For some time I have been considering giving up blogging.

 

I am having ever increasing trouble thinking of new and interesting topics on which to blog. Nowadays I feel I am blogging mostly out of habit (or worse) out of obligation.

It is one thing to endure a tedious job but a boring hobby makes no sense.

Apart from the feeling I have nothing on which to blog, there is the factor of time. My free time is getting more consumed by demands of work. To put it into context, blogging is not the only pleasure I feel is losing grounds to paperwork, telephone calls, and charting. I have less time too to read, stretch, or much of anything really.

And I struggle to find time to read other blogs.  This usually happens on weekends, when I try to get ‘caught up’ only to find I’ve missed news and events. I hate being the last to arrive to a party.  Then I skim rather than really read. This is a bad habit for which I feel guilt.

 

So perhaps I should retire – or at least take a sabbatical; I can recharge my batteries as it were and return, randy as a billy-goat.

 

What makes me say ‘no’ to pausing is the terrible intuition if I put Spo-reflections down I may never pick it back up again. I gave up Facebook for Lent; I haven’t missed it at all.  And I hate to give up something on which I’ve labored for eight years.

But the major reason for not to giving up blogging are my angry and resentful feelings I have about work sucking up my spare time and replacing all I want to do with nearly continuous work. This is worth putting up a pretty stiff battle. Blogging is my trusty weapon with which to fight and slaty the monsters of homework and paperwork.  As I type this, this gives me comfort and stiffens my spine some.

 

Until recently I could not figure out the reason(s) why The Zombie archetype is some so popular.  I understand the allure of The Vampire, but not The Zombie. But I had an insight today.  Zombies are a means for true masculinity to be brought out and used without shame or judgement.

Throughout the years I’ve worked with male patients struggling with masculinity. What is true masculinity and how does one achieve it?  Let me give you a crash course on the topic. Men pay me big bucks for this stuff, and I am giving it to you for free, so pay attention.

First of all true masculinity is not the same as what makes a good man. Cultures and societies dictate what makes a ‘good Mormon man” or  “a good Jew” or a ‘good Muslim”etc. We all know good men who are ‘do the right thing’’ but they aren’t regarded as ‘masculine’.  And we all know jerks whom we admire notwithstanding for their masculinity.

 I am talking about The Warrior archetype, which is the least understood or tolerated  of the Masculine Archetypes. The King, the Lover, and the Magician are OK for most but The Warrior is often ignored or banished.

True masculinity in The Warrior is an archaic set of behaviors and values that transcend cultures. These are the virtues that men have when the chips are down and there is a crisis at hand. They are ‘tactical’ virtues. Whenever there is a flood, a disaster, or a war, these traits are quickly resurrected and “real men” are called upon once again to emulate them.  The four traits of masculinity are Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor. In times of crisis or battle we want a strong and courageous man who will rescue and protect others. He is skilled; he knows how to fight and figure out what to do. Some simple examples of this is when the car has a flat tire or won’t start. A man is needed who knows how to change the tire or use cables.

Real masculinity has honor: your reputation in the eyes of other men for these virtues. Believe me, being seen as strong, brave, and masterful in the eyes of your male peers remains as vital today as it ever was.

There is not much call for tactical virtues and true masculinity in our day to day modern society. We sublimate in games and sports, but it is not the same. It takes a fire, or a shooting, or flood to bring out the fireman, the marines, or ‘Joe hero’ to roll up their sleeves and do the job.

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So where do the zombies come in?  In zombie movies men can fight off their attacks with strength, skill, and brute strength without concern he will be condemned for being a brute. Indeed, he is often called out of a nebbish role to become the hero and protector of those threatened by the zombies.

It’s not PC to have an ‘us vs. them’ with real people. After all we are supposed to be one happy world family.

But zombies are a different cup of tea. For they are ‘the other’. Men can be masculine again with guilt or  PC/feminist condemnation.

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I quickly became overwhelmed trying to find data on the US and Canadian health care systems.  I had to screen out the hysteria and a lot of rubbish posted by ranters and ravers. Seemingly reputable websites on US health care delivered an imbroglio the likes I have never seen. I gave up trying to make an easy summary of the wretched thing.  If Spo-fans wish me to post what I found I will do so, but it will take some time and a high dose of Motrin. I do point out one matter : the US has a universal health care/single payment system and it’s called Medicare. This covers folks over 65 years old. Nobody seems to believe Medicare intrinsically evil but universal health care for folks younger than 65 years old is ‘socialized medicine’.

 

A caveat: I am not a Canadian, nor an expert on Canadian health care. Spo-fans who find fault in my conclusions are welcome to point out mistakes and provide clarification.

 

70% of health care in Canada is provided by the (provincial) government while 30% is paid by the patient. Many get supplemental insurance for this 30% which is mostly Rx, dental and optemetry.   It is a single payer system with public spending but private delivery – which makes this NOT socialized medicine.

 

The main one rant by Yanks about the alleged problems of Canadian health care is ‘waiting time’ to get health care, so I focused on this. Would you believe there are Canadian websites where you can do to see waiting times of things like this? I can’t find any similar for the US, other than (very subjective) data about long waits on Yelp.  There is a bit more of a waiting time in the Canadian system – but this ss for elective surgeries, not for regular or urgent health care.  “Hip surgery” is the usual example, but think of this: the majority of elective hip surgeries are done on people over 65yo, which is Medicare, our single payment system.  In matters of wait, our single payment system is faster by some but far more expensive.

 

By the way, in my research I not see much data of the alleged flood of Canadians coming to US for elective surgery or health care. In ‘border towns” like Detroit (to Windsor)  there are very few, per hospital year. What data I found on Canadians receiving US health care was ~ 80% of them were ER visits by tourists having the misfortune of an accident (and a U.S. hospital bill I surmise).  The vast majority of Canadians wait a little longer for elective surgery than scurry across the border.

 

In the end I found the Canadian health care system spends far less, covers more, and is deemed ‘no worse’ for it. The main deficit seems to be some longer waits for elective surgeries.  Limiting supply is cost effective at the expense of some inconvenience. In1966 Canada adopted a single payer system based on the proposition this would provide universal health care and limit cost by via government regulation of supply.  This has some faults, the likes most Yanks are not used to considering.  Canada could spend more on health care to fix their system’s disadvantages but discarding their system, but in all the decades they have never chosen to do so.  That says something. If they wanted to alter this, they would – but they don’t.  I think that says it a lot.

It’s Saturday morning and I am sitting in an all-day-long conference. The course is in-town – and free, so it makes for a genuine bargain. The price? : I have to sit still for a full day while listening to presentations. Perhaps once upon a time I could do this, but nowadays it is a challenge. My attention span dissipates by 2PM (on a good day); my backside doesn’t care for it either.

 

Whenever there is a conference I look around to see the demographics and characteristics of my fellow wizards. This being Saturday, and a warm day to boot,  the men are mostly dressed in aloha-style shirts. The speakers are naturally in suits and ties.  Headshrinkers of the female persuasion are dressed more ‘professional casual’. * Once in a while I see a more liberal/radical type in berkenstocks and hippie-wear but there are none today.  Only a few look cliche viz. Freud-like.

 

As is often the case I sense everyone here knows everyone else but me. This is the problem for working in a hobbit-hole of a clinic; I don’t get out much to rub elbows and network. I don’t see too many ‘youngsters’, which may be related to it being Saturday and an all day conference.**

 

The fellow next to me is typing away, apparently typing up a lecture of his own. His laptop has an audacious Grateful Dead label on his laptop. I don’t smell pot, but I am dubious about a dead-head-head-shrinker.  But I shouldn’t judge books by their cover, nor laptops by their tops.

 

The most interesting lecture is on bipolar depression and children. Urs truly is unhappily bereft of munchkins in his personal and professional life, so it was intriguing to hear the tips how to sort through the differential why junior is be being truculent. I don’t want to get too skilled in pediatric psychiatry lest a few turn up in my office.

 

The conference is educational and stimulating, but it deprives me of having a Saturday. The paperwork I usually do on Saturday will be postponed for Sunday.  No rest for me and it’s back to the gulag on Monday. Noblesse oblige.

 

 

* To be specific, ersatz Spo-shirts. Most of the shirts are downright rubbish.

**  Alas, there are no especially handsome ones on which to lay my eyes while a colleague is reading a well-researched but uninspiring paper.

The December solstice noon time sun shines through my office window and reaches across the floor into the hallway.  Presently the high noon sun barely shines a bright thin line just below my office window. By tomorrow no light will shine through my window for the sun will be too high. This correlates with the first temperatures over 90, which almost hit 100.  Someone starts having brief dips in the pool; I turn on the ceiling fans.

The tell-tale signs are evident; summer has arrived in The Valley of the Sun.

 

Speaking of the office, I am inspired to do some research on the Canadian medical system and how it compares to the U.S.  I have patients of both persuasions. Keeping in mind the patients I see are of a psychiatric nature. My Canadian patients remonstrate how ill-served is the US system.  My US patients complain how Obamacare will “destroy the system” but simultaneously vociferate how expensive is health care – when they have it at all.  The US patients fear the alleged defects of the Canadian health system. “You will have to wait to get a hip replacement!” is the usual bogey. Yet they gripe (often in the same breath) they have to wait 2-3 months to see me.

I want to discover how ‘horrible’ is the Canadian system, for I am tired of people using it as a bogey man to prevent US health-reform.  My Canadian patients convey they are often insulted being compared to third world medicine.  They may complain about things ‘back home’ but not one of them has ever voiced a desire to emulate their health care to be more like the U.S.

 

I will post an entry when I discover anything.

 

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From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!”
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The house is bewitched and not in the Elizabeth Montgomery way.  Last night I was besieged by nightmares of creepy things in some basement. I woke with a shout which caused Harper to flee the bed and out the room. Someone took the rationale approach I had ate something bad and Harper was merely scared by my outburst. But I know better. The dog sensed the same stygian phantom lurking about the bed and she sensibly refused to return to it.

 

Whenever I can’t sleep I go from the master bedroom in the west wing of the house over to the guest room on the east side. There is something uncanny on that side of the house and I can’t sleep there without a nightlight on and the door to the loo closed.  Spo-fans may recall my encounters with Henrik the house-ghost but this isn’t he. I’ve not heard a peep out of Henrik in ages and I dare say he’s flown the coop. He’s probably more upset by the haunts in the house than I am.  I miss Henrirk. As a ghost he was a disappointment; he may have been droopy but he wasn’t nefarious as the current one(s).

 

Not too long ago there was an unearthly howl outside in the backyard. The cacophony was short-lived but intense. It was attributed to coyotes but if it were coyotes they were using a amplifier.  We did not locate the source, which sounded to be immediately outside my bedroom window.

 

I’m not sure why all of sudden our house seems to be Hallowe’en Central. I don’t recall anyone being murdered here.  Someone visits as lot of cemeteries for ‘Find a Grave”; perhaps a few hitch-hiked home with him.   From time to time Harper sits up suddenly and growls at nothing in the front hall.

 

So far they are merely boisterous. The toast is managing to stay on its plate and not go flying about. There are no strange knocks, nor graffiti written in ketchup telling us to vamoose the premises or else.

 

When I lived in Chicago I had a friend who would go around one’s house and declare it ‘clean’ or not and if there was need he’d cleanse it with smoking sage and various chants.  I wish I had him here to get the remonstrative spirit or spirits to move on.  Alas, he ain’t here and things still go bump in the night.  I will keep you posted if I see any elementals or signs of Henrik.

Cards_tnsI have just lost a game of cards. Badly, I might add. Actually, I was ‘skunked’ .  I don’t recall the official definition of ‘being skunked’ but I am certain I met it.  Someone and I were playing Spite & Malice*; I was left with twenty of twenty-six cards.  Oh the pain.

 

In general I stink at cards in any form, whether it’s gin, euchre, cribbage, or whist. I tried a few times to play bridge, hoping it would be different, but alas, it was not. I don’t have the strategy to play cards properly.  It’s no fun playing with me for it is like throwing darts at jello: there are no satisfactory hits.  Team games like euchre? Forget it. I am like the nerd in elementary gym class at the end of team choice, the one they argue over who has to take him this time.

 

Perhaps cards expose my inability to connect the dots and to recall what happened only ten minutes ago. Perhaps I was cursed by some wicked fairy related to the one who put me permanently at the ‘B” table.

 

I keep searching for a game in which I might actually win. Ideally the game should be based on minimal skills or perhaps solely on dumb luck.  Paradoxically I should consider learning something like six-pack bezique. As nobody plays it anymore, I would have the upper hand.

 

I am not much better at solitaire games. My phone has an app for a game consisting of moving stacks of cards around trying to unload them into four piles by suit in the upper hand corner. I don’t often play it for when I do it reminds me I should stick with the cryptic crosswords, of which I am a wiz.

 

On the other hand,  I enjoy cards, even though I am likely to lose. There is a pleasant intercourse to card playing. I hear tell the younger generations have no interest in cards other than poker and even then they like to do it on-line rather than face to face.  There is a lot of mental well-being that arises from two to four people sitting at table, drinks and nibble at-hand, playing cards (and it doesn’t matter which type).  So I keep at cards, revisiting them on occasion, hoping this time at least I won’t be skunked.

 

 

 

* Spite & Malice is a traditional card game in the House of Spo. Two player trying trying to be rid of their half a deck first in a sort of solitaire in which Player A can thwart Player B through strategic blocks. The game is aptly titled.

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“Things are OK but I am waiting for the other shoe to drop”

 

I often hear this (or versions of) from patients. What they have in common (the patients, not the statement) is they are expecting in dread their current pleasant existence is not going to last. The sun is shining but they know a hurricane is lurking off the coast.  It’s only a matter of time when the storm hits and blows away their tranquility.

 

This is as true as it is useless. I remind them all of Life and its components is a series of ups and downs. Yes, if you wait long enough the stock market drops. I point out when they are in a bad time they don’t think “Things are bad now but I am waiting for the shoe to pick up”.

But this is why I am in business: some people dwell on the negative.   Aren’t you glad you don’t do this?

Another element of ‘Waiting for the shoe to drop’ is the superstition people fear if they admit they are happy the God/the gods/heaven/karma/fill-in-the-blank will strike them down, like Job.  I used to think this was merely a Protestant thing but I see it in all types of people including atheists. It is positively archaic and far worse than the negative cognitive thinking.

So I do my best to get patients to see the forest for the trees. Up periods? enjoy them while they last. Down periods?  This too shall pass.  The shoe will drop but it will be picked up. The Law of Undulation says so.

It is OK to feel OK.

No one (least of all Heaven) is going to punish you for feeling fine.

 

I wish I had something witty or profound to write. Alas, I do not. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections is in an anxious solicitude over the recent dirth of comments and they have sent several e-mails of ‘concern’.  They are suggesting I ‘put out’ .  Easier said than done; The Muses are miles away, visiting the Fates.  My mind’s a blank and I lead a dull life.  As the tax refund came today, this will have to count as substitute visit from The Muses.

 

tax_refund_checkI am getting the lowest return I’ve had in years. Someone is disappointed. However my father feels firm on the axiom any return is a ‘bad sign’ you gave the government a free loan viz. you paid too much in taxes. I think I side with Father, but I admit I am disappointed to see such a small amount coming to my bank account.  Usually we use the tax return to pay for the August trip to Canada. Worse! I will owe money to the State of Arizona. I can not remember the last time I had to pay taxes.  Considering what Arizona has done lately, I prefer not give them a dime.  Besides, don’t only little people pay taxes? I heard that once from some woman just before she was convicted of tax evasion.

 

Thanks to last year’s raise, longer work hours, and some investments – which actually paid off ?! – , my 2013 gross income hit a new record and (more intriguing) a ‘mile marker’ as it were. This doesn’t elicit euphoria as bewilderment: where on earth is all the money going? We don’t live extravagantly; it seems we are always watching our pennies. This gives me a paradoxical (bordering on schizophrenic) belief we are “rich as Roosevelt” yet simultaneously two steps away from The Poorhouse. What I want is a budget. Despite my efforts to get Someone to make one, we’ve yet to have one. I may do it myself.

 

Back to the tax refund. It may not be large but it is enough to pay some bills and perhaps one of the house repair projects, which are legion. I may set aside $100 dollars and buy me a good bottle of scotch (no rubbish).  After all I am an American: we blow our return on transient pleasures rather than investing it, right?

I’ve been feeling lately rather despondent. On occasion I feel sheepish I am not ‘on top of things’ in matters of politics. I start feeling guilty over my lack of knowledge and civic participation, so I start to read the news. Rather than feeling enlightened and educated I feel despair and crawl back into a rabbit hole. I would make a lousy Gandhi or Harvey Milk for I see no use in civic participation. The rich and the Yahoos are in charge and that’s that. There is no use in trying.  In order to cheer myself off I turn off CNN and the BBC and turn on a Marx Brothers movie. They put things back into perspective and I am invariably cheered up.  “Horse Feathers” or “Night at the Opera” are usually sufficient, but for really bad news (such as North Korea or The Koch Brothers) “Duck Soup” is necessary.

Work has been its usual time sucker.  As is the often the case, I haven’t had time to do anything in the evenings but homework and papers. I’ve made the decision to stop working at 9PM to allow myself 60- 90 minutes of ‘me time’ before I need to retire, rinse and repeat. There’s a lot I would like to do but time is precious and limited. “Me time” is not a problem as Someone is content to watch TV every night (Game of Thrones) and he doesn’t want distraction.

I got caught up with my scrabble games* this evening and I hope to read blogs tomorrow night.

I am taking some time off tomorrow morning for an overdue appointment at the dentist’s. It’s time to clean my choppers of their tea stains. My dentist is nice enough but he constantly tries to sell me things. Worse, they like to have TV going while I am in the chair. Unless they have “A Day at the Races” I shall be firm in telling them to turn the wretched thing off.

 

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* I have five going; most have been nudging for one to three days to take my turn.  I was pleased as punch to get the word ‘prisoner’ for 64 points.

 

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