The difference between fun and work, if there is any

In this moment, looking at the internal vocabulary, searching for new ways to express myself without resorting to a thesaurus, listening to the replay of conversations, realising how many details I’ve forgotten that make stories more real, feeling my face and neck break out with small infected pores that are commonly called acne…

“Learning never ends.”  [from a 15-cent stamp on an envelope dated 15 Sep 1980 sent from my father to his mother containing the following poem]

Lineage [for Evelyn]

Only moments agoOur only son
Gave his oath
To his country
As his grandfather
Did fifty-one years ago
As his father
Did twenty-six years ago next month
Ah, tears well in my eyes
A lump is in my throat
For him, for we three
Grandfather, father, son
For the why we each serve our country
For patriotism, love of country

For ____ why —-?

— RLH 9/15/80

A line whispered into my ear from a dance partner. “I flew to New York for the weekend.  I walked 10 miles a day, wearing poor shoes for walking the first day, and my flats for the second day.  This dancing tonight, bending my knees…phew!  it’s killing me!”

Multiple storylines begging to be continued — the Martian tales, the Mad Hatter chronicles, the Wondering Wanderer, the Wandering Wondering, the thinker, the doer, the tinkerer, the inventor, the investor, the Kickstarter campaign…

If I don’t write them down, they don’t get lost, they simply never exist except in the vast universe of my imagination which entertains me for as long as I live with this stimuli-driven central nervous system of mine.

I finalised the West Coast Swing routine with Abi today — enough so that we can play with the routine and keep it in time with the music — that in itself would be celebration enough for a lifetime.

But a second routine, with Jenn, has not been finalised less than two days before our premiere performance on Saturday, with scant time to polish our moves.

There is much I have learned in the past two years of dance lessons with my wife.  In our 27-plus years of marriage and 40 years of knowing each other we have aged together, aligning our storylines so that one of us cannot tell the tale of our lives without including the other.

In the past few months of dance lessons with Jenn and Abi, the learning has changed pace.

I could never have imagined that I would once again know a person whose physicality was without bounds, but that tangent will wait until another day…soon.

Tonight, as I prep my thoughts for trippy dreams, I look at the faces of my two dance partners and see their futures written in features that change with aging skin and graying hair.

When I danced with one, our connection running from her big toe through her foot, calf, thigh, ribs, shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, and fingers, down through my fingers all the way to the floor, I felt the warmth of a loving mother, a powerful lover and an equal dance partner that, although we have danced untold times, I had never felt deep within myself like I did today, willing to share with my wife that I took on Abi as a new lover today but in a way that surpasses sex, in the way that Monica and I, who never kissed, could say we were lovers the night we melded our thought patterns and saw how our differences made us one an evening in Knoxville during the early 1980s.  I felt Abi simultaneously as a child, a young adult, a middle-aged mother and an elderly grandmother fighting for every last breath before she dies.

Jenn, with whom how many dance partners can easily brag how much better they dance than I, our connection is like…being a kid all over again for the very first time.

I want to have fun all the time — Jenn is more willing to let me just be crazy with my dance moves when I shouldn’t be than Abi — I do them both a disservice by not taking our dance practice more seriously.

I know the two of them are not the same even if our goals for this week are.

Jenn and I are not lovers on the dance floor and I cannot predict a future where we will or will not be.  I have not set a goal for such an event.

Instead, it is within the pure bubble of unadulterated fun that I want to place the memorised routine with Jenn.

She was willing to come to the studio tonight, tired after a trip out-of-town, to nail down our moves but I was outside myself with mirth, unable to concentrate but wanting to make her visit not be a total waste.

When I held Jenn in my arms, I felt an older woman and saw gray streaks in her hair — I heard the voice of her husband, Gilley, speaking through her, wondering if I also heard her father and mother, maybe even her grandparents find their way to me through her.

I used to keep these observations to myself, thinking I was crazy, sensing different personalities in the sight, sound and touch of other people, wondering how much mass media representations of ghost stories, ESP and other paranormal phenomena were imprinted in my thoughts as fuzzy labels upon my irrationally-explainable emotional states rather than scientifically-testable experiences.

But I remember I am a storyteller, a tall tale spinner, exaggeration my best feature rather than my facial profile or wishful hunk of a body.

Jenn sensed a mouse in me when we first started dancing, my feeling intimidated by the laughter welling up from inside my thoughts at the silliness I felt, unable to justify why I was standing with my childlike friend trying to take ourselves seriously as adults with little time for fun before our showcase routine in two days.

Abi demands that I first treat myself as a strong dance leader seriously, putting fun second after I’ve shown my dance partner, the follower, that she is the only connection I feel with the universe, the rhythm of the dance music our source of energy.  Her demands I have given into reluctantly but willingly like a latent masochist, a glutton for punishment.

Jenn asks that I take command of the dance floor.

Every leader and follower is different.

Tonight, the older woman in Jenn needed her strong, lifelong male partner to hold her up and I failed to match that need.

My distraction was the leftover euphoria of discovering what a West Coast Swing connection with Abi truly means.

The world will not end because I was unable to settle myself down and concentrate on Jenn in a dance studio dominated by my wife, Abi, Chris and his dance partner.

Jenn and I have another hour, maybe two, three at the most, before we dance our Lindy Hop routine together.

For two years I wondered what dancing with Jenn would be like, seeing how well she matched up with other guys, some better skilled than I and some less skilled.

I have learned that Jenn’s strengths come from her deep knowledge of physical skills, including track-and-field events for which she spent long hours training.

I can neither compete against her dance partners nor against her years of physical training, or more recently, her hours of physical therapy recovering from car smashups.

I will dance with Jenn and Abi again after this weekend’s showcase.  Of that I am certain.

What I have before me, in the next 40-plus hours and the next 40-plus years, is a challenge to discover what this 51-year old body can do as it gets older that it never learned to do at a younger age over many days, weeks and months of arduous practice, both for the sake of my wife and for the sake of any dance partner I walk out onto the floor.

The challenge for me with Abi is how fast can I learn from her the years of training she’s had with the best dancing instructors on this planet.

The challenge for me with Jenn is how fast can I learn from her the years of the aforesaid physical training, minus the pain and physical rehabilitation, if I can help it, and training she’s had with some of the best dancing instructors on this planet, including Abi.

The challenge for me with my wife is how patient I can be to help her improve her physical stamina to be just as much fun as Abi, Jenn or any number of dance partners that I encounter in this adventure that started what seems like yesterday.

How can I convince myself that focusing my attention on the art of dance moves is fun, rather than mundane work that I abhor in any endeavour?

What is life without challenges?

Redirected thought patterns

Weeks (months?) ago, I deactivated my Facebook account, removing myself from the habit of reading posts about the lives and daily habits of close to a thousand people, a few I’ve known since early childhood and several hundred I got to know during my secondary school day over 30 years ago.

Before that, I had taken a few social media holidays, not checking Facebook/LinkedIn for weeks at a time, but found myself returning because of the temptation to click on an app icon or scroll through my list of favorite Web links for personal entertaining distractions.

I have missed some of my Facebook friends because I do not see them in my life except through social media contacts.  Some of them said they have missed me, too.

This morning, while bemoaning the fact my wife was once again too tired last night to stay and dance at the nightclub after our West Coast Swing dance lesson, aching for someone to dance with but even our feline companions too wrapped up in their catnaps to play with me, I desire conversation with anyone, in any form, to feed my need for social contact.

What’s the point of planning a trip to Mars, with the major deadline 13421 days ahead, if I won’t assert myself when my needs clash with my wife’s?

She, like many other patrons at the nightclub, works in a day job.

She, like many others at the nightclub, have experienced tragedies in their lives that weigh heavily on their thought sets at the most inopportune times.

At a moment like this, I remember again the advice that Wilma in the Finance department of our local GE office gave me.

Wilma had called me to ask why I had exceeded the customary number of sick days for the previous quarter.

I explained to her that my wife had not been feeling well lately and wanted me to stay home with her on those days, in order to make her feel better.

Wilma told me it was a sign of weakness on both my wife’s and my part to facilitate the behaviour of a female spouse feeling sick and wanting her husband to care for her, taking both of them away from their social duties as active/useful employees of respectable companies.

Wilma, a spinster/bachelorette who liked going to nightclubs to see male strip shows, said that as an older woman, even if she’d never been married, she knew a thing or two about the way women will try to manipulate and control men.

She felt I was too easily giving in to my wife’s subtle control of the marriage.

That was in the late 1980s, early in my marriage.

Fast-forward nearly 25 years later and here I sit, remembering what one of the ladies with whom I danced briefly as our dance instructor had us rotate partners during the dance lesson said to me last night.

The beautiful brunette, wearing a dark-coloured dress that complemented her figure, looked me in the eye after we had struggled through a new dance move and said, before I started to say I must have messed up, “I can’t blame what just happened on you because a lady never blames a man for mistakes on the dance floor.  I will say it was either my fault or neither of our faults.”

Talk about boosting my ego!

In return, I offered that we try the move again.

It was in stark contrast to the previous attempt, much smoother.

It was in stark contrast to what I have often heard my wife say, “You didn’t do this” or “You didn’t do that,” expecting me to be more like the dance instructor in his suave, nearly-perfect dance leadership.

However, my wife is getting better at not putting the struggles to complete a dance move solely at my feet, thanks in part to our instructors pointing out that my wife has equal responsibility to dance her steps correctly so that I don’t have to overcompensate when I sense she is not following my lead.

I have much to learn in my pedestrian life apart from the thoughts of Martian exploration, technology experimentation and searching the world for someone with whom I can carry on a meaningful conversation.

Or maybe, as my parents told me when I was a kid, I just think too much.

Jumping into my pants with both boots on

We all make choices.

Tonight, my wife and I had the choice of :

  1. taking West Coast Swing dance lessons and dance late at Club Rush or
  2. we could go to the Ledges Country Club Manor House and listen to a presentation by our physicians at Gleneagles Family Medicine Associates (GFMA).

We chose the latter.

Not necessarily the road less traveled (cue poem here, of course)…

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.
1. The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;         5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,         10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.         15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.         20

…but interesting nonetheless/all the same.

I don’t have my notes from the meeting with me at this moment but I have in my thoughts the major details.

Basically, our physicians have decided to start a concierge-style medical practice, accepting 150 patients at $1800 per annum for each patient who will receive preferred physician attention, detailed annual executive-level physical exam, the physician’s personal cell phone number, an email-style chat system, and a medical profile on a USB stick, to name but a few of the perks of a monetarily-tiered medical services program.

We heard the managing partner, Wayne Lipton, give a smooth talk about the program to a room full of a few hundred GFMA patients.  Jim Gottlieb, senior VP was there as well as an assistant, Robin, who gets to input all the information gathered in cards handed out tonight and tomorrow morning to gauge further interest in case all 150 slots per physician are not immediately filled up after this week’s set of three presentations to about 1000 of the 6000+ GFMA active patients.

GFMA has three physicians, one of whom will retire in a few months.

The concierge program will rearrange the remaining two physicians’ schedules such that they spend 25% of their day with concierge patients, spending 30 minutes to an hour (or plus for physical exams) per patient, leaving the remaining 75% of their time for the regular, non-concierge, “traditional” patient visits (i.e., a few minutes per patient, 6+ per hour).

The practice will probably add another nurse practitioner.

I don’t know much about Concierge Choice Physicians (CCP), but a quick Internet search reveals not only who they say they are but also what the news media has reported about them.

My first reaction was to tell myself, “Hey, you know what.  I’ve seen the nurse practitioners more often than I’ve seen my new MD (who took over when my family practice MD retired a year or so ago).  I’m in pretty good shape.  What will I gain with concierge service?”

My wife agreed but pointed out the fact we are “haves,” not “have-nots.”  Isn’t it in our best interest to buy our way into a system where we get more personal attention now before the family practice medical services industry moves completely to a concierge-only system to see an MD or an outpatient clinic system for non-MD attention?

The question I have to ask myself: what does an MD know that a nurse practitioner doesn’t?  What does the MD do for me that a nurse practitioner, surgeon’s/physician’s assistant, nurse or medical technician can’t?

We humans have the gift of multicompartmentalising ourselves.  We can separate theory from fact.

I can believe wholeheartedly in the value of community, marriage, church and a system of government/capitalism while at the same time arguing wholeheartedly against its existence in order to strengthen its core values, forcing members of the community to more strongly defend their positions to both theirs and my advantage.

It’s like they say:  What’s the point of having a heaven if there’s not a hell as a wickedly evil alternative to keep the stray sheep in line?

Oh, to be sure, the cynic in me questions the added value of the management/services team that CCP claims to be, much the way I question the value of any one charity and its administrative cost/fees.

But by golly, I love a good story and even more so when it’s tied to free market forces at work.

Let’s hold a modern-day tent revival and scream those ugly words to the unitiated and insecure.  “Medicare!  Medicaid!  Obamacare!”  We can’t scare people directly so we use data and statistics about the decline of the family practice physician and the fact that the general population is aging, falling apart at the seams, especially if we don’t get personal attention of a person approved by the American Medical Association to hang up a shingle and start voodoo dances to perform miraculous healings, handing out prescriptions for magic beans blessed and issued by Big Pharma.

Seriously, though, when I want the attention of an MD at 2 in the morning, I’m going to have him/her on my speed dial list.  If it costs $1800/year to keep that number handy, then so be it.

Five bucks a day!  It’s the latte effect.

Now, will five dollars a day make me healthier?

Not necessarily, but it will make me think twice about my health.  After all, if I take my health more seriously by spending $150 per month for better/longer medical attention, don’t I want to take care of myself, pay more attention to me?

So, despite my misgivings, my cynicism, my longterm view of what is or is not important to me, when I go to GFMA tomorrow to get some places on my ears removed, my wife and I are going to drop about four large ones to move us up in the medical queue.

I’m sure it won’t be long before we go to a cash-only family physician system, leaving the Medicare/Medicaid/Obamacare patients with the outpatient clinics served admirably and honourably by non-MD staff.

In that case, statistics will bear out who’s healthier and who wants to be.

At the end of my life, only I can say for sure whether paying extra for personalised MD care added to my quality of life.

Affordable medical care — giving me more time and money to spend on the hobbies and [a]vocations that make me happy.

Here’s hoping that our physicians can get back to their pre-EMR number of traditional patients per hour.

There’s time for a dance lesson tomorrow!

[NOTE: this blog entry is written with the subcultural tone set in tonight’s presentation]