Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Being Born Without Dimples or Musical Genes

I'm not sure what's going on or if anyone really cares or wants to read about it.  I just want to get this crap off my chest.  It's a combination of aging, getting gray and fat, money worries and knowing that it is really too late to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  The semi-retirement thing sometimes leaves me feeling a bit aimless as I either wait for projects to come in or procrastinate actually working on them when they do.  Plus a few health insurance and medical annoyances thrown in.  All on a backdrop of House Hunters International and CBS Sunday Morning.

OK, lets start with CBS Sunday Morning.  They periodically do stories on people who have had illustrious careers.  The pattern seems to favor musicians.  People who picked up an instrument at age 3 and now in their 70's, 80's or 90's are still making music, playing concerts or cutting recordings.  They live in relative luxury, move among interesting people, pursue other artistic endeavors, write books, and conduct philanthropic enterprises. They are, as Maslow would say, "self-actualized.
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So many of us (more so as the economy has plummeted so many closer to poverty) must spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy just securing our physiological needs and safety needs in order to have some resources for activities that bolster self-esteem, confidence, achievement or allow creativity and problem solving to flourish in a self-actualized way. In other words we are working at exhausting jobs, doing our own laundry, clipping coupons to make ends almost meet, angst - ing over the copays for the doctor visit and trying to avoid situations that, if allowed to spiral out of control would send us to the poor house or asylum. Take the guy who cannot afford to get his car tail light fixed or trying to save a buck, puts it off. He gets stopped by the cops one morning making him late for work with a fine on top of it. He gets docked for the hours he was late and those fewer dollars result in a bounced check and a bank fee. He still has to get his tail light fixed so decides to do it himself. Imagine the ripple effect that continues to affect other areas of his life. The arguments with the significant other. Postponing the doctor or dentist appointment. The bounced check to the credit card company with the accruing interest putting him further behind. The lost hours of sleep.

It has always puzzled me how some people, despite difficulties that life brings seem to thrive, develop and prosper in ways that are fully integrated and others who struggle with conflict, difficult decisions, and woundedness, seem to always fall short despite their efforts. The "successful" ones attribute their triumph to their own resources like determination, will-power, hard work, being goal-oriented or highly motivated. They rarely mention the fact that they may have been born with a certain genetic disposition, temperament or character traits that were not entirely of their own doing but which gave them an advantage over others. They don't think it significant that they have dimples, had their teeth straightened when they were preadolescent, or that their physiognomy falls within the societal parameters of beauty. They take for granted that they have enjoyed other gifts that they had no role in securing. "Luck", in their world view, has had little to do with their success.

Others, despite their hard work and heroic efforts seem to have been born with an Achilles' Heel. They seem destined to reap only futility from their endeavors. Will power, determination and self-direction are illusions. Getting what we want by hard work or will power does not necessarily make it so. Their inherited characteristics are anxiety, obsessive-compulsive traits and/or less desirable physical attributes. They aren't likely to be buying a 1.5 million dollar condo in Santa Mariposa on House Hunters International.

Then there are those who seem to have everything: talent, career, money, good looks, the perfect significant other - then blow it because their particular Achilles Heel - sex, drugs, power, hubris, got the upper hand. This life is such a damn toss-up it's not funny.

Things go along more or less copesthetically then you go to your doctor who sticks her finger up your butt and finds a minuscule amount of blood because you just happened to have popped a tiny hemorrhoid that morning. Naturally she sends you to the gastroenterologist so as to make sure HER ASS is covered. Call me cynical but I think Doctor Gastro makes his very good living by scheduling everyone who walks through his door for a colonoscopy. Never mind that you had your innards examined four years ago and that doc said "see you in 8 to 10" or that you might just have a roid or that you lost your way in the hall. No need to check that butt here, lets schedule a "procedure". I bet he has a Condo in Santa Mariposa.

Not to mention that you have this crappy health insurance that you get because you can't afford the good health insurance. If you have your canal checked, you get to pay your $400 deductible, PLUS your $400 "co-insurance" PLUS 20% of any covered amounts depending on who you ask, PLUS 100% of any uncovered amounts - which the insurance folks can't really tell you what they may or amy not be, nor can the doctor, nor can the medical facility, until you get the bill. And was this just because your primary care doc stuck her finger in your ass on the wrong day OR are you really riddled with cancer and about to die if you don't get the scope done?

So the fact that I'm collecting early Social Security means that this procedure will cost a month's pay, (not counting what SS allows me to make freelancing for my yearly 1099-MISC). We have saved our quarters, dimes, nickels and sky mile points to take a two week vacation to England. There's no way I'm going to schedule a procedure this week so I can S-M-B-O and pay to do it.

And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but boy, do I feel better!


  1. Amen, amen, amen to all you said Frank. You have reached the same conclusions I have in my own dark ruminations on fate, heredity, and futility.

    And it is a certainty in this benighted day and time that, all propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, the thieving doctors do *not* have their patients' best interests at heart. No more so than the bankers. I could tell you stories.

    And it is a fact that some of us are doomed to very small returns on our labor and a most precarious old age. Along with the sneers of fortune's favorites, adding insult to injury.

    I have no comforting words, just my solidarity with you in seeing clearly the bleak prospects of Reality. All the more reason to enjoy one's life while one can.

  2. Russ, Your reply says it all so eloquently. The road ahead is getting shorter and our challenge is perhaps to not look too far keep focused on where we are, with only an occasional glance toward where we are going. Problem is where we are ain't always so wonderful. I struggle with envy and bitterness which I know serves no good purpose and try to find some enjoyment in life without letting it become spoiled by too much Catholic guilt. Ugh!

  3. I don't know Russ and only know you from your blog, but you are both so right. For what it's worth, Frank, have a great time in England and screw reality for a while.



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