Archive for friends

Solidarity

A Labour Day Test from Clarissa: “If you have 3-4 days off for Labor Day, it’s probably not a holiday aimed at you.”

Cyclops

I subscribe to very few newsletters (preferring my news feeds and news alerts), but I am really enjoying one recently recommended by my friend Clarissa. It is called Prufrock: Books, Arts & Ideas. Prepared by Micah Mattix, the daily newsletter has an erudite, literary-philosophical bent, with a paleoconservative disposition. It’s well-written. From this morning:

I’ve finished the final lectures on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. The final two treat friendship and action. Friendship according to Aristotle is the “most necessary” virtue. I won’t go into Aristotle’s types of friendship (those founded on utility, pleasure, and virtue), but I appreciated his view that friendship is one of the foundations of civilization. It is what binds a city together. We see this idea in classical and modern literature, too. Friendship and hospitality (which is welcoming a stranger as a friend) are quintessentially human attributes in The Odyssey, for example, which are not shared by the gods or the sub-human cyclops. These two ideas—that friendship is the basis of civilization and a touchstone of humanity—are also found in Francis Bacon’s short essay “Of Friendship,” which is obviously drawn from classical sources. Whatever “delights in solitude,” Bacon writes, “is either a wild beast or a god. For it is most true, that a natural and secret hatred, and aversation towards society, in any man, hath somewhat of the savage beast.” It’s not that solitude is bad or unnecessary. It is that to live only in solitude is to live a sub-human life. Without friends, Bacon continues, the “world is but a wilderness.”

It seems to me that we’ve lost this high view of friendship as an aspect of human identity, which we now regularly confuse with personality or view as a discrete construction of the autonomous will rather than as something that is composed of universal attributes. So, it is no surprise that our lives increasingly look like those of the cyclops. We live in caves, in fenced-in back yards, and “consume” each other—on television, in movies, on Facebook and Twitter. And because our lives (I’m speaking generally here about American culture) are ordered around maximizing physical pleasure, not virtue, they must end in suicide when the body’s capacity for physical pleasure wanes. The opioid crisis starts with this low view of human nature and won’t end until a grander view is recaptured, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

I have worked hard at friendship all of my life, and have found that honest attentiveness can overcome awkwardness and the various stupidities, if not one’s friends’ arresting memories of these. My friends and I usually can see one another.

Loved

This post moved me.  “Loved.”

Guiding the sick through the system …

kv

My friend Karen Vogel just published a piece called “The Accidental Advocate.” It starts:

Like many patient advocates, personal experience transformed me into a new career. I was prepared and motivated. I had a professional network and confidence that I was smart enough to figure it out as I went along. What I didn’t include in my business plan was ironic shock.

One of my champions was my neighbor Laura, who lived next to me for 20 years. For a while she listened to me whining about my work in health insurance management, my aging parents, the screwed up healthcare system . . . and challenged me to stop complaining and take action. And so I did. The main impetus was my mother’s death. It forced me to become a long distance caregiver for my father, which turned out to be a wonderful adventure for both of us. I quit my soul-sucking corporate job, went back to school and retrained. I started my own company 3 years ago and worried about finding clients. “No problem,” said Laura, “my aunt Jane is sick and needs someone to figure out her insurance.” Client #1.

Four months into my new occupation, on a Friday evening in April 2016, I got a call that Laura was in an emergency room. She had been struggling with memory issues and a coworker dragged her to the hospital under protest. I rushed over yelling “I’m an advocate! Let me document everything!”

Laura had glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) Grade 4, the worst kind of brain cancer, usually terminal within 18 months. On Sunday morning a surgical team was in place to make sure she got a lemon-sized mass removed from her head. Laura became client #7. …

Read the entire thing.

Here is an interview Karen did last year with Vice News on HBO.

“patient advocate”

karen

On my way out the door after my first appointment with my new doctor up in Vancouver – this would be in 1996 – a clerk at the front desk noticed that I seemed puzzled. “Mr. Basil, in Canada, doctors offices don’t have cashiers.” I heaved a brief sob, I was so relieved and surprised. 

When I lived in the United States, my insurance was sporadic and when I had it often shitty. That fact touched every one of my days with real and awful anxiety.

Vice.com says my dear friend Karen Vogel is at the vanguard of a new profession in the United States – the “patient advocate”:

Karen Vogel, an insurance and administrative advocate, spent 29 years working in the insurance industry and became frustrated at the missed opportunities to really make a difference in patients’ lives.

“It was hard to come to terms with what was I doing and was I creating any good in the world, and who was I really serving?” Vogel told VICE News. “Because our healthcare system is so fragmented it’s so broken and there are so many opportunities to get into it to make it work for people. And I just wasn’t satisfied with the path that I was on.”

Over the past two and a half years of working as a patient advocate, Vogel has helped her 45 clients wade into the specifics of the insurance claim and reimbursement process.

About a quarter of what she finds are simple errors; the rest of her work is advocating on behalf of patients for out-of-network coverage or special considerations. Her biggest save was $109,000 by appealing out of state care to count toward in-state benefits.

I am very proud of my friend, who’s on the side of the angels.

July 4

On this day five years ago I wrote:

After American Thanksgiving, July 4th – American Independence Day – was always my favourite holiday when I lived in the States. There were no obligations beyond conviviality and bringing bean dip and the like to pot luck BBQs in your friends’ back yards or in the park nearby. Friends always seemed to bring someone new to these happy events, and sometimes frisbees, too.

I’m blessed to be back in the States for the summer, among cherished friends, and for today’s celebrations of what is good in the nation in which I was raised. “To be with those I like is enough,” said Whitman.

This year I’m gazing over the border from my home in British Columbia, and I’m imagining the lives of “those I like” in the States. I can feel their alarm.

The opposite of talking

A friend called me a good listener the other day. I was happy to get this compliment; I work hard at listening. Not being clueless is a full-time activity for me.

I was reminded of the Fran Lebowitz quote: “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”