9 Tips for Navigating the Healthcare System

Twenty years working with and around healthcare professionals, as well as being an occasional patient, has taught me a few things about our current healthcare system (in the U.S., anyway). Along the way I have a gathered a handful of suggestions that I give to friends and family (when asked), and that I use myself when interacting with what I feel to be the primary elements of healthcare.

DNA

Courtesy of Pixabay.

*This article is NOT intended to give medical advice. The intent of this article is to offer ideas about how to navigate the healthcare system. Readers use the ideas in this article at their own risk. (I really do think they are good tips, though!)

Your Doctor

  1. Be candid. Your doctor needs to have all of the information in order to access your situation accurately. Missing bits of information can delay diagnosis as well as treatment. No need to be embarrassed, physicians are trained to deal with what might seem to be the most personal physical issues. If you’re worried about privacy, take heart. In the United States, HIPAA laws help keep your information safe from others, and also available to you.
  2. Write stuff down. This is important before and after the appointment. Writing down details prior to your appointment about frequency, duration, and type of symptoms can help give your clinician a clearer picture of the situation, and you can avoid the chance of blanking on important details while in the office (spoken from experience). If your doctor isn’t already in the habit of giving patients a printout after the appointment, detailing the visit, writing your insights down right away will help you remember important points and instructions that you may have been given.
  3. On occasion, don’t be afraid of getting a second opinion. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes medicine is more an art than a science. This means that not every treatment will work in the same fashion for every patient. Getting a fresh perspective from another trained professional and trying a new modality to solve a problem can occasionally be the difference between successful treatment and failure.
pharmacy

Courtesy of Pixabay.

Your Pharmacist

  1. Pay attention. Most pharmacists have trained at least six to eight years, and many hold doctorate degrees in pharmacy. You may only spend five minutes at the counter when picking up your prescription, however, a lot of critical information can be conveyed in those five minutes (side effects/possible interactions/what to do if you miss a dose). Paying close attention and asking questions at the counter ensures that you get the most out of your prescriptions.
  2. Read the label and call back if you need to. It might sound odd, nevertheless, sometimes instructions change depending on various factors, not limited to: what size/strength the pharmacy has in stock, if the pharmacist noted an issue with the prescription and called your doctor to verify the order. At any rate, always read the label and confirm the instructions with the pharmacist before you leave. If you have questions, or feel as though you might have missed some information from your visit to your pharmacy, feel free to call back. In my experience, the best pharmacists are more than happy to share their knowledge!
  3. Plan ahead. To make your visit to the pharmacy quicker and easier, make sure you have your prescription insurance card (sometimes a separate card from your medical insurance card) with you, and that you know your drug allergies and the names of other medicines that you take (over-the-counter medications, as well). When ordering refills, note that many physician’s offices request 24 to 72 hours to reply to a refill request. Try to order at least three (business) days before you will run out of medication so that the physician has adequate time to call back the pharmacy for your request.

Your Insurance

  1. Avoid Surprises. When your physician recommends a new procedure or treatment, it may be helpful to call your insurance company ahead of time. This allows you to confirm whether or not the procedure/treatment is covered (and at what cost to you). If it’s not covered, it may be worth asking your doctor for an alternative modality.
  2. Understand your policy. Not nearly as simple as most of us would like, knowing things like what your deductible is, how much your copays are, and what kinds of services are covered can help you avoid unexpected bills, and also help you determine if your policy serves your needs.
  3. When traveling… When you are on your way out-of-town, a quick review of what your “in” and “out” of network hospitals are, might be a good idea. Nobody plans on getting ill over vacation, but (again, speaking from experience) it happens. Knowing what facilities your insurance will cover at your destination can help lower your stress levels (at least a little). If you are heading out of your home country, you may want to find out if you have overseas coverage.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy year! I hope at least a few of these tips are helpful to some of you. Stay cozy!

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Grateful

Annoyance

One night last week I got home from work to find my home much cooler than usual. I searched the house for open windows and, after finding none, proceeded to play with the thermostat. Minutes passed, the house maintained its chilly demeanor, and the fans that should bring in warm air from the furnace refused to clicked on.

cabin in snow

Courtesy of Pixabay

At first, I was angry. I thought perhaps the gas company had erroneously turned off our service, or maybe the household accountant had forgotten to pay the bill? It was a near-freezing evening and I had a small child in the house. I was irritable and slightly furious at the thought of my poor little one freezing through the night.

I managed to reign in my anger, and my interaction with the gas company phone representative was actually quite pleasant and productive. I wrapped up my son in layers of pajamas and a few blankets, and the gas company sent out someone the next day to solve our furnace issue. Our house is apparently well insulated as the temperature actually only got down to about 64 degrees F inside.

Elsewhere

Fast forward a week, and on my way to work I was listening to the BBC radio crew discuss what is happening in the Congo right now. I was awestruck and dumbfounded by what I heard. The displacement of more than 1.7 million people? The stories were heart wrenching and almost unbearable to listen to; kids starving and dying, families literally ripped apart.

I recall being a teenager and learning about the Rwandan genocide. I remember, then too, being gob smacked by the images and the accounts of tragedy. I felt so helpless about it, and I found myself, for a while, constantly wondering what could be done. The same is true decades later during the recent civil war in Syria.

Although I do attempt to educate myself about politics, I’m afraid I am no expert in foreign affairs and I do not claim to understand the circumstances by which any of these conflicts have taken place. There are much more intelligent people out there who can understand and explain that part so much better than myself.

What I do recognize, is the humanity.

When I stop for a moment and try to put myself in the shoes of someone who has just lost literally everything (granted, I understand that I can never really know how someone feels or thinks), I feel my soul ache. I begin to see the gaping yawn of hopelessness, and I still can’t imagine experiencing it real life, rather than from the safety of my pretend perspective.

africa

Courtesy of Pixabay

This is not a movie. This is not a story. This is happening in real life, to real people.

I tend to believe that life exists on a knife’s edge as it is. However, when confronted with the pictures and reports of what some of these people have experienced, I feel that knife getting thinner and thinner.

(What’s the best way to help? I’m not sure yet, but if I can, I will.)

Meanwhile, I get frustrated with my electric kettle because I need to get to work. I need coffee now, and 2 minutes just seems too long to wait.

My car is starting to show its age and recently the automatic door locks have stopped working, which means I now have to reach across the passenger’s seat in order to allow entry for a fellow traveler. Not that I carry passengers in my “work” car often, but it is annoying all the same…

…until I remind myself of what others are dealing with.

So, what am I grateful for?

So much.

I am grateful for the kind and decent human beings of the world who are working to help the people in places like the Congo, Rwanda, and Syria. They are heroes. I am hoping that they can forge a way for peaceful resolutions and avoid further catastrophe.

I am grateful for the place I was born. No country is perfect and I certainly would not contend that mine is, but I have had rights and opportunities opened to me here that I may not have had in other places. I live in a place that allowed me to get an education and give my son a more secure childhood than I had. Sometimes I contemplate chance itself and the fact that I could have been born anywhere, perhaps into great wealth, but most likely into even greater poverty.

It is complete happenstance that I ended up where I am, and it is a privilege to live my life for this reason alone.

beach heart

Courtesy of Pixabay

I am most grateful for the people I have had the honor and privilege of knowing.

My husband: He is an idealist. He is the one who reminds me what the best qualities of human beings are. And he makes me laugh. Considering my relative hermitage, outside of work, he is the one I could be around 24/7.

My son: The kind of care I have for my child is like no other I have felt before. I never thought I could move mountains; I’m still not sure can, but now I’m willing to try.

My mother: Though her life was cut short, her sensibilities continue to inform my daily decision-making. Her compassion inspires me to have love for people everywhere. She used to keep this Maya Angelou quote on her refrigerator (and she lived by it):

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My father: He is a brilliant man. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but he challenges me to see and appreciate different perspectives. He is sweet and benevolent, in his own way.

My grandparents: The glue of our family, the people who gently and consistently keep tabs on their children and grandchildren. They have raised more children than they asked for, with love, kindness, and grace.

My friends: I only have a few close ones, and they live very different lives from myself, but they are people whom I trust implicitly. I do my best to be worthy of such alliances.

You: I am still flabbergasted that anyone would be interested in what I have to say out here on the web. I am so grateful to all the folks who have read anything here on Cozy and Sage. I am thankful for all the connections that I have made here in the blogging community as well. Thank you for being part of this relatively new and exciting writing journey!

Wishing all peace and warmth; stay cozy!

*This post was inspired by, and written for, The Blessed Project by Susie Lindau. Thanks so much for hosting this wonderful project, Susie! 

5 Vital Self-Care Habits That I’m Not Doing (Yet)

There were times in my past when my life was very organized, health conscious, and perhaps even mindful. I’m not sure what exactly has changed all of that, but over the last decade my life has gotten so busy and I have had such a difficult time saying “no” to new projects that I have allowed my self-care to slide a bit.

Unfortunately, I see the effects of this decline in my work, relationships, self-image, et cetera. It’s not of ultimate concern yet, but in an effort to shore myself up and avoid catastrophe, I have tried to isolate the 5 self-care habits I would benefit from most right now.

Should one incorporate them all at once? Of course not; maybe one per week if you are ambitious.

1. Respect your sleep schedule.

My husband and I doggedly observe our son’s sleep schedule. Dinner, warm milk, pajamas, teeth brushing, story, and bedtime. This routine occurs like clockwork on most evenings, and he is almost always in bed by eight o’clock. I, on the other hand, often lured by one digital gadget or another, can carry on rather effortlessly until eleven or even midnight—under the guise of I am “working.”

Of course, “work” during these very late hours usually consists of probing Twitter and Pinterest for the keys to the universe, such as: how to make a soup less salty or what blush brush I should purchase next. Needless to say, if I were to treat my sleep schedule as we do our son’s, I would be a more efficient worker and be . . . well, less exhausted.

New Objective: Treat bedtime with the same importance as work, meal, or any other integral time of the day. Creating a scheduled sleep schedule is ideal, but if occupational and family duties don’t allow for a consistent schedule, at least create a bedtime cutoff (i.e. “I will go to bed no later than…”).

2. Get ready everyday.

Have I ever spent an entire day in pajamas? You bet! Of course, I  regret this at times . . . Like when the neighborhood kids accidentally flop their football over my fence or when various mail/delivery drivers arrive bearing packages (and they need to be signed for, indubitably).

Additionally, I am also slowly beginning to realize how not “getting ready” can sap my working energy as well. The days I don’t follow some sort of morning schedule tend to be “lost” days or days I’m not productive or checking many things off of my (various) lists.

Conversely, on those occasions that I do make an effort to put myself together and face the day at a reasonable hour, I am usually more efficient than I expect. I’m making a concerted effort to get ready every morning now, because “you never know what life will throw at you” (and the UPS driver probably doesn’t want to see your pajamas).

New Objective: Simply put, get ready everyday. Create a morning routine that is quick, easy, and satisfies all the components of morning preparation important to you. Try your new morning routine for a week, regardless of whether or not you have work or family obligations. See if it works for you. Notice if it makes you more productive or more “present.” Change your routine if you need to in order to better fit your life and schedule.

3. Drink enough water.

I know this is a subject discussed at length. I do understand the human body is made mostly of water, and we require it to maintain various bodily functions and overall health . . .

It’s just that trying to keep up on my water intake while simultaneously speaking nonstop to clients and colleagues makes it really difficult to remember. (I wonder if anyone would notice a Camelback at the office?)

New Objective: If thirst doesn’t drive you to drink (water), try to create some type of reminder in order to maintain hydration. Consider setting timers on your phone and make an effort to take a few sips at each interval.

drop of water

Elixir of life?

4. Exercise, obviously.

This is another glaringly noticeable shortfall of my current daily routine. I used to be so competent at keeping up an exercise routine that I never even questioned its existence as a part of my day. A few years later, I seem unable to commit to any exercise program, even the seven minute ones.

I know exercise makes me feel better, more alert, and puts me in a far better mood. So what holds me back? Sometimes I wonder if it’s just inertia, and if simply starting a program and planning to do it a week at a time would eventually turn it back into a ritual.

New Objective: Try super short workouts in the beginning. Attempt to be consistent with just one day a week and try to move up your frequency gradually.

5. Take a break.

I’m sure this sounds very odd, given how lazy I have portrayed myself to be so far. I would argue, though, that a self-image of laziness drives me to be working at something most of the time. For instance, I might be in my “lazy clothes,” but I’ll bet I’m contemplating my next project for work, or how I’m going to finish executing my own small business plan.

Of course, this constant need to be busy (even if it’s just internal) is quite exhausting. Days off don’t really feel like days off and meals with family tend to be dominated by conversation about business.

New Objective: Schedule time for breaks. Remind yourself that you are human and that humans were not built to toil continuously. Make the time for family, friends, and self-care.

morning coffee

With so much vying for my time and attention these days, forcing myself to step back and perform self-care can feel a little like taking myself out of the action (perhaps I have some “fear of missing out”). It can be hard to remember taking care of myself will allow me to perform better in future endeavors and keep sane.

What helps you feel refreshed and ready to take on your days?

Thanks for the read; stay cozy!

5 Tips for Managing a Busy Life

pocket watch

Finding time for a side hustle while maintaining a full-time career can be a huge challenge. Throw in an active family and a few extracurricular activities and life can become a crazy run from morning until hitting the pillow at night. Self-care and free time can quickly become extinct and it can suddenly feel as though every moment of the day is scheduled and accounted for.

This type of lifestyle can feel super organized in the beginning, but because it doesn’t allow any time cushion, even small hiccups can suddenly cause panic. (Not to mention how easily one can become frazzled by the constant movement and the lack of self-care or reflection.) Here are some ideas for how not to overschedule.

  1. When you are doing a new task (i.e. something you’ve never done before), estimate your time…then triple it. Starting a new project will always take extra time, but when you are learning a new skill along the way, such as mastering WordPress or photo editing, even small items can take loads of time to comprehend. Allow yourself enough time so that you can actually learn and fully understand the task at hand; this will save you time in future endeavors of the same type.
  2. When you are doing a task you’ve done before, estimate the time needed, then add some more (especially for creative tasks). Sometimes you just want to get whatever it is done, scheduling appointments, tagging posts, or organizing business files. Other times though, especially in regards to any type of artistic aspirations, you may find yourself wanting to give more to a project. While letting yourself get so lost in your creativity that you expend hours you don’t really have would not be desirable, giving yourself an extra hour or so can lead to a more exceptional product.
  3. Build downtime into your daily schedule. Burning the candle at both metaphorical ends while trying to maintain your sanity are usually incongruous concepts. This may seem obvious, but I think many of us are programmed to pick up our phones and “try to get something done” during any pause in the day. Give yourself a break and some real downtime everyday. Schedule 30 minutes of reading, a long bath, a coffee with a friend, anything that gets you completely away from any type of work. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and able to enjoy your blogging/YouTube/affiliate marketing/etcetera project much more, and you’ll likely be extra productive as well.
  4. Give yourself a cushion. Not for your couch, but for your mind. It’s an unfortunate fact that sometimes things will go wrong. Deadlines will be missed for all kinds of reasons, business related, family related, and the like. It’s important to not attempt to schedule every hour of your hourly planner in case something does happen; make sure there are pockets of time (albeit small) between activities that are just a bit longer than travel time. This will give you moments to stop on the way for ibuprofen, get a snack, or call your child’s pediatrician when you need to, without causing your daily schedule to unravel. Being efficient is great, and so is acknowledging the more unfortunate realities of life.
  5. Have morning and evening routines. It’s been stated over and over how important routine can be in regards to both success and overall health. Having a daily routine for morning and evening self-care, tidying, and/or business related tasks can save so much time. Possessing the ability to perform a necessary chore automatically, rather than having to plan or prepare for it, can also help reserve your mental energies for decision-making during your work day.wristwatch

It’s true that adding downtime and time cushions into one’s schedule may result in a  decrease in the amount of time one is able to spend on their side project within a day(although, hopefully, initiating routines will save some minutes or hours). However, most side hustles take awhile to become successful businesses…sometimes months, but in most cases years. This means that you could be working at both your regular career and your side hustle for a long stint before you actually see any return on your time investment. Allowing yourself to get frazzled early on and give up will not ultimately serve your goal. Perhaps it’s slower, but maintaining your health and sanity during your start-up years means that you can keep plugging away at it for the long haul, avoid burnout, and therefore be able to reap the benefits later.

What are your time-saving tips?

Stay cozy!

Notes on Beauty and Age (or A Very Minor Midlife Crisis)

grey beard

I think it was perhaps that midlife crisis issue that I swore I wouldn’t have, that made me do it…

Sometime before my 40th birthday, I tried coloring my hair. I suddenly felt as though I needed to hang on to my fleeting youth; this was a new and alarming sensation to me. I had never before concerned myself with age much. When asked by complete strangers I had no problem divulging the digits, as it never really seemed to have much bearing on my happiness, career, or anything else that was important to me. Age was simply that, just a number.

Age still has very little bearing on what projects I choose to take on or what new adventures I seek to have. I feel younger than my age, I suppose. Not young, mind you, I guess I just don’t feel how society tells me I should feel at this age. Not just physically, but, though I’m a little ashamed to admit it, mentally. I think that may be why those little grey hairs suddenly blossoming into faint grey streaks began to alarm me a bit.

Not to say that I don’t find grey hair becoming. In fact, I distinctly remember myself and a few girlfriends gushing over the elegant beauty of our high school counselor’s long grey mane. It was thick, and shiny, and grey as storm clouds, and we all prayed that it would be the kind of hair that we would inherit as we matured beyond middle age.

Nonetheless, now I was currently in middle age, and baffled by this blend of brown and silver that had evolved at my crown over the previous few years. So, I colored it. I went to a professional as I did not trust my clumsy hands and asked her to color my hair, something as close to my natural color as possible. She mixed scads of liquids and gels together and made a dark, henna-like paste that was then slathered over my coiffure.

It stung, and it smelled. Although my colorist was a professional and there was no one I know who could have done a better job, or attempted to make it more pleasant, the whole process was time-consuming and unpalatable. By the time I exited the salon, my scalp burned and I had a vague sense of regret.

Everyone I knew “loved” the new color. I heard about how beautiful it was from all my friends and family. I fully admit that it was pretty. It was shiny and soft and uniform in color, the frosted streaks masked seamlessly by a masterful mixing of colors.

It was just that, now when I glimpsed myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize me anymore. Perhaps an exaggeration, but it’s true that after seeing (but not) the slow progression of my hair color over several years, having it all erased came as a bit of a shock.

I have a handful of friends who color their hair regularly in order to maintain their look. My theory is that maybe they started years before I did, and therefore never experienced the drastic change that I did. I love their hair on them, and I can’t really picture them with grey hair…

For some strange reason, though, after I had colored my own hair, I felt like a fraud. Not in an “I’m going fool everyone else” kind of way, more like a “what have I done to myself” kind of way. It seemed as though the change I made was accepted so easily by every one around me, but never by myself.

Since then, I have let the color grow out and am dealing with ends than are a different color than my scalp. I cannot say that I will never color my hair again, as I can be slightly impulsive when it comes to things involving beauty. However, I am also learning to accept my limitations when it comes to my own vanity (cost, time, and comfort).

This is obviously not an argument for or against coloring one’s hair (or doing any other beauty procedure-people should do as they like). It is an observation at how such a small, seemingly insignificant change bothered me so much, and how surprising that, in and of itself, was. I am still quite envious of those with a single color in their hair, be it brown, blond, red, black, or grey, artificial or not. Even so, I am attempting to be patient and hoping that eventually my hair will settle into the beautiful thundercloud grey that my high school counselor had.

If patience fails me, I still have my colorist’s number…

 

What are your thoughts on the details of midlife?

Warmth to all, and stay cozy!

A Schedule Change…

lattes

I find this tragically comical to write, as last month I was commenting to a fellow blogger about how I tend to schedule my posts ahead of time. Later last month, my son started school, I contracted pneumonia, and work became a bit more insane than usual. (In case I haven’t stated it, I work in healthcare, and this time of year usually keeps me pretty busy.) Unfortunately, after all of that, my scheduled blog posts have run out, and the pace of life hasn’t allowed me to catch up.

I could just put out very small posts on my regular schedule, though I fear for their quality and the value of their content. I have such respect for my readership (however small) and I wish to, at the very least, maintain the quality of Cozy and Sage. I am so grateful for everyone that has read a blog post or followed my blog! I am still just as passionate about blogging as when I started, and my ambitions for Cozy and Sage have not waned. Although my posting frequency will be lessened, I have hope that perhaps the quality of my blog posts will improve.

I will continue to post at least once a week through the holiday season. I hope to increase my blogging frequency when life settles down a bit and I can create more time to devote to this blogging project that has become…well…let’s say it’s verging on an obsession.

Again, I can’t thank enough all the people who read what I write. I am so grateful and honored that you would be interested!

Wishing everyone health and happiness during this busy time of year.

Stay cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 3: Money

dollar

“It’s not how much money you make, it’s how you spend it.”

My father has said this so many times that I associate the phrase entirely with him…even if it’s been said by countless other folks.

Perhaps because I heard it so many times, or just because I was young, I never really contemplated what it meant. Fast forward a couple of decades and the implication hits home as I compare my incoming and outgoing expense reports. I suppose it is somewhat natural for most of us to either live at, or slightly above, our means (a budget will generally swell to fill the revenue it’s granted). Yet, it can be so disheartening to see most, if not all, of your hard-earned cash disappear at the end of the month without a trace.

I suspect that’s why people across the United States, young and old, are attempting to live leaner, more functional and fiscally conscientious lives, as discussed in the initial post in this series. In the new American dream, currency is becoming a means to more time, rather than more possessions.

The Money We Make

The manner in which Americans, and millennials particularly, are earning currency seems to be changing. While many continue to procure employment by large companies, more and more folks are cobbling together incomes from various smaller jobs (often referred to as “gigs”), either because there is a lack of employment in their geographical or professional field, or because it fits their schedule or lifestyle better. As company dynamics and economics evolve, sometimes corporate needs call for a more flexible worker who can come and go as needed, or work remotely online.

One interesting aspect in this changing game of cash flow juggling is the phenomenon of “scaling income.” This means that income is generated from a product (usually electronic) or marketing campaign that can be “scaled,” i.e. increased in size or reach so as to escalate revenues (as opposed to the time-for-money exchange that most of us are used to).

Increasing numbers of savvy people appear to be trying their hand at strategies such as affiliate marketing or designing products, while many others are earning profits from training programs, courses, and e-books designed to train people to become successful marketers. Although it’s generally accepted that only a small percentage of affiliate marketing startups actually see success, thousands of people attempt it every year. (I, myself, know very little about affiliate marketing, but  I like to follow Malan Darras’s You Tube channel just for his unique perspective on the subject.)

Of course, maintaining one’s income with “gig’s” or online arrangements typically means that an individual is essentially a small business owner. Therefore, more people are having to become intimately involved with issues such as taxation, insurance, and retirement savings (items typically handled by an employer in days of yore). It will be interesting to observe how this influx of small businesses changes the markets, as well as government policy.

The Money We Spend

Our shopping habits are evolving in this new economy as well. This adjustment is definitely influenced most by millennial spending mannerisms, but it is a pattern that can be seen in all generations. As described in this Forbes article, discretionary spending is slowing down just a bit in the United States, most notably by millennials (though, this may change as millennials buy houses and start families, also mentioned in the article). Folks all over the country seem to be experiencing a need or want to downsize homes and possessions, either for aesthetic or economic reasons, and no doubt influenced by the latest minimalism and decluttering trends. This also means that people are making a concerted attempt to bring no more (or very little) clutter into the home.

Other characteristics of millennial spending are guiding the market, as well as influencing other generations. These inclinations include using social media as a shopping guide and using mobile devices as the primary way to locate, research, and purchase products, as outlined in this Entrepreneur article. Retailers are having to adapt to this new, “hands off” approach to marketing and distributing products by sustaining brand social media accounts and creating beautiful and functional websites. Millennials, particularly, are also very concerned about cost, as the Entrepreneur article eludes to as well. With increased competition in regards to price, both online and physical retailers are having to cut overhead and operate on leaner budgets in order to compete, while also maintaining online operations.

calculator

In summary, the new way to make money is on one’s own schedule, and, with any luck, by one’s own rules.  Work can be done anywhere and performed at almost anytime. Our spending is becoming less dictated by what we desire, and more so by what we require. 

*To read more about my take one the new American dream, you may see part 2 here, and the initial article here.

Thanks for stopping by, and stay cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 2: Status Symbol

pocket watch, sands of time

Many of us are products of the 80’s and 90’s and can recall some of the items that were popular back then. Certain shoes, cars, and electronic gadgets were considered a sign of wealth and social status (or good credit) at that time. Owning things brought prestige and envy, especially amongst peers and colleagues. The phrase “he who dies with the most toys, wins” was coined.

Fast forward twenty-five years, through 3 recessions, a housing bubble, the healthcare crisis, and crippling student debt. In each case, we have learned something about handling money (or how not to handle it). We have also been awakened to the fact that the economy in most countries, but perhaps particularly the United States, is a living, breathing thing. It is a beast that can both make and ruin people, financially and otherwise, as it waxes and wanes.

For most of us though, through all of the perambulations of the market, there has been the constant of employment. A vocation to pull us out of our student loan obligations and afford accommodations whether they be our own, or rented from someone else. Work, a perceived cornerstone of our nation, and something that we are all taught to pursue passionately. After all, where would all our “things” come from without some form of paid occupation?

flea market stuff

Not to mention that those “things” come with costs aside from their purchase price. It can be alarming to consider that everything you own, you are still paying for (hence, the idea of being “owned” by the objects one has acquired). Ultimately, any “thing” that you possess requires some type of residence, whether that be your abode, a storage unit, or your parents’ house (although those costs may be more intrinsic), and this will usually be something that you have to pay for. These items have physical costs too, such as some form of maintenance, or, at the very least, the time and effort it would require to rid yourself of them.

So, we toil for someone else in order to acquire possessions, we continue to work in order to pay for the said items’ housing and maintenance, and oftentimes must physically use or care for an item to keep it operational. While we usually look at this equation in terms of monetary cost, it could be argued that the largest and most valuable expenditure here is not of dollars, but of time.

wristwatch

Although it’s true that we all get at least some time, it is lamentable that we don’t always get to spend it the way in which we desire. Those fortunate enough to have surplus wealth, however, get the side benefit of utilizing their hours as they choose, rather than for another’s cause.

Accordingly, having “free” time has become a sign of wealth and means. This could be true either because the owner actually has a healthy income, or simply because they are adept at budgeting, and choose time over objects. In any case, the freedom that an individual has due to their possession of spare moments is becoming associated with greater social status, rather than ineptness, as had been the stigma in decades past.

clock tower

Now that seemingly everyone is operating on someone else’s schedule, those that are allowed to function according to their own agenda are seen as the new elite, having escaped the so-called “rat race.” The value of currency is becoming more associated with its ability to grant chronological freedom than the accumulation of commodities. Time, and the freedom to dictate it, are becoming the new signs of prestige, in a nation that has brandished its 40 hour work week as an ideal for so long.

*This article is the second of the New American Dream series.

Stay cozy!

The Perfect Day

It would begin with a long, luxurious bath, followed by a full hour of applying lotions and potions, and a mini manicure. I would look something like Ashley Judd after all this and my outfit would be a quintessential blend of expensive and luxurious, a study of sophistication in dress. I would then be whisked away by my husband to a posh restaurant downtown for a fancy brunch with friends. Parking and traffic would not be problems, and the morning would be a blur of cerebral conversation intermixed with lots of laughing. Later that day, I would fix an early dinner of superb culinary quality, and my family would extol the virtues of such a meal. There would be no tantrums, no exhaustion, no worries about the next day, or regrets about the previous, and we would all get to bed on time.

sunset

Then I wake up.

My work days are chaotic just by the nature of my business, this I have come to accept, but I can get really frustrated by not being able to “control” my days off. There is no such thing as the perfect day, it does not (cannot?) exist. At least it cannot be allowed to subsist as long as I rigidly hang on to my expectations. I find sometimes that clinging to a preconceived notion of how my day “should” progress can cause me more angst than not.

These are the concepts that can help keep me on an even keel and discover the joy in my day, especially when my spoiled, OCD brain is fixated on particular outcomes.

Plan for Alternative Outcomes

Try to plan ahead for a few of the most plausible alternative outcomes. Bring snacks for your small child in case of traffic. Organize an easy dinner option for if and when you get home late. Come up with a different brunch option just in case there’s a closure or a line.

You can’t plan for everything, but there are probably a couple of likely hiccups possible in any arrangement; try to stay prepared for the most conceivable deviations.

Find the Good

Try to suspend expectation if you can. This allows you to experience the moments more fully and appreciate the good that does happen. It’s always prudent to make a plan, but not allowing for variation from a predetermined goal can rob you of the meaningful, brilliant bits that happen whether you are focused on them or not.

If you can’t concentrate on the positive in the moment, it may be helpful to create a gratitude journal and attempt to recapture the pleasurable activities of the day after the fact.

Accept Reality

Bad things do happen, by any one’s standards; sometimes there is no silver lining and no way to justify an outcome. Some of us have a tendency to “go back” and try to sniff out the ways that we “could have” altered an event or instance. This, I have found, is a dangerous game. For one, allowing yourself to feel guilt over something you were not accountable for is soul killing. This practice also implies that you have more power, and therefore more responsibility, than you actually do.

When bad things happen, grieve the moment (depending on the severity), and try to move on. Most loathsome incidences of the day-to-day variety don’t need to be dwelled upon, as doing so doesn’t change the past, and only hijacks your future contentment.

breakfast toast

What, no croissant? Still delish!

Maybe the day didn’t go exactly as planned, perhaps milk was spilled, or the delivery was delayed, etcetera. Try not to let the small issues of the day decrease your joy. Attempt to concentrate on what is going right, and let the problems go. Guilt and cynicism, while common in our current culture, don’t accomplish anything, and they can sap your energy and undermine your goals.

How do you stay happy and mentally flexible? Wishing you all an as-close-to-perfect-as-possible day!

Stay cozy!

One Lovely Blog Award

My first blog award! Very special thanks to Wreaditor for the nomination!

one loevely blog award

One Lovely Blog Award

Rules:
Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog.
Post about the award.
Share 7 facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 people.
Let your nominees know you’ve nominated them.

7 Facts About Me:

  1. I have yet to meet someone with a sweet tooth stronger, or more brash, than mine.
  2. Although I started this blog so as to become a new vocation for myself (quite hopefully, years and years from now, of course), I have actually found the business of writing and communicating with other writers to be quite therapeutic, in and of itself.
  3. In real life, I am a dogged pragmatist. With a hedonist bent, occasionally…
  4. I love makeup (I see it as an art form), though I don’t always wear it.
  5. I have beheld the Dalai Lama in person. His presence is as warm and comforting as it is purported to be.
  6. Although I realize it’s trendy right now, I am absolutely fascinated by hygge. I feel as though I have been practicing a few of its precepts for most of my life, yet there is so much more to be learned and adapted to my existence!
  7. I am blessed with such a wonderful little family. They are my reason for being. Period.

There are multiple blogs that I look up to and wish to emulate with my own, as well as those which I find absolutely captivating in their own right! Here are my nominees:

Honestly, it was so hard to narrow it to 15. There are so many blogs that I love and follow. Nominees, please do not feel obligated, this is just an homage to your efforts.

Thanks again, Wreaditor!

Stay cozy!