to bloat one’s self-importance and cling to the dream of mattering. Sometimes I lie in bed with my inner voice whispering, You are nothing, just let go, picturing my body as a grain of sand on an infinite beach, and reaching for the comfort in that image, the release from want. The trouble, of course, is that our grain of sand is locked in place with all the others, so the scope of the beach can scarcely be imagined. We are aware of what immediately surrounds us. By shifting ourselves, we hope to shift others, so we work all our lives to move, to rub up against the world and make it move with us.

It’s a struggle to balance these two ideas over the abyss of true sentience. The sum total of everything we are — every atom in our struggling bodies, every flicker of thought, god-given talent, and act of heroism, no matter how noble or prodigious we might be — is zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing, man. You are nothing, just let go.

Does it matter to you?

Webs

I took off my mask at work today, just chatting with one of the therapists at lunchtime. She said I looked different than she thought I would — her mind had filled in the blank with a different nose and mouth for me. I felt the same. It’s like opening a gift you were sure would hold a new blouse, and finding instead a pair of slacks. Nice, but not what you expected.

We’ll have mask stories later. We’ll remember how we made the first one out of an old tee-shirt, following along with a YouTube video, because you couldn’t buy one for a million dollars anywhere, in the beginning. Later we graduated to Etsy masks, or sewed them ourselves out of whatever fabric we could find at whatever store might be open. We got our shit together, maybe, and sewed some more to give away. Over time the masks became more fashionable, ever more sophisticated: a red mask covered in rhinestones, another in velvet cheetah. Kids in masks made to look like the gaping jaws of a shark or a lion, or with Spidey webs across the mouth, or quotes from Frozen. I sported a black silk model myself back in the day, then tried the kind that looks like a duck’s bill, but I landed eventually on the genderless blue paper ones with elastic straps — because mask fatigue is real, and because at some point we collectively forsook fashion and started wearing jeans every day to work. We’ll remember masks on sidewalks, dangling from the rear-view mirror. The smell of our breath, the rasp of paper against our cheeks, the muffled voice of a masked person on the phone. How we were plagued by maskne, and fogged glasses, and slippage, and the vexing social dilemmas caused by those who refuse to mask and still want to get in your grill. How we were grateful at times for the emotional neutrality a masked face projects.

Not having to smile. Smiling anyway. Social creatures after all, no matter the number of screens or shields or plexiglass barriers between us. We still need each other. We never stopped trying to connect.

What will you remember?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The Prankstinator

What a bad day. Funny the way you know sometimes, before unclosing an eye, that the day’s got nothing good in store for you whatsoever. Your car might fail to start, for instance. You might burn your tongue on hot coffee. The dog could run off, or the cat—or a husband, I suppose, though a catastrophe like that would seem to warrant a more vivid descriptor than the run-of-the-mill bad day like I’ve had, where you just feel sad and hurt and kind of mopey, as if the day has fallen victim to a tepid curse.

At lunchtime, I opened my journal to find my daily prompt: What’s one happy memory from the day? Which is just mockery, really, when you’re truly settled into a funk. I mean, there are still adorable kids around me at the clinic, and one of them always comes in wearing a sweater vest and button-down like an undersized 80’s dad. What’s not to love, I know. Still, when you’re enjoying the pall it seems a shame to become besotted by little girls in tutus, and neon eyeglasses, and tee-shirts adorned with sequined unicorns and cursive affirmations. And then there are the ongoing pranks between a therapist and one of the kids, the latest episode being a pair of sneakers hung by their laces high up on the wall to counter a handful of plastic dinosaurs dropped into a glass of drinking water. The Prankstinator strikes again!

Fucking hell, these kids.

Who’s fucking up your shitty mood?

Photo by Inga Seliverstova on Pexels.com

Eight to Five

This week I had to write a job description for my boss:

Patient Care Coordinator (aka Receptionist)

  • Schedule patient appointments.
  • Answer phones, take and distribute messages, greet and check in patients, manage emailed communications with patients.
  • Manage requested schedule changes for existing patients, updating wait-list spreadsheet to document patients’ availability and expedite flow of new patient appointments.
  • Send welcome letters to patients at the start of therapy to reinforce polices and confirm scheduling arrangements.
  • Assist in notifying patients when provider is not available.
  • Build provider schedules and adjust as needed. Document time-off requests.
  • Communicate with clinical and administrative staff regarding the status of discharged patients and those reengaging in therapy.
  • Check new patient paperwork for completeness and accuracy.
  • Maintain and manage patient records. Scan documents, label and import documents to patient accounts, assemble charts. Scan and disassemble discharged charts.
  • Work to convert existing charts to EMR.
  • Take copays and coinsurance payments on check-in, over the phone, and via electronic transfer.
  • Process EFT insurance and HSA payments as needed, apply to accounts.
  • Pick up, open, and distribute mail and faxes.
  • Prepare and address statements and claim forms, mail them out.
  • Get new privacy policies signed annually.
  • Assist in tracking new referrals, authorizations, and prescriptions as needed.
  • Fulfill requests for chart notes, reports, and other medical records.
  • Track patient attendance. Send letters to address attendance issues. Track no-show fees.
  • Administrative support to clinicians and staff as needed.
  • Billing support as needed.
  • Maintain library and track the loan of clinic materials.
  • Assist in maintaining printed forms for staff.
  • Maintain waiting room: straighten up, clean windows, vacuum, update reading materials, clean chairs and toys, sweep foyer, maintain waiting room signs.
  • Maintain bathrooms: regularly stock paper products and soap, take out trash and recyclables.
  • Clean doors and windows in treating areas and throughout the clinic.

What do you do when you do what you do?