Reflections on Rehab

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Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar, via Wylio

I blogged recently about my feat of great UNcoordination, and tearing my medial meniscus. How I learned to stop trying to “walk it off” and actually get medical attention.

I know. Radical.

Well, the lesson has been a slow (and yes, painful) process of learning to listen.

Listen to my body.
Listen to my pain threshold.
Listen to the instructions on when to take my medications.
Listen to the Spirit as I make decisions about when and where I will spend my energy and my time.

I’ve had to keep my sense of humor. Me and my #achybreakyknee are making progress as I follow through on my home exercises. (And a HUGE shout out to Sport and Spine Rehab of Rockville for caring about my rehab and treatment as much as their care of pro athletes and fitness buffs!)

But there’s something else I’ve realized in a personal way, a reality that anyone with a chronic health condition already knows. (And I’ve been slow on the uptake!) It’s simply this: Being healthy is a lot cheaper than being sick. Doctor’s appointments, co-pays, medical equipment, prescriptions, procedures… it all adds up!

I am grateful for good health insurance that covers a lot of the cost of my care. But it is expensive. It eats into the little bits of extra cash that we might spend on “fun” things. An office visit co-pay is the cost of going out for dinner (a cheap dinner, mind you.) The cost of a prescription would fill my car with gasoline. And so it goes.

People with chronic illnesses have to count the cost, in every way: in time, money, physical activity and emotional energy. We lose patience with people who offer platitudes. (Seriously. “I’m praying for you” means nothing unless your prayers are sincere and tuned in to my current state.) It bears repeating that chronic illnesses are not  usually the fault of the person who has them. Genes, environmental factors, access to care, and sometimes, dumb luck may mean that one person has a chronic condition, and one person does not. A simple tumble on my patio resulted in my injury. Imagine what I might be going through if the incident had been a car accident or on-the-job injury!

In the midst of all of my personal challenges, which are minimal compared to the issues that many of my patients and their families face, I know God is present. I know the love of the Divine. I know the gifts of humor, of self-care, of compassionate Presence, of close friends and advisors who ‘get me’. I feel God’s mercy every day.

And I also know that there are many who struggle alone. And if I were Empress of the Universe, I’d fix that.

For now, I’ll settle for electing officials who want every citizen to receive high quality and affordable health care. That means I’m a caring person who would not wish others to suffer when there are treatments, physicians, therapists, prescriptions, and rehab options available to them — if only they had access through affordable and comprehensive health insurance.

I’ll keep advocating for all of us. Because — you are beloved. And so am I. And we are worth it.

Prayers for the whys

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Tonight I offer
prayers for the whys
prayers for the not agains
prayers for the dying
prayers for the dead
prayers for the angry
prayers for the scared
prayers for the healers
prayers for the investigators
prayers for the grieving
prayers for the bystanders
prayers for the perpetuators of hate
prayers for the unhelpful rhetoric
prayers for the politicians
prayers for news outlets
prayers for our faith communities
prayers for the gun lovers
prayers for the gun lobbyists
prayers for the peacemakers
prayers for change
prayers for hope…

Oh God, in your mercy,
hear our prayers…

Motivation: #Walk2EndAlz

This year’s walking crew representing JSSA Hospice staff, volunteers and families. We’re missing a few faces in this picture, but THANKS to everyone who participated! 

I participated in my fourth Alzheimer’s Walk today. I almost didn’t go because I have a banged up knee that is not responding to the current treatment plan of exercise/rest/ice/meds/ignore/repeat. (Yes. I’m going to the doctor next week.) I went anyway because it’s a great time with my colleagues. It’s impressive to see the size of the crowd that shows up on the National Mall. It reminds me how devastating this disease is, and how many are affected. Today I noted that there were healthcare providers like our hospice, facility staff members, family members and… patients.

This year, there were residents of an dementia unit participating in the mini-walk. One woman was carrying her baby doll, her caregivers beside her. A man was determinedly trudging down the sidewalk using his walker. Countless others were pushed in wheelchairs.

You can bet I sucked it up and walked. I walked for my patients and their caregivers. I walked for the families who have had a relative die due to complications of Alzheimer’s. I walked for my coworkers who go above and beyond every day.

I also walked because our healthcare system is inadequate and puts an undue burden on families of patients with this disease. It was ironic to be in sight of the US Capitol building, where attacks on affordable healthcare and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are on the agenda. But I am privy to the day-to-day heartache of watching their family member lose capacity, forgetting faces and names. I hear their concerns about “running out of money” because of the costs involved (which are not reimbursed!) I walked to honor the lives of my patients.

It’s simple. Research dollars help find treatments and a cure. Donations support caregivers and provide needed resources. And staff members and volunteers are reminded that their work with dementia patients and their families makes a difference.

So thank you to all who were among my sponsors. Thank you to the families and patients I represent. Thank you to my coworkers. Let’s keep walking.

P.S. it’s not necessary but you can still donate here!

A Gentle, Angry People

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Communion at Twinbrook Baptist Church this morning.

I have been thinking a lot these past months about privilege and its insidious impact on our culture in general, and the Church in particular.

Privilege creates barriers of assumptions. Of misrepresentation. Unfortunately those of us who have privilege  don’t see it

Privilege comes in many forms: White privilege. Straight privilege. Educated privilege. Housing privilege. Food source privilege. Employment privilege. Transportation privilege. Health privilege. I could go on…

Maybe you’ve played the “Privilege Walk” exercise with a group. (You can read more about that here.) Many people of privilege, myself included, found it uncomfortable. Eye-opening. Humbling. But how I learned the most from the experience was listening to others during the debrief session who were less privileged than I. Listening. Not apologizing. Not being defensive. Not being embarrassed. Listening.

I’m also taking responsibility for my ignorance. I’m engaged in some serious reading on the topic of white privilege and intersectionality right now. The biggest take-away so far? Those of us who have privilege have some serious issues with granting other people the same rights we have. Especially people who look/live/love differently.

I wish I could say that the Church (and Christian organizations) are doing a better job at honoring differences and admitting bias and privilege. But we are not. We like our little enclaves and private worlds. We want to hold on to what WE have created, what WE have done. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that everything we have, everything we are, everything we create comes to us via the Spirit’s download. We forget that scarcity is not the economy of heaven. Like the T-shirt says:

Equal rights for others
does not mean less rights for you!
It’s not pie!

The Church today either identifies with a mega franchise or clings  fiercely to our tiny fiefdoms. (There’s not a lot in between.) We fiercely defend what we are used to doing in our churches. (Don’t think so? Try changing it up sometime.) Yet — we say we want to see the Beloved Community on earth and the kin-dom of God to be created in our midst.

Living with a generous Spirit is touch-and-go. Just when we think we’ve got it figured out, something changes. Our stability is gone. The music is different. The preacher is different. The version of the Bible (or prayer book or bulletin size) is different. New people come and sit in “our” (assigned, personal, everyone-knows-we-sit-here) pews! “Those kind” of people attend our churches now. The antidote to this holy entitlement is to focus on deconstructing our privilege, owning what it is, admitting where we have acted selfishly, and work on ourselves (not others) before we see actual change.

Today in our worship service at Twinbrook Baptist, we sang the song by Holly Near, “Singing for Our Lives.” Holly wrote it in response to the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978. It is a song beloved in the LGBTQ community specifically, and the Resistance community at large. It expresses a very real fear. Unless one has listened to the voices of our brothers and sisters of color, and our LGBTQ siblings, one forgets how easily hate creates an atmosphere of violence.

We are a gentle angry people, and we are singing for our lives.
We are a land of many colors, and we are singing for our lives.
We are gay and straight together, and we are singing for our lives.

The Gospels are clear – If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then just maybe we need to demand less, expect less, and show more compassion and respect. And we need to confess when we have been racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic.

It’s not an option. It’s not easy. But it is the way of Christ.

Lord, help me.
Blessed be.