July 8, 2011

Unlikely Insight

Other than the topic of socialized healthcare, political issues don't often enter into my world as a health activist.  Somehow, the greater life problems of holding up as a patient, communicating with the rest of the world, and needing each other to buoy ourselves seem blind to bipartisanship (gee, imagine that).  But as we know, there's an exception for every rule.

It would seem the Chairman of the Federal Reserve also crosses party lines.  Nominated for a second term by President Obama, Ben Bernanke was originally appointed by President G.W. Bush in 2006.  The thought crossed my mind, "how could this man be supported by two of the most dynamically disparate leaders in this country's collective memory?  AND, having assumed his role mere months before a global financial disaster, how did he hang onto his job into a second term?".  Circumstances suggest perhaps he knows something the rest of us don't...or maybe, that he knows exactly what the rest of us do, he just articulates it better.

And with one such articulation, Ben B earned a special place in my heart.  When he was appointed, I was an eager accounting student at Villanova trying to pretend to care about economics (I've since given up on pretending).  But Benny tossed out a gem that I've loved ever since - "Creating monetary policy is like driving a car looking only into the rearview mirror".  True, to the point, relatable - I love it.

"That's lovely...but WHY on earth are you giving us a lesson on Bernanke?  Why would we care?"  That's right, I heard you.  I can read your mind!
Ok not really, but I can imagine.  I have a good answer, I swear.

Benny's message was that his job requires him to make decisions - important ones, that affect all of us whether we realize it or not - without being able to look into the future.  His only resource is history, and honestly even though "history repeats itself", it doesn't do it on a nice predictable basis. 

Another of my favorite public figures conveyed the same thought, but perhaps on a better man-on-the-street level: "Ain't no need to watch where I'm goin'; just need to know where I've been" - Mater.  Yes, as in the tow truck Mater from the movie Cars.  Pixar's all about life lessons, kids, pay attention;)

Oh, and right about now that "man on the street" pun is clicking.  Go ahead, giggle (or groan).

Anyway - the point is Mater drives backwards (at high speeds and making crazy sharp turns that terrify Lightening McQueen) with confidence, because he knows where he's been.  That only works because he knows the territory so well; he's driven down the same road so many times, he knows what's coming based on what he's passed.  Bernanke doesn't have the luxury of a consistent road, so he can only use what's passed as a clue, not a road marker (good God I love these car puns).

I contend that we, chronic patients, are somewhere between Bernanke and Mater. 

Photos found here and here.

Like Bernanke, we are faced with choices - of all magnitudes: if I shower in the morning will I have the energy to get dressed; should I park near the door now because when I leave I'll be exhausted; can I afford a cut in hours to accomodate my medical needs - and have no reliable way to predict the future.  Sometimes I feel like my motto is "Plan For Everything - Stick To Nothing" because I have to plan far in advance to 'budget' my energies, but then be completely flexible to an unforeseen drain on them.

But like Mater, many of us have been down certain paths many times before.  It took a while, but I've learned some symptom patterns that indicate what's to come for me.  For instance, I have a very specific sensation in my throat and chest which means bronchitis isn't far behind.  Or, I know 15 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen (& preferably a hat) will mean up to 36 hours of full-body aches, brain fog, and other types of fall-out - on average.  And yet, I wouldn't dare try to speed willy-nilly down any projected road, because even though I had an experience a dozen times, it could definitely take an unexpected detour the next time.

And so, we land somewhere in the middle.  Between "I have no clue" and "look Ma, no peeking", you'll find a swarm of chronic patients.  We live our lives tentatively, trying to predict and plan but aware that every experience will have it's own twist.  It goes all directions; sometimes instead of my expected Bronchitis I end up with a more mild infection that clears more quickly, but then sometimes a tried-and-true remedy fails to provide relief.  It's all part of the crap shoot.  But ya know, everyone's life is a crap shoot, chronic challenge or not.  No one knows that tomorrow will be what they expected.  We may have less predictability in some areas of our lives, but on the whole I'm not sure we have so much more to deal with but that we have to deal with things more consistently.  Which is pretty ironic, really.  I guess God does have a sense of humor...we'd better start laughing along if we're going to enjoy this ride:)
Did you catch it?  One last car/road/ride joke?  Aw come on, it wasn't THAT bad.....

1 comment:

  1. Jenny,

    You have an affinity with words and expressions. I understand and feel exactly what you're saying. Keep well.


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