It Wasn’t Personal Until…

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.~ Maya Angelou

I’m the kind of person that believes in live and let live. First do no harm is one of my favorite statements about life in general. I don’t take many things personally because we’re all human beings who make mistakes. But, at some point, you realize that someone has risen to such a level of incompetence as to cause harm. At that point, I move into “protect myself” mode.

Let me start by saying I rarely set out to anger someone or cause drama with supervisors. I honestly believe that most people are hard-working individuals who are trying to perform well at their jobs. Sure, every now and then a person slacks off. I’m even guilty of that in my own life.

I’m medically complicated. It’s that simple. The medical community I have been interacting with is in way over their heads. Three weeks or so ago, there was a decision made that I was a “difficult” patient. You can interpret “difficult” however you desire. But, my main doctor flat-out said that I complain too much and am using up too many resources as they attempt to resolve my complaints. I found out about this decision two weeks ago…during a medical emergency when the ER doctor walked into my room and asked me which hospital I wanted to be transferred to because there was a “Do Not Admit” note on my record at that facility. Did I mention this facility is considered to be a major medical center?

If you’ve been following my blog since August, you’ve already read some of my writings about the medical community. I’ve had great interactions with a fairly significant group of people. People I could probably be friends with if it weren’t for the situation. Most medical people seem to be more or less normal and probably live “normal” lives outside of work. There just seems to be two forces at work in the medical community, neither of which bodes well for consumers.

The first is organizational inertia. This happens when the processes just stop being functional. It’s like when I saw a specialist two weeks ago who prescribed a certain medication. I went to have the prescription filled at a retail pharmacy only to discover my primary doctor had to approve it. So I went to pharmacy #2 which just happens to be a military pharmacy, handed over the prescription and walked out the door 30 minutes later. No questions, no authorizations. I can’t figure out why the process exists. Organizational inertia also occurs when people start pointing fingers at each other and acting on rumors. Had the medical community I am involved with acted reasonably along the way, there probably wouldn’t have been a panic moment when my primary doctor realized I had not been told that I was being dismissed as a patient.

The second force is what I like to call “fiefdoms.” Fiefdoms happen when a person decides they hold all the cards and attempt to micromanage situations. They stop communicating with other people who should be involved in decisions and act solely to wield imaginary power. You can find fiefdoms in every possible industry, but in the medical field fiefdoms can be deadly. Imagine a doctor who thinks they are the expert on a medical condition and decides to ignore other opinions from their peers. Or a doctor who no longer listens to a patient because the doctor has decided what is wrong with the patient and refuses to entertain any other diagnosis. Now you get the picture of how this is a problem for patients. I’m not saying that a cold isn’t a cold. But, if it lasts for 10 weeks, perhaps a bit more investigating should be conducted.

So, to all the people who I’ve angered, stepped on or walked over in the last two weeks…I’m not even going to apologize. You can blame lack of resources, being bound by policy, overworked, underpaid or whatever. Don’t take it personally, but those things are not my problem. YOU are my problem because you refuse to see the impact your decisions have on ME. And when your feathers get ruffled and your supervisor starts looking closer at your actions, you have no one to blame but yourself. Don’t even try to blame me for being “difficult.” If you see something is not working, try to change it. Don’t succumb to inertia. Don’t cut yourself out of the loop and think there will be no consequences. Take responsibility for improvement. Change can be painful, but not changing is really a luxury none of us can afford.

Change Should Happen, But…

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.~ Edmund Burke

Another eye-opening day for me. I had the opportunity to visit the elementary school my children attended many years ago. This time I was the outsider, unknown to most of the staff. The school has had three principals and four assistant principals in the last eleven years. It went from being highly sought after as a placement to being on a watch list for poor performance. Not to inject too much politic…but my school mill levy has tripled in the last 11 years. My home state just shot down a state tax increase for education. And, surprise, our politicians can’t seem to understand why no one wants to give money to education.

But, I digress. After the meeting inside the school, I sat outside and observed recess for 4th and 5th grade. I was sitting in my parked vehicle. Lest you leap to the conclusion that I had some bizarre reason for watching, I was with a parent who wanted to see why her kid was being “written up” for inappropriate conduct during recess. What we saw was very enlightening.

The past…when my son was in 3rd grade at this school, two kids pinned him face down in the gravel and stomped n his back until he was bruised and peeing blood. The school insisted it could not have happened under their watch. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered if it had happened under my watch. He didn’t leave for school in that condition, he came home off the bus in that condition, ergo this happened at school. Oh no, I was told. Our students are supervised by four adults who each stand in a corner of the playground watching for these things. Well, I got mad and filed a complaint which was not well received, but was litigated out in favor of my son. The terms included increased playground supervision.

Today, I watched four women (3 teachers/ 1 para-professional) stand together in a cluster by the door with their backs to the playground. I saw students practicing what I can only assume was their form of martial arts – by hitting and kicking each other.  I watched a female student jump on a male student’s back for a piggy back ride. I saw 6 children attempting to build a human pyramid, only to have a seventh child come over and push the top child off so all came tumbling down. I watched a child fall off playground equipment and limp away in tears. A bit later, I watched as 4th grade girls jumped on their male teacher (two providing supervision for over 100 students) and he provided piggy back rides. I watched children throwing rocks at passing cars. I think you get the idea.

What I didn’t see was supervision. Yes, there were adults out on the playground. Most of the time, they had their backs to the students and were engaged with each other. The parent I was with wanted to know how many of these other students had been written up. I told her I would have to say none as the adults weren’t watching.

We all wonder where bullying comes from and how it goes so far, so fast. In 30 minutes of observation coupled with my prior experience and that of the parent with me, I can safely say that it’s because kids will be kids and if the environment is right, they will hurt each other. I have absolutely no doubt that what happened to my child could easily happen to another child at that school.

Before everyone berates me for being a helicopter parent, let me just point out that this was one snapshot, eleven years after my son’s incident, and nothing has changed. The school and the district have not held up their end of the bargain. It’s not a matter of what ifs. It’s only a matter of when. There is enough money in the district budget to send teachers on two-week fully paid “trainings” for curriculum in Canada but not enough to ensure adequate and appropriate supervision on the property. There is a cry for safety in schools and yet not even the most basic situational awareness was demonstrated today. I sat in a parked car for 30 minutes, outside an elementary school playground and no one questioned me. I saw children almost a quarter-mile from an adult and the adult wasn’t watching. We don’t need to wrap our kids in plastic bubbles, be we should expect that someone knows what’s going on.

So, I leave you with this thought: History does repeat itself. When we fail to learn from our mistakes, it repeats itself more frequently. Throwing money at the problem isn’t always the solution. Sometimes, you need to look at yourself and ask if you’re doing the best you can do at your job in life.

The Friend I Thought I Knew

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence.~ George Washington

I have had reason to ponder this quote recently. So far my readers know I am a medically disabled mom who uses a service dog. I’ve also disclosed some of my philosophies about parenting. I long ago learned that friends come and go for various reasons and because of those experiences, I tend to not disclose very much about myself. You see, like many of you, I’ve had friends that for whatever reason decide they no longer want to be my friends. Some of those relationships ended up being downright poisonous. Others, well, they ended in less overt painful actions.

I learned to be courteous to all from my parents. I was raised to believe that all life has value and it is up to me to find that value then cherish and nurture it in the best way I can. Sometimes, it is a fleeting moment such as giving up a seat on a crowded bus. Other times, I find myself becoming closer to someone over the long-term and taking them in confidence. However, I have learned to guard my heart and the number of people who know me very well is small. Today, I have learned yet again that, as Oprah puts it, “everyone wants to ride in the limo, but few want to ride on the bus.”

I have watched my children stumble with relationships many times. Their fair weather friends have, unfortunately, been many. I am helpless to do anything but watch as yet another human being hurts my child. Some of them do it accidentally, but others seem to thrive on personal attacks. After these train wrecks, I am left to pick up the pieces. Much like my beloved procedural novel heroes, I try to figure out why. Inevitably, I end up looking at the adult role models for the bully and discover that it is a familial trait. I have long since stopped trying to talk to other parents as it seems I’m among the minority of parents who hold themselves and their children accountable for their actions.

You may be wondering what brought on this examination of friendships. It has to do with what I perceive to be my ability to be courteous to all. Some people take my courtesy to mean they know me, what is best for me and how to “be there” for me. Dear readers, the news is that I have hundreds of friends in real life. Yet, the ones who could actually give you my address number less than a dozen. Because of my willingness to listen, people assume they know me well. Then, when I break course, they determine I was never their friend. And the rumors start. Then the painful realization that yet another person dislikes me because I didn’t fit their mold sets in.

Over and over, yet I keep trying. My kids do too, probably because they were also raised to enter into a friendship with an open mind. They have started to learn not to open their hearts readily. I find this sad because at their ages, they have experienced so much hatred for being themselves that they no longer extend an open hand to everyone who walks into their lives. They are missing the richness that a diverse group of friends brings to life. They are missing opportunities to nurture others because they have been hurt so much they feel the need to not only guard their hearts, but put a moat around themselves as well.

I ask that each of you think about the impact your words and actions have on your friends. I want you to consider whether you are causing pain to others in your life. Think about your fellow humans and how it feels when you say or do something for your own personal gain at their expense. We all have feelings. Just think before you act…if you wouldn’t like it, what makes you think someone else will?