Monthly Archives: August 2011

You know your population is aging when Physical Therapy is the new Town Hall.

“. . .and it hasn’t gotten better, I can tell you that. I had more fun back in the Great Depression than I do now!” His statement was emphatic, but more surprising was the unexpected, vigorous “That’s right!” from across the room.

Every clinic has elderly patients coming in, and in every clinic patients invariably share notes, get friendly, and start chatting. This being a rural clinic, topics tend to take a different slant than more urban locations. Still, in the midst of the repeated implications from the media that The Great Depression is the sort of thing to be spoken about in hushed tones and avoided no matter what the cost, it is extremely striking to have a handful of people who lived through the Great Depression saying “It wasn’t as bad as all that–in fact, it was better than this mess!”

Don’t get me wrong, some of that, I’m sure, has to do with what rural people find a hardship. Being told what to do with your property, your money, your life–those are hardships. Being poor is just a way of life. More urban areas, it would seem, consider being poor a terrible, horrible, unmitigatable disaster–but having everything dictated to you, down to what type of bed sheets and lightbulbs you can use, is just a way of life.

But part of me can’t help but wonder. . .what was the Great Depression like? The reason I say that is because it seems that anyone who dares, dares to say that it wasn’t the most horrible thing that ever befell us is dismissed as not knowing what they’re talking about. There is, I know, a certain part of us that likes to see the years of our youth in a golden light. . .but they were there. And various talking heads have summarized what they have decided has happened, and have proceeded to shove it all at us obvious fact.

And I know that the Great Depression affected different people in different ways, depending on a multitude of factors. That sorta is my point. To take one period of history, declare it horror, and apply it to all locations and all classes and all lives–is just plain silly. With the terror the Great Depression is painted with, no one, any where, should possibly be able to be discussing it in more flowery terms than the present.

For some peculiar reason, though, I’m extremely reluctant to dismiss first hand accounts.

Pandora’s Box

Say you were driving along, on a brilliantly beautiful late summer afternoon. You drive in to Pennsylvania, where it’s little more than a quaint after-thought to maybe actually put up street signs to identify their roads. There are hills, covered with trees and fields, and the sun just pours over their golden greenness. The roads get narrower, and rougher, until the gravel road gives way to a wash-board dusty excuse for a travel-path. You pull over on the grassy side of the road. You get out of the car, stretching a little after the ride, and walk across the field, little butterflies flitting in front of you.

After you cross the field, you find yourself standing in front of a box.

What is in the box?

How can you tell what’s in the box? A box, after all, includes in it’s purposes hiding it’s content. Someone could tell you what was in the box, but how would you know they were right? It could be full of anything. It could even be empty.

But I will tell you one thing.

When you stand behind your cousin and watch her shaking body, you can be certain she is singing over her dead mother’s body.

Without ever opening the box.

Sunday Song: Tender Love

It’s a tender love that’s gonna bring you through,
Whispering to your heart
So that you’ll know what to do.
It’s a tender love not about to let you go,
It’s a tender love and there’s
So much more to know.

Love that’s holding me, tender and true,
Love that’s molding me, seeing me through.
I’ve stood in true amazement
Of all you’ve done for me,
My faith so small, but you do it all,
You give it all for free.

It’s a tender love that’s gonna bring you through,
Whispering to your heart
So that you’ll know what to do.
It’s a tender love not about to let you go,
It’s a tender love and there’s
So much more to know.

Let go of the past, get up off the ground.
This love will last, this love I’ve found.
I stand in true amazement of what you do in me,
I’m in a daze, yes I’m amazed,
Embracing the change, I’m free.

It’s a tender love that’s gonna bring you through,
Whispering to your heart
So that you’ll know what to do.
It’s a tender love not about to let you go,
It’s a tender love and there’s
So much more to know.

It’s a tender love that’s gonna bring you through,
Whispering to your heart
So that you’ll know what to do.
It’s a tender love not about to let you go,
It’s a tender love and there’s
So much more to know.

Phil Keaggy

Sometimes we need songs like this.

Past, present, and a I guess maybe a little bit of the future.

PAST:

This morning I was standing there getting dress, and all of a sudden I was hit with a powerful flash-back from my time in school. I imagined myself in the early mornings at school, when I would get there far earlier than would ever seem reasonable, except for the fact that that was when my ride dropped me off. (Earliest class ever offered = 8 am; my arrival time? 7:10.) I heard the sounds of the empty building, saw the flickering light, and most of all, I smelled school. School has a very distinctive smell all its own, and even after the sights and sounds of school were shaken out of my fuzzy head, the smell lingered.

PRESENT: (ish)

As mentioned, I took my boards exam on Saturday. I couldn’t stand the suspense and decided to check and see if my pass/fail results had been posted online yet, even though I was told I wouldn’t be able to find out until Tuesday. So Sunday morning I tentatively logged on, and discovered that I had passed.

You may certainly go back and re-read that sentence, because I went and re-read the results about 5 times, just to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Then I went back later on in the day just to make sure they hadn’t changed their mind. Nope–still passed!

So I went work today and told my boss, the owner of the whole company, and she was so happy she hugged me, and spent the next 5 minutes exclaiming with delight and telling everyone she could. So, so, so happy I could come into work with a positive report.

Then I was slammed by a full schedule, my first ever on my own. It required three donuts, and I am very glad that someone brought them in, because I don’t know what I would have done without them. I think I did some pretty dang good therapy and made some very good calls, but I think my documentation for it sucked. Some day I would like to be able to do some awesome therapy AND uphold the other end of the book pretty well, but today did not seem to be that day.

And I am exhausted.

FUTURE:

Tomorrow I am going first to the hospital, where I will most likely also be thrown into the boiling water. Then I am going to the clinic, where I will probably be lightly charred. And finally, after lunch I will be shipped off to different branch, where goodness only knows what fate awaits me.

Don’t get me wrong–I like my job. But I am still so, so green at this that I feel more that I am being put into a large washing machine with the agitation cycle set for 10 hours than I feel like I am a competent clinician who is capable of conducting herself in a professional manner. I am pretty sure that if I make it through this week okay than I’ll be over the worst of it.

But I still hope there will be more donuts tomorrow.

Hometown

Caleb took a shot of this house while I was driving, and it reminded me of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed in the wee early hours of the morning, and drove off toward Town. It was light as though the sun were up, but it was such a hazy, cloudy, dense morning that you could hardly call it bright. The thickness of the weather would soon result in rain, but as of yet there wasn’t even a breeze. Everything just hung closely to the ground and staid put.

I rounded one of our large, sprawling hills, and the view opened up into the valley that contains Town. Most fittingly, there before me was a scene that made me think quite strongly of the Twilight Zone. I don’t have a picture for you, because I was on my way to take my boards examination, and quite honestly the last thing on my mind under those circumstances (weighty exam, early hours, etc) was the thought of taking along my camera in case there was something noteworthy (in the testing center. Where they make you strip off every shred of electronics, including your analog watch, and lock it away, lest somehow technology give you the answers to the universe).

Embedded in that thick haze were several of these mysterious orbs, all blue-green-grey. They weren’t moving there; they were just dispersed over the city, hanging there oppressively, waiting, watching.

After doing a few double takes, I finally realized what I was seeing. The local festival had launched it’s hot-air balloons–yes, even at such an absurdly early hour. The humid haze was muting all of their bright colors to the point they all looked something the color of little army men or split pea soup. When they lit their fires, the bright flash of light seemed no less ominous. They weren’t moving because there was no wind. So 8 or so of these balloons, strung out over the valley and looming over the city, were deprived of every ounce of festivity and instead equipped with a very foreboding the-mothership-is-here sort of feeling.

They were so low, and so still, whatever doom they were bringing seemed to be quite near. They were so much so the color of the weather, it seemed as though they were the ones responsible, settling this obscuring cover over all of the closest thing this area can call civilization. It was horribly eerie, and you couldn’t get away from it. Every time you rounded another corner, they were still there, but now even closer.

Fortunately, the rest of society was oblivious to their danger, and so we escaped without harm. Riots, hysterical screaming, looting and military crack-down were all avoided.

Probably the Town didn’t notice their impending danger because they weren’t looking at the sky, and they probably weren’t looking at the sky because it was absurdly early on a Saturday morning.

Which just goes to show you that one can avoid a lot of horrible fates if one just has the sense and good fortune to stay in bed, particularly on Saturday mornings.

Everything I said before, again.

Gorgeous trip home.

So helpful person I am replacing.

Headache.

Boards.

Eek.

Hmm.

Tired.

Starting to find my groove at work; grateful that they are experiencing a slow time right now and that I don’t have to hit the ground at a full out run. Re-gaining some confidence in my ability to make clinical decisions. (Hey–I haven’t done any PT since May, and out-patient PT since last December. I’m allowed a little hesitation.) Everyone here has been very supportive of taking on a new grad, and am kinda thrilled that so many patients that they have actually want to get better and are actually willing to do their exercises at home to make that happen.

Talked more about the boards today, and she is really helping me feel more relaxed going into this. Having said that, the closer the time comes, the more wound up I am. I am practically counting the minutes at this point.

Stupid tests!!!!

Why Winning can be sad

I got the job I did. . .because someone else lost it.

I suppose some people would say, “That’s their problem, not yours,” or “for a good reason, probably” or some other sort of thing. But the girl is younger than me, and failed her boards twice. She can’t re-take them again until October. And so she is orienting me to her job for a week, and then will no longer be able to function as a PTA until she re-takes (and passes) her boards.

It would be no overstatement to say that this arrangement can at times feel very awkward, especially since I’m going to be making my first attempt at passing the boards this Saturday. I’m nervous about taking my boards, and so I inherently want to talk about it. Working right along side someone who has failed to pass it–twice–doesn’t make me any less nervous. But it also makes me horribly awkward about saying anything about my attempt. I can’t say, “I’m nervous, but I’ll probably do fine” to her–how could I?

For her part, she has been incredibly sweet and helpful about orienting me and showing me around, and seems not have the slightest shred of resentment toward me for literally taking her job out from under her. All the more–how could I possibly talk to her about my anxiousness concerning the boards?

Today we had a little break-through as we both talked openly with each other about studying for them. I showed her the app I’m using; she showed me her notecards. It was most pleasant. We were on even footing.

She has this graciousness thing down pat. She’s even going to bring me in a cookie recipe we’d talked about. Me? I feel incapable of being a gracious ‘winner’. What do I say? What do I do? I say, “thank you for everything” and she says “of course!” with her sweet smile, and somehow I just feel kind of slimey, even though I’m glad to have this job and I think it will be a good fit. The thing I most want to say is “welcome back! I missed working with you!” when she passes her boards. . .

If I took a picture, you’d think I’d photo-shopped it

This morning I drove into the rising sun, and this afternoon I drove into the setting sun. Not a proper sunrise and sunset (though that will be coming soon, I’m sure, with the shorter days), but just the right angle to be in your eyes the whole way through. Today it was a different small town. I am seeing so much of picturesque, quaint rural America lately that I feel like I ought to taking along a camera and doing some proper photo-shoots for magazines, post-cards, and people who don’t believe that it really exists. (It really does, people!!)

I met two new PTAs today. . .one was the one that inadvertently got me a job, as she passed news of the opening on to her friend, who then passed it on to me. The other insisted she recognized me from somewhere, and come to think of it, she looked familiar to me too. We spent the whole morning trying to figure it out, and finally decided that it had been at the (local, small-town, entire community effort) craft fair a few weekends previous. I couldn’t place her booth exactly, and I struggle to believe out of the many people streaming past her she really remembered my face. Nonetheless, we were both definitely there.

Right now I am kind of feeling like the way things are right now is how I wished my clinical experiences would have been. I see a lot I can learn. I also feel pretty dang clueless (which I hate), but past clinical experiences have taught me that the first week is really the most acute phase of cluelessness. As long as I keep pushing myself through, I should feel a little (tiny) bit more settled by next week.

I told you it would be tedious

I don’t know what to write. Yep, it was the first day of my job. Yep, I came home and ate ice cream and read words on a glowing screen.

To me, this poses many deep and great questions to which I don’t have the answers. . .yet some how makes very clear that answers must be sought. And I’m not talkin’ about the ice cream.

What is life really all about? (Pretty sure we’re still not talkin’ about the ice cream, but you can double check me on that.) And I don’t mean what we say. I mean what we live.

In various points of my life I have frequently wondered what other people see when they look at me. Not because their opinion matters, but just that I am always wondering what the birds’ eye view says, if you strip away all of your pretensions about what you think you mean and just see what is. And maybe other people aren’t a high enough view to see that, really, but I know I am to the point where I realize it sometimes doesn’t seem to matter what we think we mean, as much as what is heard or understood. And so sometimes I think it is time to stop telling other people what I mean. . .but for one thing, telling only just myself what I mean sometimes seems just as pointless–and for another, I don’t know what else to do.

I want explain myself thoroughly to everyone, want life to be thoroughly explained to me. I can “mean” all I want that the explanations wouldn’t change anything, but that doesn’t change my desires for those explanations. But at the same time, I can somehow see, through a distorted half-squinting, that all these attempts at meaning and explanation are causing harm. . .building up more pretensions, and meanings and explanations and all sorts of things that don’t seem to change what really is, but somehow just create another invisible barrier to grasping the “is”. Yet still I reach for explanations as though it were a key that could unlock blindness.

(I rather suspect this reads as written by one who has just worked their first day on the new job and then eaten a lot of ice cream, followed by too much glowing screen time. Sometimes, that’s just the way the day goes down.)