Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Monday, June 10, 2019

Never Trust a Teflon Suit and Other Truths about Corporate Healthcare

Hi, my name is Alene and I’m in recovery from the U.S. corporate healthcare system, after another relapse.

The latest relapse was around my husband being forced out of his job where he's been working for twelve years. He did find another job, in a different line of work but still in healthcare, on his own terms, and our lives will be much improved for it, despite nearly a fifty percent cut in pay. But this see-through scheme is becoming all too common for people nearing retirement age.

With barely seven years to go until retirement, and 30 years of experience in the same line of work, and 18 with this particular company, he got the typical corporate healthcare tactics foisted upon him. This shit is so transparent it's a joke, I can't even believe they think these tricks will work anymore.

Side note: For those of you who aren't in healthcare, one new vocabulary word for you: HCAHPS. It means Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) and it is THE HOLY GRAIL, the Pope's ring, the GOD of corporate healthcare executives. It is their raison d'etre. It is their data orgasm. It isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing. Also known as "patient satisfaction" scores. It's as if the currency used in the industry has been changed from dollars to HCAHPS. (All about the Benjamins, baby.)

You know, the one where they drop little hints about outsourcing if the HCAHPS (patient satisfaction) scores don't come up. Then the personal snide remarks, "You've changed". Then the one where they suddenly blindside you and kick you below the belt with all the things you're doing wrong, "Do you even know how to do your job?"

And they pretend like they are going to "help" you, via the "performance improvement plan". Which is a way to start gathering data to be used against you at the time it's convenient for them to fire you. But instead of following through, they leave you hanging- no specific timelines, measurable improvement points, or what exactly it is that you're doing wrong. When you try to pin them down, they squirm out of it with vague mumbles "four to six months".

Four to six months of what? Until they fire you? Or until they outsource the entire department? Or until they can find someone to take your place who isn't at the top of the pay scale?

They say they are going to "help" you, but when those meetings are supposed to occur, suddenly they become unimportant, forgotten, or pushed aside.

If you've been working in the same job and place for 12 years and no one has ever had a problem with your interviewing style and your hiring methods and your patient satisfaction scores and then all of a sudden they are- there is an ulterior motive. Especially when your past evaluations haven't reflected any of these things.

And then the barely 40-something snot-nosed, suck-up, little suited asshole who "worked" his way up the teflon corporate ladder-like an endoscope works its way up your colon- he can't even look at you in the eye, as he makes the decision to axe you.

And does it using the convenient excuse, the tool, of HCAPHS scores not high enough, that means smaller bonuses for the snot-nose and since he only makes more money in a year than you've made over the entire decade-plus duration of your time there, that would be really fucking traumatic for him. One less vacation home at a ski resort. The horror.

Infection control? Patient safety? People skills? Attention to detail in these things? No, not good enough for the snot-nose. You gotta have that arbitrary HCAHPS ranking. Why? Because HCAHPS data is GOD, so says the god of corporate healthcare.

Are the snot-noses really that important that they can throw away other people, on a whim, deciding someone has no value- basically saying they contribute no value to the organization and discard them like a piece of trash?

The feelings people experience when subjected to this sort of behavior- the dehumanization, the lack of kindness, appreciation, gratitude, empathy, or fairness, show that the corporation is a machine- as lightweight, yet profit-heavy, as possible.

Why can't executives be honest and straightforward, without eroding trust and someone’s self esteem. How about, “We appreciate that you’ve worked hard for us and sacrificed time with your family for ___ years. We have made some decisions that are going to result in us eliminating your position. Can we help you find another job?”

It's not THAT hard.

Secret Initiation Rites of Corporate Healthcare Executives (not including the handshake)

I am convinced that in the secret initiation rites of corporate healthcare executives, there is a test, and here's a sample question from that test:

Q. Just say, for example, it takes a certain amount of time for a chemical to do its job to thoroughly achieve its disinfection capacity, and the organization has chosen that chemical for the purpose of disinfection because there is evidence for its effectiveness, and is within the budget. The evidence came from research studies allowing the chemical to sit on a surface for a given amount of time. But that amount of time is longer than you are willing to allow staff to take to thoroughly clean a hospital room between patients, and since you, the snot-nosed executive, insist that they go faster and give them fewer staff to work with, then you have to choose between several options: (make sure you pick the right one!)

A. pay for more staff,
B. find a different, faster acting chemical if there is one within your budget,
C. shut the fuck up and let them do their job,
D. face the consequences of a higher infection rate, or
E. pressure the managers of all departments to make their nursing and support staff work harder and faster with fewer people and resources, expect the entire organization to turnover hospital beds faster than the amount of time it takes to thoroughly disinfect, and if anything goes wrong, blame junior management.

The correct answer is________. (fill in the blank)

There are some ugly truths in the corporate world and not only are they getting worse, they are being encouraged by a culture that ignores individual contributions in favor of monetary and tangible wealth-building units of currency. There’s a laser focus on whatever measure translates to more dollars and profit for the organization’s top tier. It is enforced by people hired as pitbulls, masters of deception, and compliant, robotic drones. No one is safe.

The worst thing about it, is that ultimately, it’s the healthcare “consumer”, the patient, who suffers, as well as all members of their community.

The people in a community who provide the labor for a healthcare organization, regardless of the level of skill or status in the healthcare system, are human beings first. They have lives, families, emotions, needs, and are connected to a community. As human beings, they also have basic rights, that seem to be getting encroached upon incrementally, as our democracy has declined into oligarchy and our wealth distribution has become more extremely unequal.

This has been a really hard post to write because my emotions have been so tangled up and so many feelings around past experiences of my own have been triggered by this.

I’ve worked in academia where there was a boys’ club. I’ve worked in the business world where there was sexual harassment. And I’ve worked in healthcare where there’s an insidious current favoring those who don’t question, simply comply, and sacrifice their entire lives until they are physically and/or mentally broken, then discarded.

I think they’re all reprehensible, but healthcare is completely out of control and it’s the industry that directly impacts whether people live or die.

None of this is a new discovery, these are things we’ve known and understood, and quite consciously, for a long time. We’ve been living in the United States our whole lives. It’s just that over time, things in the working world seem to have gotten a lot more ruthless and anti-human. There’s a complete lack of acknowledgement and appreciation of the value of individual human beings and what they bring to the workplace.

Two Things On My Mind

One is people’s basic needs, and another is human rights. I’m going to talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not because these are perfect models or documents, but because most people are at least vaguely familiar with them, or have at least heard of them.

When I talk about human rights I am quite aware that no one is being coerced to work in these increasingly abusive situations, but there are very few alternatives if you want to work in nursing or the healthcare discipline in which you were educated and trained, and the mass exodus of nurses and ongoing nursing shortages are a direct consequence of this abusive behavior on the part of administrators. People do have a choice to leave, at great personal financial peril, but they can leave freely if they want to. But think about what people need in the U.S. to maintain a certain standard of living.

If you think about a visual model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs- there are three levels, all of which start from the bottom and build into a pyramid. Basic needs include the physiological safety and shelter needs, Psychological needs include belongingness & love and esteem, and at the top are self-fulfillment needs, also called self-actualization.

Look at the universal declaration of human rights and you will see throughout the document that there are multiple instances of violations here in the United States with regard to everyday life and especially in these healthcare workplaces. Look carefully at Articles 24, 25, 26, 29, 30. Then think about how corporations treat their employees. I think in the U.S. workplace we are coming dangerously close to practices, that in a setting without choice to freely leave, even in the face of financial ruin, would be called human rights violations.

Some of the language in the human rights declaration includes phrases such as:

  • act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood,
  • no person shall be subject to...degrading treatment,
  • freedom of political or other opinion,
  • all are equal before the law and entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
  • Everyone has the right to economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

It seems that in this country, we’re toeing the line on human rights violations in many ways. Making a profit is not a basic human right, and really, if it means you have taken away from someone else’s ability to fulfill their basic human needs, that's not good. Not cool. No bueno.

I propose ending the declaration of human rights with something to the effect of: The right to profit should not supercede anyone’s basic needs, abuse their psychological well-being, or violate their human rights as stated above.

And we need to have a new code of ethics around business operations in this country. Because most corporations are ethically challenged to the point of being out of control.

Think about this, for example: in a healthcare organization, employees pay the same for their benefits whether they earn $12 an hour or $500 an hour, as CEOs do. That is not right, either. Since we don’t have universal healthcare and employers provide private insurance for many working people, they should also consider that there is a gap in affordability and apply a proportional deduction from paychecks. Then healthcare would be a real benefit, helping the lower paid employees avoid a poor tax on their health insurance.

A Few Solutions

So let’s look specifically at a few of the places we could make improvements. This is just a tiny list- my wish list is massive. Corporations and big business should:

1. Be good citizens-take responsibility for the communities they impact. Pay full taxes, nonprofit status is not allowed to be exploited. No more disguising profits as expenditures.  Stop outsourcing, cutting jobs without taking care of people they displace or push out, no matter how much they have given to the organization. Be mindful that these people have families who have also been impacted by the employees' sacrifices and will be impacted by the displaced workers' status.

2. Eliminate golden parachutes and "special" status for executives. If you leave for another job, you get your last paycheck from the old job, and then collect your first paycheck from the next job. No more padding in between. All benefits should be equally distributed and should not disproportionately cost lower paid workers more. No VIP treatment if the CEO or family members get sick. They get treated the same as any other patient. No picking their nurses, no special accommodations, no altered staffing ratios for that purpose.

3. Be transparent about the organization's plans and practices. No secret meetings or huddles, have representation of all levels of workers in decision making and on boards. No surprises for the masses.

4. Be banned from using money to influence the political arena- no more lobbying to protect self-interest and industry interest.  Stop union busting tactics, stop using deterrents to organized labor.

Some takeaways:

1. Old ideas of retirement and planning for it are no longer applicable. You need to assume you won’t live up to your full earning potential in the last 10-15 years before retirement, and most likely will be making less money at that time.

2. Don’t put up with abuse from your superiors at work. Fuck them. They have plenty of excuses and they’ll use every last one. Be brave, get out. If you live a "middle class" lifestyle, you can figure out a way to get by on less.

3. Their game is to pull in as much money as possible, cut costs and minimize risk to the organization, no matter what, even if it’s detrimental to patient and worker safety.

4. Healthcare is neither. In this profit-obsessed industry we have lost our humanity, and our ability to care. And that’s not healthy.

5. Your job is a job. It is a tool to bring you financial assistance in addition to contributing to society and furthering your own self- actualization/esteem. It is not something that should hurt your health or where you should sacrifice beyond a reasonable workday. And you should be compensated fairly for it. You should do the work of one person, staying reasonably busy for 8 or so hours a day. Not 12 hours. Not 7 days a week. Not for a period of time that does not allow you to do the basic things to take care of yourself and your health- eating, sleeping, seeing your family and caring for your own and their needs, rest time including mental rest. You should not feel threatened that you will lose the roof over your head or not be able to feed yourself. You shouldn’t be coerced into working more hours or taking on two or three people’s jobs.

6. I am unapologetic to those who somehow think the corrupt and distorted market can fix itself without regulation. Or to those who think that if you’re poor it’s your own fault and all the other lame excuses about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  I look at the rest of the world and the countries where they care for their people and don’t let them slip through the cracks, have socioeconomic safety nets, and provide universal healthcare. They have a better standard of living overall because they don’t have the wealth disparity that we do and people are cared for from birth until death and there isn’t the degree of extreme poverty as we have here.

7. No corporation should have the power to impact communities and individuals’ lives in this way. We need to get money out of politics. And we need a rebirth, reinforcement, and then actual enforcement, of antitrust laws.

8. We need to stop our addiction to wealth, fame, money, and power. We need to reform what’s become a national culture of shallow, lazy, self-absorbed, materially-obsessed, apathetic people. If something doesn't affect you directly, that's not a pass. You need to see yourself as a citizen of the community, your country, and the planet. What affects one person affects us all. When one person suffers injustice it impacts everyone. That bubble you want to keep living in, pretending like it's someone else's problem, is really the walls of your rectum. Get your head out of your ass. And once you pull it out, get off it and do something for the good of humankind.

9. Then, and only then, will our lives will be so much better and so much less stressful. And this country and world will be worth living in.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Nurses' Week: Moving Forward and Podcast with Lisbeth Overton

Ultrarunners understand RFMs- relentless forward motion. We often use our determination and mental strength to carry us forward through discomfort and difficult situations in our personal lives and work lives in addition to our athletic pursuits.

I had a conversation with my friend Lisbeth Overton yesterday in a podcast for Nurses' Week (listen here). We talked about the difference between moving forward one foot in front of the other in a way that breaks you down, versus moving forward intentionally with progress. I want to say more about that because right now, between healthcare and the crazy shit happening in our country, it can be easy to go to a place of despair.

I've found myself over the past month deteriorating into that place of despair and realized I need to get out and move more. I have been so bad about allowing myself to not go outdoors to run in the bad weather this winter. I need the fresh air and the brain break it gives me. Being a bit of a political news junkie and overthinker has not been working in my favor lately.

Lisbeth and I talked about how so many nurses are struggling and frustrated with the opportunities and working conditions their profession affords. They want to use their knowledge, talents, and skills to truly make a difference in patients’ lives, but often there is no place for that in the task-oriented, rushed and understaffed workplaces of healthcare facilities and hospitals.

Many nurses wish they could break out of the grind, find a better job that allows them to practice patient care they way they’d like to. They can feel stuck, which leads to despair, low morale, burnout, and health problems, none of which are good for taking care of sick people.

There are two ways you can move forward: one is to grind through, trudging with dread because you feel like you have no choice. The other way to move forward is by taking small steps, still moving forward, not any faster, but with intention and action, no matter how small those actions are, but doing something to move yourself toward better days.

The lesson, I think, that ultrarunners have learned, that sedentary people need, is that active leisure is such an important and undervalued part of our lives. It seems that so many people have forgotten how to play. Too busy chasing material objects, or buried in our electronic gadgets and devices, we end up sitting down as time flies past us.

The time focused on a screen takes away from the time we’re aware of our environment, using all our senses, learning, and appreciating what is in our world at arm’s length. Unaware of our surroundings, we could be moving and breathing, paying attention, burning calories, reducing our fatigue, circulating our blood, and boosting our mood and energy.

People who have not pushed themselves toward physical goals, who are not athletes, often miss out on the rich lessons that athletes learn, of pushing beyond prior achievements, and refusing to accept outwardly-imposed limits. We're always looking to go further, in distance, time, space, or experience.

Working with cancer patients, acutely ill people, and those with chronic disease, I've observed what being an athlete can do for a person in terms of mental and physical strength. Athletes who do get sick are at a big advantage, not just in terms of likelihood of recovery and regaining function and quality of life after an illness, but in coping with the physical and mental demands of an illness, even when there is a discouraging prognosis.

I used to say to my co-workers in the hospital, that it was easier to run a fifty miler than work a twelve hour shift. None of them believed me, but for me it was true. If you're going to be on your feet for 12 hours, you might as well be outside without crazy demands on you every second. Plus you can eat, drink, and pee whenever you want!

When it comes down to it, nursing is about public health, helping people (the public) get healthier, function more effectively, and live better lives. All of the major issues facing our country right now are connected to public health. Here is an incomplete list:

1. Income inequality- the greed, sociopathy and lack of empathy that leads us to a place where a few people have the overwhelming majority of wealth so that large numbers of people are unable to meet their own basic needs or access adequate services that allow them a decent opportunity at a decent standard of living and level of health. People who have to work two or more jobs to pay their bills are unable to take care of their own health.

2. The lack of mental health services, proper care and treatment of addiction, unaffordability of health insurance and prescription drugs, and near-monopolies that destroy competition and drive up prices, make decent healthcare out of reach even for those with health insurance.

3. Our stressful lifestyle- too many people are working too hard for too little compensation for things that are too expensive and often unnecessary. Poor community planning leads to overreliance on vehicles and commutes that are detrimental to our environment, people's health, and financial well-being. We don't have enough mental health services available and people don't demand them because of stigma associated with mental illness.

4. Obesity and metabolic disease are an epidemic, for many of the reasons cited above- community planning, mental health, low incomes, working several jobs, lack of education, feeling powerless, cycles of abuse...

5. The opioid crisis, a result of greed, poverty, lack of mental health services, lack of education, unemployment, family and social cycles of stress and despair.

6. The gun violence epidemic- children and teachers shouldn't be traumatized by the idea of being shot at school, and parents shouldn't be traumatized by dropping their kids off at school to get an education. We had another shooting this week in Colorado in Highlands Ranch. Our U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, big NRA money recipient, has blood on his hands. AGAIN. And again, nothing is being done legislatively to stop this.

I think if we could solve one of these problems I think income inequality and the factors that lead to it are the key. I think nurses need to make it our business to push for social change. And I don't think we've done nearly enough on that front, at least not in a publically vocal and visible way. Nurses care for other people regardless of who they are, their background, what they look like, or other characteristics. No matter how much the current sociopathic executive in chief wants to erode this.

Nurses could teach the public a lot about how to truly care for others and to see the humanity in everyone. I think it is something we've lost in our country- the idea of caring for others and considering others' needs before asserting one's privilege and "rights". If we cared for and about each other, we would be caring for ourselves, too.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Ode to the Zombies in the C-Suite

CEO pay is a problem. The administrative costs of running healthcare have increased because we’ve added so many layers of complexity and bureaucracy that have nothing to do with healthcare or outcomes.

The hospital and insurance industries are fighting against Medicare for all or any largely single payer system. They have stolen the money from the people who need healthcare. They use this loot to harness the power of lobbyists to write and promote legislation to keep their advantages and privileges away from the masses who might benefit from being able to afford medicine to stay alive.

How do they make so damn much money? They cut costs like crazy, and big costs like staffing are the first on the chopping block. CEOs are not considered healthcare staff. They don't contribute to health, or care. In fact, they operate against it. You don't need a heart, and certainly don't need empathy, to run a healthcare facility. All you need are pure, driven, focused, sociopathic tendencies. Just be a Zombie, and you'd make a perfect CEO.

On Nurses’ Week, let’s also remember the other people who do work in healthcare, including non-clinical workers. Understaffing is a widespread and dangerous practice, whether you work in direct patient care, take out the trash, provide security, or transport patients around the hospital. None of us can do our jobs without the others.

You cannot run a hospital without keeping it clean. You cannot run a hospital without people to move patients from one room to another or from their room to a procedure, changing lightbulbs, sterilizing equipment for surgeries, emptying sharps containers, and all the other things that are taken for granted but are crucial to safe and complete operation of a hospital. You can’t short staff the people who maintain the medical equipment or stock the supply shelves. You can’t short staff security, because there are actual and potentially violent individuals who enter the hospital.

You can’t even have short staffing for human resources, if you need to keep hiring people all the time due to your high turnover. Of course, you can try underpaying everyone, and in a low unemployment market, you can blame your inability to attract new employees on flaws of the existing staff. It certainly couldn't be the fault of anyone higher up.

By relying on as few staff as possible, you end up burning out the existing employees, who have to run at a faster pace, are more likely to miss details or make mistakes, or have to cut corners in order to get all of the work done in the time they are allotted. They can’t go on vacation because there’s no one to take their place. Doesn’t matter how much vacation time they’ve accrued, they can’t use it. And the shorter staffed they become, the more stressed the workers become, from the bottom up through consecutive layers of management.

Until you reach the C-suite- where they are somehow insulated- they can avoid and escape the chaotic and stressful everyday environment. And even if their worst stressors materialize- low patient satisfaction scores (gasp!)- they can apply pressure downward and no harm will come to them in their suits- they rack up bonuses and extra perks, and even if they are fired, they have a golden parachute coming, to keep them wealthy as they navigate the revolving door of the close-knit executive world.

Yet this is the model on which the executives expect the hospital to run. The mega-corporate near-monopolies have limited competition, driven prices up, and contributed to our plummeting outcomes and skyrocketing costs compared to every other industrialized country.

Blinded by data, the Suited Scourge wanders through the back hallways away from patient rooms, haunting management with blood-drenched HCAHPS printouts. Wide eyes bulging and bleeding from their sockets, insisting on hearing the magic “yes” to every demand. Keep downstaffing and don't stop until there is just one employee covering each floor, responsible for every patient, dust bunny, and soiled washcloth 24/7. Get those products patients in and out fast, to maximize revenue. Crank up the speed on the assembly line, the robots staff will have no choice but to keep up. If the products patients live long enough to beat up the robots staff, sue 'em for property damage to reduce the replacement cost.

Then, and only then, will the Zombies be satisfied, as long as the patient satisfaction surveys come back in the 90th percentile, and dripping with blood.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Strength and Vulnerability, A Two-Edged Sword

This is a tribute to our ultra friend Matt Watts, who died last Friday, and to my extended ultra family.

I’m writing this with love and concern, to clarify and remind, and to encourage everyone to keep on going. He left behind his partner in crime and wife Anne. She has always been at the events with him, a strong ultrarunner herself, and a great support not only to Matt, but a great friend and kind soul to everyone who knows her. I wish there was something, anything- that could comfort her right now.

Ultrarunning is that two-edged sword- at the same time as it makes us physically strong and mentally resilient, it can put us at risk. Especially as we get older.

Matt was a veteran ultrarunner. His sense of humor, spontaneously funny remarks, Cheshire Cat grin and “Matt in the Hat”, as I came to think of him, were a welcome fixture at so many ultras.

Matt used to sneak up behind me when he’d lap me at Across the Years and bark. LOUD. Scaring the crap out of me, even though I should have been expecting it.

Matt was trying to get 100 100 milers. He came very close- his 95th was his last.

Trying to explain what happened in plain English

People are asking me what happened. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know exactly, I can only tell what I think I understood and try to piece a puzzle together. On Matt’s last ultra, apparently he fell and broke some ribs. I don’t even know if that’s what caused his quick demise.

I'm not sure if it was the broken ribs, a resulting pneumonia, or some other cause of the infection that eventually took him down, but Matt didn’t realize how sick he was. I don’t know if he had some underlying immune system issue, or another illness that had not been diagnosed, or if it was just his pain tolerance or willingness to endure discomfort past the point where he needed to seek help.

I do know that at age 62 our bodies don’t bounce back the way they used to at age 25 or 40. But that might not have been a major factor here. Maybe it was a complete fluke. Maybe he was just tired and worn down from consecutive ultras, or maybe his immune system was a bit weak from several years of running a lot of ultras. Maybe Matt had a blood cancer or another illness that weakened his immune system and he didn’t know it. Probably not, but we will never know. It doesn’t matter now.

I’ve seen it wrongly described as “he contracted sepsis”. No. I’ll try to explain the medical jargon in plain English. Sepsis is an advanced stage of infection, where the body’s ability to fight it off is less than the strength of the infectious process. It’s not something you can “catch”- it’s a consequence of an infectious process.

He had some kind of infection that progressed until it overwhelmed his immune system, resulting in sepsis. Sepsis has the ability to eat you alive from the inside, because it damages the most vulnerable organs- kidneys, gut, brain, heart, lungs. In Matt’s case it ate his heart valve. Sounds like they had no choice but to replace it. That’s a risky thing even in an otherwise healthy person, and with other complications it’s one of those life-or-death decisions.

Sepsis does funny things to your blood- it can cause little solid pieces of debris floating in the blood- septic emboli- that can travel to small blood vessels and clog them up- leading to death of the organ tissue. Or it can cause a state called DIC- disseminated intravascular coagulation- where your blood clots too much at the same time as it doesn’t clot enough, causing uncontrollable bleeding, or forming clots that travel to plug tiny vessels in organs just like the septic emboli do.

They replaced his heart valve to try to save his life- but the risk was that he could have a stroke or other organ damage. And that is exactly what happened in the days following, first a small stroke, then another huge one, from which he wasn’t coming back.

Again, I don't know the exact details but I am making an educated guess, to try to clarify for people who want to understand because it's part of their grieving process.


Anne will need our support and while we need to respect her grief, we also need to remind her that we are here, and that we always will be here, and then follow through on that.

What I am saying here is not at all criticism of anything Matt did or didn’t do, he was living life fully and doing what he loved. I think that is the better route for all of us. But with advancing age and declining immune function, you are simply at a higher risk of something going wrong. It’s part of life.

I would have done the same- pursuing my goal, as he did. And I will continue to chase my own goals as I go forward.

What I wish to share with the running community is that our bodies are fragile, and more so as we age- we do need to remember that extreme endurance events can take their toll on us if we don’t allow ourselves to recover. We might feel okay, we might think we’re recovered, but unless we take a look inside our bodies at the cellular level (which is not really practical), and look at the components of our blood (which is pretty easy to do with a simple blood test called a CBC with differential), we can’t really know.

Just remember that we can’t take our health or our lives for granted. A good reason to keep on pursuing our goals, but also listening to our bodies. Sometimes our bodies don’t whisper loudly enough, or sometimes we forget how to listen.

Facing Death

Death truly is a part of life and all of us will die eventually. The best thing we can do is to live each day fully, work toward our dreams, have as much fun as possible, be a force for good and give as much love to others we possibly can.

Facing death is part of a healthy life- psychologically and emotionally, it doesn’t make it easier, but it does make you stronger and more resilient, and perhaps healthier overall. People who have a healthy attitude toward death tend to move through grief with fewer long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Facing death also means not forgetting those who were left behind, not avoiding them, letting them know you care and enjoying the memories when the time is right.

Avoiding death and emotion doesn’t mean you’re strong, in fact, just the opposite. Denying a universal reality does us no good. It’s coming for all of us. We do the best we can to live our best days, and then we need to step right up to it, look it in the eyes, run through the finish line without fear, realizing that it only means we will have arrived at the start of the next ultra.

And here's one thing you can do right now. Make your wishes known. Complete your advance directives- medical power of attorney, living will, and other documents- now. It's a gift to your loved ones to make things easier for them if they have to make decisions for you when you can't, in a time when they will surely be extremely distressed.

Moving forward

Matt’s sudden departure has made me re-think my own priorities and preparations, perhaps tweaking some things in my own advance directives that I could make more specific. And thinking about the real meaning of where I am in my life and what I’m doing. And what I hope is still ahead of me that I cannot take for granted. But mostly, to make sure I enrich my life to the fullest by strengthening my connections to the people I value most.

I'll miss Matt.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tools for Nurses vs. Nurses as Tools

It's that time of year, we're approaching Nurses' Week, drawing the ire of millions of nurses across the U.S. May 6-12, to be exact. It's the week where we are reminded of the hand we're dealt, the King of Diamonds versus the Queen of Spades- the analogy is the rich mostly male executives wielding their power, watching over a mostly female workforce being forced into digging their own graves.

In 2015 on the TV show The View, the hosts mocked the Miss America contestant who was a nurse, asking why she had a "doctor's stethoscope". Apparently unaware that nurses are the ones who do physical assessments and actually use those tools more often than doctors, it came across as crass and uninformed to the large number of nurses who saw and heard the remarks. The good thing that came out of it was a flood of activism which resulted in formation of the group now known as Nurses Take DC, to fight for safe staffing and safe patient limits in the workplace.

Playing Cards

Skip ahead four years, and another uninformed comment from a prominent person got the whole nursing world riled up again. Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh made a comment about nurses playing cards most of the day, again inflaming nurses' collective frustration with the ignorance and disrespect with which nurses are treated, especially in the workplace by those decision makers around staffing. Chronic understaffing, overwork, burnout, moral injury, and unsafe conditions for adequate patient care plague the healthcare industry in its sociopathic pursuit of profit.

This time, in response to Senator Walsh's comment, and her weak, non-apology that is now becoming a whine-fest-she's complaining about all the mean comments she's received, nurses have mobilized again.

To Senator Walsh, sorry ma'am, but if you go into politics, you're a public figure and you're going to get public scrutiny. Next time watch what you say and if you screw up, offer a real heartfelt apology and start making amends.

I don't condone people being rude or disgusting. They should be harsh AND tactful at the same time- it IS possible.

First nurses depleted the supply of playing cards in Amazon's warehouse by sending her thousands of decks of cards in the mail. Then there was a petition circulating that gathered some half a million signatures.

Hung by our Stethoscopes

So my question is, if over half a million nurses can unite over a stupid comment by a politician, why can't they unite over the stupid actions of healthcare leadership, including organizations such as the archaic and hypocritical American Nurses Association, which claims to represent us but instead acts in the interest of hospital and healthcare executives in the healthcare corporatocracy? Here's the example in Senator Walsh's own state... supporting the pathetic "staffing committee" proposal to undermine and subvert the aims of safe nurse staffing.

Sure, there's plenty of money for the industry executives to lobby for their own interests but somehow they can't afford to staff safely for patient care? Where are the half million nurses when it comes to these types of decisions? Half a million nurses signed the petition to get Senator Walsh to follow a nurse for an entire 12 hour shift. Half a million nurses should be signing this petition for National Legislation.

Nurses are afraid to speak up in their communities and workplaces because they have no power and can easily be harassed or threatened, and they don't want to lose their jobs, licenses, and livelihoods. The tactics used by management are ugly. In the vast stretches of our anti-union, anti-labor plutocratic country, we have diminished workers' control over their working conditions and job security. And we are seeing more deterioration in the workplace, in the form of violent attacks against nurses.

Furthermore, with the consolidation of hospitals and healthcare facilities under bigger corporate umbrellas, near monopolies have been established, making it harder for nurses to find alternative companies to work for if they don't want to or can't relocate.

Stop the Bleeding

We need a giant set of hemostats to stop the hemorrhaging of nurses and their working conditions before healthcare implodes and completely collapses, resulting in more medical errors, more deaths, and more violence.

Executives use their excuses where they can to manipulate the workforce- using data like HCAHPS (patient satisfaction) scores as a cudgel to terrorize employees around their job security. They never count the human cost of abusive manipulation of employees and their families. These big corporate entities feel no responsibility toward the communities where they exist and employ people who live there, trying to make a living, and being worked harder with fewer staff and deteriorating compensation. It's a sociopathic system and there is no empathy- it takes a true sociopath to buy into the corporate data-pushing bullshit.

Here's are some small examples, and I mean small because they don't directly impact patients- wage theft by employers when nurses they have more work to do than they can finish in a 12 hour shift- by forcing them to clock out after 12 hours and work without pay. Also, when nurses don't get a break they are not allowed to charge for working straight through- they lose pay. And if they try to recoup those wages, nurses are subject to disciplinary action.

Healthcare is a human service, it cannot be run like a factory. Our lack of a human-oriented healthcare system is costing us more and delivering worse outcomes than other industrialized countries and it's not getting any better. Pissed off patients and families who come to expect "customer service" as if they were in a hotel or restaurant will act out aggressively when they are tired of waiting for overworked, rushed healthcare professionals without adequate support staff.

We can let it fall apart and pay an even higher price in the form of more morbidity, mortality, and trauma, or we can use that same fervor we unleashed against a politician's dumbass comment to unify ourselves, watch each others' backs, and take back our control and power over the situation. There are more of us than there are of them. But we need to be unified. We need to join together and speak in one loud strong voice.

I challenge every nurse to take a first step by joining a grassroots organization in taking back healthcare for everyone- especially for the good of the patients we are supposed to be caring for. (bonus: you don't have to pay dues) Don't be fooled by organizations that claim to represent you then backhand you when you're not looking. Sign the National Nurse Patient Ratios Petition.

I promise you, signing a petition like this and joining a group like Nurses Take DC will give you more satisfaction than your job has given you in years! Take back your power over your future in healthcare. Lives depend on it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Another Existential Crisis: The 24 Hour That Wasn't

I am so glad it's a new week. I had big plans for last week and everything sort of fell apart in one way or another. Nothing earthshattering, just a series of progressive and cumulative disappointments, but I ended the week on an upswing.
Bomb Cyclone

This time of year I usually plan a few days out of town to go to my favorite hot springs resort in the mountains to take a relaxing few days away from the grind and my inboxes, to get a massage or other spa treatments, and sit by the pool soaking up rays, listen to the creek and the breeze, and watch the clouds roll by the still-snowcapped mountaintops.
This year I asked my friend Crisann to join me and we drove up Monday morning, taking in the amazing scenery of Colorado's mountain banana belt. We went for a hike and sat by the pool in the spring-like weather, then later we went into town and had dinner at a fairly new Asian restaurant.
I had the best Panang curry of my entire life there- and we discovered a new favorite beer on tap- Soulcraft Coconut Milk Stout.

There was a storm expected to move in around mid-week. We planned to spend Wednesday in town and check out some of the shops, Crisann is a quilter so we were going to those shops and then wine tasting at my favorite winery down the road, and explore downtown. We figured we'd spend most of the day Tuesday at the pool, I scheduled a hot stone massage and scalp scrub in the afternoon, and the rest of the day I read a friend's new book that I've been meaning to finish. Tuesday was nice but it was getting cooler and windier by the hour.

We checked the weather forecast and as usual, since the news corporations can't sell "snowstorms" as well as they can sell "bomb cyclones" we had a bomb cyclone forecast, and it looked like it was going to hit the Front Range (where we live) around mid-day on Wednesday. Since we have to go over three mountain passes to get back home, we decided to leave first thing Wednesday morning and get home ahead of the storm. Turned out to be a good plan, because we arrived in Fort Collins around 10 am Wednesday, and it was already raining. By 1 pm it was dumping snow.

Circling the Drain

I was also scheduled to run the Palmer Lake 24 Hour run over the weekend, and the weather was looking sort of horrendous. I asked my friend Sasquatch, who is a real-life meteorologist, about his plans and he gave me the weather forecast. Last year it was nasty enough weather at Palmer Lake, but this year was shaping up to be way worse. I asked another friend, Sandee, who lives there, and she said expect 6 inches of snow on the course and that we'd need traction because of the mud if it thawed. I am not a fan of slipping and sliding for 24 hours and I sure as hell didn't want to wear my Kahtoolas that long. A nagging groin injury is not something I'd enjoy dealing with.

By Friday morning I decided I'm not going, and nearly all my friends who were planning to go had also backed out. I cancelled my hotel room, and decided I could put a few miles in over the weekend at home in better conditions. Saturday wasn't looking too great but Sunday was supposed to be a lot nicer. I'd planned to do 80 miles at Palmer Lake so I thought maybe, if all went well, I could pack 80 miles into two days at home.

Friday afternoon I found out that we didn't get the grant we applied for to expand my cancer survivor program at the nonprofit I'm working with, so that pretty much put a nail in the coffin of the entire week.

Flushing the Toilet

I decided that I would take it easy on Saturday and get maybe 20 miles in, and leave the rest of the miles for Sunday. I didn't get started until about 11 am on Saturday and went out to do my slow 20 on the Power Trail. It was cold and cloudy, which fit my mood perfectly. For the first 10 miles I had to work through my feelings about not getting the grant. It's not the end of the world, there are other grants to apply for, but it does slow my progress in developing the program and in the research I've been doing. This is my pet project, I've developed the program from scratch, it shows promise empirically, and despite the lack of interest from mainstream corporate healthcare, and now I have quantitative and qualitative data to back up its benefits. It's frustrating dealing with the slow pace of research and the academic world, as well as traditional healthcare, but I know it's making a difference in real people's lives, because they tell me it is.

But when I describe the program to dull-eyed executives their eyes light up with interest until they realize it's not a reimbursable service so they can't make money off of it. Anyway...who cares about that as long as I can keep doing what I'm doing. My purpose in life is not to enlighten their inflexible and shortsighted minds. I left the hospital because of that rigid and self-serving mindset, and I've had a lot of satisfaction doing my own thing. The thing that hurt the most was the message that you have nothing of value to offer us, we just want you to shut up and be our robot, stay in the lane we have designated for you. Sometimes it's enough to make you say, fuck it all, I'm taking my toys and going home. I'm used to this recurring theme in healthcare. But I'm not ready to retire yet. One of these days, I will be.

While I've mostly recovered from that, it can be very disappointing to have setbacks like this and I spent the first ten miles on the Power Trail Saturday morning purging my emotions, thankful that there weren't many other people on the bike path. By the second half of my day, I was over it. I met my friend Emma and she did six miles with me in the afternoon. I ended up with 20.2 miles for the day and felt good.

Dennis took me out for sushi, which further cheered me up.

The Sun Always Rises

I woke up way too early Sunday morning, around 3 am. I decided to make coffee and try to get out before dawn so I could have a shot at mega miles. Maybe 60 was still possible if I felt up to it, I thought. I knew it would take until late at night to finish, but I decided to see how I felt all day. Sasquatch was coming to my house at 9 so I figured I'd take a short break before meeting him there and we could do as many miles as he felt comfortable with, given that he's still recovering from his aortic valve replacement.
I started in the dark, going through the neighborhoods north of my house until I reached the north end of the Power Trail.. Light was starting to fill the horizon in the east, and when I got to Drake I turned east, facing into the sunrise. I stopped by the old barn and took some pictures, but saw something moving in the grass about 20 meters away. First I thought it was a cat. Then I saw the white stripe... I backed up as quietly as I could. That was close!
I continued down the hill and then up the hill on Ziegler as the sun was rising. That was enough to make the missed sleep worthwhile.

I headed back to the house, got some food and refilled my bottles, and waited for Sasquatch. I was feeling physically fine, but my motivation wasn't there. I felt a bit washed out. When Sasquatch arrived we did 6 miles by Warren Lake and then I had 20 when I got back to the house again. Sasquatch took off and I hung out for a while, thinking. I felt fine physically, my feet felt better than they did at the end of yesterday's 20, but I didn't have the drive. I decided to go out for another 10 and see how I felt. I ended up doing a little over 11 on the lower Power Trail and was feeling good, moving well, but I didn't have the desire- I just wanted to come home, drink a beer, and relax.

I finished up the day with 31.45 miles, a hair over 50K, and called it good. Before I went hoe I made a detour to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Coconut Milk Stout. I earned it.

I was in bed by 7 pm and was ready to go this morning, went to boxing class, and here I am. Ready to face another week. A better one. Gotta be.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

From Bomb Cyclones to White Ribbons

As I was headed west on my way back from my run, I saw this in the sky. Perfectly captures my thoughts today.

What does a white ribbon symbolize? It can mean peace, or nonviolence.

I'm not a fan of symbolism and especially not those multicolored ribbons that are used to signify different types of cancer. The simple explanation is, I find that symbols are too superficial and those who worship those symbols often forget what they really mean, which leads to a lot of hypocrisy, such as we have been seeing around our own flag in this country especially after September 2001 and again since the election of 2016.

I resent the use of the flag to claim that it only belongs to Christians or to white people or people of certain descendants, or those who fit into certain narrowly defined "acceptable" categories- deemed acceptable by some self-designated rulemaker of unspoken, unwritten rules to which the rest of us are not privy.

Likewise, those cancer ribbons piss me off because they symbolize "awareness", and too many people are superficially "aware" of cancer, when what they really do is wear a ribbon or slap one on their car. They know it exists, but they don't go any deeper than that to learn more. Appearance is it, they never examine what it really means to have cancer or actually support someone by doing something about it. Which is what I wrote a whole book about in 2018.

The other things I was thinking about were:

(1) the massacre in New Zealand, which, if you can forgive my snark, looks like Trump's attempt to balance the trade deficit by exporting violence, perhaps? But I truly am so disgusted by the violence and hate and bigotry and our so-called leader's response to it. Disgusting. I cannot wait until the day he is marched out of the White House in a jumpsuit to match his face.

(2) the invisibility of women, especially older ones, including in sport. But I'll do a whole separate post on that because I found an interesting blog from someone in the U.K. who also writes about this.

(3) violence in healthcare against nurses and physicians- which has become a serious and frequent problem- and how we need to change things, and

(4) yesterday I was going through my social media accounts and stumbled across a recent photo at the ACHE conference of three healthcare executives from my former place of employment which ties into all of the above points. I had to really restrain myself from posting a comment with a very snarky hashtag.

This week you probably heard the weather drama and disaster predictions about the "bomb cyclone" which was supposed to hit Colorado with a vengeance. It did, in some places, and I hear it was worse east of here, in the plains and midwest. But Fort Collins was spared- we only had about 24 hours of snowfall and maybe 8 inches total accumulation. The wind was what made it so nasty. But it wasn't as cold as it has been lately and just yesterday I saw these flowers popping out from the melting snow.

The temperatures have gotten warmer and over the past two days the sky has been blue again. It's brought me out of my crabby mood. And the appearance of the white ribbon in the sky, symbolic as it was, made me feel just a little better.

I'll be back with a post about my original idea, womens' visibility, along with the white ribbon symbol, soon. Bomb cyclone, be gone!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"The Outer I Go..."

This weekend was my annual urban adventure birthday run. This year I couldn't think of any good themes except that I was turning 55 and 55 miles was a perfect distance. I didn't want to do it all in one day, I prefer to spread it out so my friend Burke Painter in AZ gave me a great idea- he recently ran 72 miles in 72 hours on his birthday, so I borrowed the theme.

Fifty-five miles in fifty-five hours was not hard to do on its own but this time of year the weather can add a dimension of challenge, or misery. We've been having a really crappy time lately- it's been unusually cold, windy, snowy, and overcast for much of the past month or more. Usually by now we are alternating between bouts of winter weather and spring-like conditions, but we haven't seen much blue sky lately and it;s been getting to everyone I talk to.

Watching the weather this past week, I knew I'd have to be flexible and creative with my running plans. Originally I planned for doing something like 30-20-5. Then I decided it would be better for my upcoming 24 hour run if I just split it between two days and then took Sunday off, my actual birthday, and just drink margaritas.

I planned to start at 6 am and my friend Elise was going to meet me on the Power Trail. Instead of setting my alarm, I asked Dennis to wake me up at 5 since he's up for work at that hour. But he overslept by a half hour, so I texted Elise and planned to get out the door by 6:30 am, which I did. I planned to run out 15 miles or so, come back to the house and get Velcro and Gypsy and take them for a run at the end of my day.

I ran down the Power Trail, met Elise and her dog Maya, and we headed toward Loveland before she had to turn around and go to work. I continued on to Loveland, posting live videos every few hours as I thought of something to say. It wasn't too bad out- overcast, but not super cold. As the day went on the sky got darker and the wind picked up. I ran quite a bit but I was only trying to average four miles an hour, what I really need to do is work on my walking.

I took a short detour once I reached Eisenhower and went to a 7-11 at Eisenhower and Boise and bought some drinks and a banana and potato chips. I needed salt and calories, all I brought were bars and one PBJ. Then I went back to the bike path, and later, I was headed west along the Big Thompson River bike path in Loveland when I heard my GPS Map My Run app say I was at 18 miles. I had a Forrest Gump moment. I was totally out in space, didn't realize I had gone so far. So I turned around.

When I got back to Eisenhower I realized it was a good 10 mile stretch between there and any other stores or retail places where I could get food, so I stopped for lunch in a restaurant and got a grilled cheese sandwich on gluten-free bread. It was really good. After I scarfed that down, I headed back north along Boyd Lake and back to Fort Collins, the weather was looking a little sketchy but I had extra clothing in my pack.

I knew it would be a challenge to get home in time and beat the weather to take Gypsy and Velcro out since I was on track to be at 36 miles at home instead of 30. I knew they would be super pissed at me, too, for leaving them all day.

I kept recharging my phone with my portable charger and posting videos. I was also listening to music in Spanish, like Bad Bunny, and working on rolling my rs, which is my personal challenge right now. I've been brushing up on Spanish, which I haven't used much in years. I also found out that Bad Bunny and I share the same birthday. I'm 30 years older than him.

On one of my videos, my longtime running friend Lynn Newton posted a comment and told me he uses a proverb for his out and back runs- "The outer I go, the backer I have to come." I love that. I asked him if I could borrow it.

Along the way it became apparent that my GPS was not working right. Miles that I knew were full miles were being measured as 0.8, 0.6, and according to the app I was on track to be home around 31 miles, which didn't make sense since it said I was at 18 at the turnaround. I had done a few little extra sections on the way out, so I knew that would be slightly longer, but no more than a mile. I figured I could check it at home on the laptop.

As I headed into Fort Collins the sky was dark. Dennis texted me that he'd be coming home early, so I knew the Wranglas (Gypsy and Velcro) would be happy. Just as I turned onto my street the rain started. I went in the house and got attacked and yelled at by the Wranglas. They were mad at me! They are used to having mom at home with them all day.

As it turned out, my GPS was way off. On the phone it said 31.7 miles but on the laptop it said 36.8 miles. Not sure what happened but I was happy to have the miles in.

I decided to sleep in on Saturday and not get started until 9, and finish up all the miles. It was the first sunny, blue sky day we've had. It was super windy in the morning- 25 mph wind. Crisann came to my house and we started at 9, went to Rigden Reservoir, and Dennis took the Wranglas there. Then we got back to my house at around 1 and Jen met us, then Jen and I went out for the last 6 miles or so. By the end it was 50 degrees and not too windy anymore. Best day we've had in a long time!

Again the GPS was off. I ended up with 19.4+ miles, which gave me 56 miles and change for the two days, beyond my goal. So today I'm blogging and headed to the Rio for margaritas.

All in all, it was a mellow but perfect birthday run. I had great friends with me, great conversations, and plenty of time to myself, too. I got the miles in and felt really good- legs and feet held up nicely. Palmer Lake is just 5 weeks away, but I won't need to do any more long runs before it- I can just run like a normal person.

I am thankful for my health and ability to do these miles. You just never know what can happen, so I try to enjoy as much running as I can and I'll keep doing it as long as I can. And we all have to do the best with what we can and where we are in life. I'll keep going outer and outer and hope I have the strength to go backer and backer, wherever I find myself.

Friday, March 1, 2019

La Resistance...

used by permission copyright 2018

Here we are, March 1. I cannot believe we have come this far into the new year, and winter seems determined to hang on. This morning was spring-like, and I managed to get out the door with Velcro and Gypsy for a run before 9 am.

The forecast is predicting big change overnight though. March won't be in like a lamb for long, we're expecting snow and below zero temperatures over the weekend.

I've been struggling with a few things lately and last night decided that when I woke up in the morning, since it was March and a new month, that it was time to move forward.

So this morning was the perfect time to pull a card out of the Divine Downloads deck, and this is what I picked- Resistance. Could not have been more perfect.

A little about Divine Downloads- they are a card deck developed and written by my nurse entrepreneur colleague Lisbeth Overton, who lives in Minnesota. Lisbeth and I met each other online through a social media site for nurses, and we have become friends, not just social media "friends" but we talk and communicate often and support each other in our mutual endeavors to make this world a better place.

Note: The Divine Downloads Deck is available through Lisbeth Overton's website. Thanks to Lisbeth for allowing me to use the image.

Lisbeth is intuitive and a true healer, and when she introduced this card deck last year, I jumped on it right away. I use it often when I'm struggling with something, and it has turned out to be the ideal tool to get me unstuck. Just having something to focus on that pulls you out of the hole you're stuck in- by thinking about the problem in a different way, is a powerful force.

What does it have to do with running? For me, right now, everything. I have been in a motivation struggle with myself when it comes to running, for going on 5 years. Every time I think I've moved past it, somehow it comes back to me. Last Saturday I ran the 10 mile Bacon Strip run with some of my running friends, and I've been trying to increase the length of actual running I do on those tough hills. Last weekend I got up to 6 miles of solid running up and down the hills.

It was cold and windy, and I felt okay until I hit 6 miles, and then my butt started to hurt. I slowed down and did mostly walking the last 4 miles, not wanting to aggravate anything. But afterward my left hamstring was screaming at me. My quads and hips had been sore for a few days and I wasn't sure what was going on. I've been sitting a lot because I had to write up a report on my research project that I did over the past year.

Sunday I went to yoga and Monday I went to boxing and walked the girls, and I had improvement of the other sore parts, but the hamstring persisted. So, basically I sat on my ass all week until today. Got a lot of work done, but I was feeling sluggish by last night. Pulling the resistance card got me dressed and out the door with the girls, best thing I've done all week.

Couple of things happened this week- besides my running avoidance- I recently joined the National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO) Advocacy Team. Teri Mills, who leads this organization, contacted me last week to try to get nurses in Colorado to encourage some of our representatives in Congress to co-sponsor the National Nurse Act of 2019 so it has a chance of passing in the 116th Congress. I contacted as many people as I could to write letters and emails to ask our new Representative in our district, Joe Neguse, to co-sponsor it.

And guess what? He did! It really doesn't take that much effort for citizens to send an email, especially a form letter that only needs a small amount of personalization. I wish my fellow nurses understood that in a way that it would encourage them to take action! In nursing, it's the same thing as what's going on nationally. Those who want to keep nurses down are going to resist change. What you have to do is stand up against the bad behavior and call it out. Those who have had power for a long time are going to put up big resistance to change. But that doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for it.

The National Nurse Act of 2019 would raise the profile of nurses on a national level, by establishing the National Nurse for Public Health. Here's more information about it.

The other thing that happened this week was Wednesday, while I worked on a few other things, I watched the House Oversight Committee hearing where Michael Cohen testified. What I took away from that was the sheer heel-digging, head-in-the-sand, blindfolds on, resistance of the Republicans to not only what they were hearing from Michael Cohen- they tried to stop the hearing before it even started- but their unwillingness to open their minds or ears to the experience of other people who don't exist in their little bubble.

The things that struck me were first, Jim Jordan's crybaby tantrum at the beginning to try to delay the hearing- they were willfully unprepared- and my thought was they were afraid of Michael Cohen saying something that might implicate the party itself, because Cohen used to be deputy chairman of the RNC Finance Leadership Team. He resigned from that position in June of last year.

A couple of doofuses (doofi?), from Arizona and Texas, made fools of themselves with their ignorant statements, including the "liar liar pants on fire" bit. Really? You guys are Congressmen? You represent people in your district?

The childish, schoolyard bully attacks by the Republicans on the committee ought to have Americans ashamed and embarrassed for these elected clowns who are there only to cover their own asses and protect their own wealthy, privileged interests. They are in no way living up to their oath of office and do not have the Constitution, our Democracy, or the American people's best interest in mind.

But most striking to me was the drama around Mark Meadows, who brought a black woman who was an employee of Donald Trump to demonstrate that Donald Trump was not a racist, and that he, himself, was not a racist. And the ruckus that ensued, when Rashida Tlaib called him on it, and Meadows launched into a laughable defense as he tried to prove his non-racism by saying that he and Elijah Cummings are friends, and that he has members of his own family who are "people of color", and I thought Rep. Cummings handled it very well. He allowed Rep. Tlaib to explain her point of view and allowed Meadows to speak, without backing down to him.

We need our Congress to not mince words and stop handling outright bullshit with kid gloves. And that's why I love these new representatives in Congress. You gotta dig in and confront it head-on.

Yes, that woman was a prop, and yes, this amounted to a George Costanza stunt by Mark Meadows. I feel like I have to write this out even this feels like it should speak for itself, but having a member of your family or an employee or a friend who is categorically different than you does not automatically make you not harbor prejudice against that category. Anyone who makes it a point to claim not to be racist is being pretty transparent- they are afraid of being called that because they know they have a reason to be afraid.

I was so proud of AOC, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, women who are new to Congress and on that committee, being seen and heard and not pushed around. These good ol' boys, and yes, that is how they are acting- as boys- are used to having their way and being able to get away with protecting their interests, and no one ever called them on it the way they are being called on it- and publically- now. And to that I say, it's long past time and bring it on.

They've been allowed to get away with avoiding a confrontation about race, and especially institutional racism, for so long, that they just don't get it at all when they are forced to look in the mirror. They don't even understand what they are seeing, because they are resisting so hard. Yes, we are going to have a lot of pushback and temper tantrums, aggression and denial by these people in long-held positions of power.

But "America"- the United States, no longer looks like the current Republican party, and they have not accepted that. They are resisting it by kicking and screaming like a two year old. It is long past time we started changing our institutions, our laws and policies, and our government, to level the playing field for all citizens. It's time for a national come to Jesus.

We do need to confront institutional and entrenched racism and bias against historically non-dominant, less wealthy, and underprivileged groups. Yes, including poor white people, aka, Trump's base. We need to deconstruct the way we separate people into groups that enable this bias. This is the only way we are going to be able to move forward as a nation and I do think people will wake up if we have transparency around what's been going on to maintain that inequality- and our new Congress looks like a big step on the right direction.

Expect resistance. It's going to keep getting more intense and the 2020 election needs to be about that. I am so disappointed in the early primary field for the Democratic presidential candidates. Yes we need women in government, in the executive branch too, but more than that we need someone who gets it, who can truly see and understand the damage that has been done to so many Americans and run on a platform to undo it.

It's healthy for our country. It's healthcare in  the truest sense. Public health happens when the public is cared for. We need to stop neglecting our people. It affects everyone. It's long past time we stopped allowing the richest and most privileged to avoid taking responsibility for the well-being of the people of this country. You want to be a citizen, even if you're a gazillionaire, even if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, contribute your fair share. No more welfare for rich people (or corporations).

Call it equality, call it socialism, call it reparations, or whatever you will, but we are a country of human beings with potential to benefit all of us by working together, without the constraints of those who seek only institutional protections for their greed. Our country needs to do this: honor ourselves by understanding the resistance and working through it, with the greater good in mind, for a healthy, permanent change.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Square Peg, meet Round Hole"

This post is about my philosophy of running*, but it is also my own personal philosophy on life, because running is such a major part of my life and who I am. I wrote a blogpost a little over 10 years ago here which described my philosophy of running at that point, in 2008, when I was 44, and just starting multiday running.

You'll have to read the whole post below in order to grasp my philosophy, because I don't really sum it up until the end. The in-between and getting there is sort of like an ultra.

My philosophical outlook hasn’t changed dramatically, but it has expanded as a result of a rich array of running and life experiences I have had since then, and I have moved into a different phase of my running life, career, obsession, or whatever you want to call it.

If you want a glimpse into what makes me run- my brain, my thought process, how I navigate the world, and how I see it, read on. This post has turned out to be a short book, don’t feel you have to read it in one sitting. Disclaimer: I’m sure you’ll be offended at some point. If you are, call the WAAAH-MBULANCE. I’m off duty.

What keeps me going forward?

Running and sport is a microcosm of the world we live in, with all its imperfections and exhilaration, joy and pain, nice people and assholes. It’s as much a part of my life as sleeping, eating, and breathing.

Running gives me a chance to do two opposing things- 1. to clear my mind and lose my concerns and worries, and 2. solve problems, think clearly, create, and examine things from different angles.

Running doesn’t change who I am, but it fits perfectly with my personality and what drives me. It contributes to creativity of expression through writing and in painting, though the painting has fallen off the cliff over the past decade.

First, a brief look back at highlights

As of January 2019, I have been a runner for 35 years, 28 of which I have been an ultrarunner.

I have accomplished a few good performances in my lifetime. I’m not superfast, but I’ve had some performances that I worked very hard for and I am happy about them and proud of my efforts and results. I am probably past the days where I’ll win races or set PRs again, but that is not why I run, so I find new ways to challenge myself and find satisfaction in my running.

My most memorable races include some where I performed well, and others where the conditions or presence of other people made the experience. I’ll list them here and why:

1992 Set Colorado State record for road 100Km at the Colorado Springs 100K. It was a USATF certified course, too, a packed dirt urban trail. I ran 9:37:25, and I don’t know if that’s ever been surpassed- it might still be a record. And it wasn’t a fluke…had consistency as in 1994 I ran within 6 minutes of that time on the same course, 9:43:04.

2007-2008 Across the Years 48 hour run first getting to know my friend Lisa Stranc Bliss. She's someone I love and admire, and I value her wisdom and kindness.

Badwater 2008- a fun experience where I learned to seriously run through foot pain and emerge from the puke free zone and finish the race.

2010 Keys 100- I love the ocean and turquoise water, and this was 100 miles of it. So pretty you don’t even notice you’re on the road, except for when you step on retread chunks during the night and think you stepped on a gator. My friend Mike Melton crewed me and my friend Bob Becker was race director. One of my most fun, memorable runs. And I met my friend Beth McCurdy there for the first time. I love her.

2010 Lean Horse 100- That was the most beautiful night ever, the stars were bright under the long shadows of ponderosa pine, and I ran for a long time with Fuzz McPherson and we had a great conversation, and my friends Doug and Marji Nash did a fantastic job of crewing for me. I can remember listening to music, feeling like dancing under the night sky and it was a truly magical experience.

2011 Lake Okeechobee 118- I actually DNFed at 114 miles because it was taking me so long- I had diarrhea from something I ate, my electrolytes were way off and I couldn’t move without cramping. Plus I had to catch my flight the next morning and we might not have made it back to Ft. Lauderdale in time at the rate I was moving. Plus I would have been gator bait. Bob Becker and Phil Rosenstein crewed me, and Mike Melton was race director. Thanks to Bob, I learned about Preparation H wipes- no runner should race without them- and how to recognize gator eyes on the water in the middle of the night.

Badwater Road Double 2011- the crew made it. My crew was amazing. That was so fun. Every. Single. Step. Again, phenomenal nighttime running and blow-your-mind vistas during the day.

2012 Mickelson Trail 1.5 not a race- it was a 5 day adventure run with my friend Ed Green. We ended being self-supported at the last minute and toughed it out and finding burgers and beer along the way helped immensely.

2013 Spring North Coast 24 hour-the weather was horrendous- snow blowing sideways, the cold wind coming off Lake Erie, freezing one side of your face and then the other, the course being overrun with sand, and then missing 100 miles by one mile but still winning. There’s nothing quite like running 99 miles in 24 hours.

2014 Fall North Coast 24 hour nationals- the weather was horrendous but hiding out from the storm in the portapotties with Andy Lovy in the middle of the night and laughing about it. And having such horrible blisters that I only made 80 miles. I hung out with Beth McCurdy, we shared a hotel room, and we both dropped in the middle of the night because we were trashed.

Cornbelt 24 hour 2014- Running a 24 hour PR of 112.3 miles at age 50. I was very happy about it- I trained hard.

There are many, many more fun experiences I’ve had and with many people in my running circles. But those are the ones that stand out. Pretty much every Across the Years run has been over the top enjoyable and fun, and the people made it that way. I’d have to say that is my favorite of all.

Badwater was also a big part of my life for many years, and the runners and staff had a huge influence on my experiences there, I met many great human beings there, and a few unsavory ones! The years of crewing and pacing and working on the medical team were equally fun and great learning experiences.

I might be missing a few, which will come to me, I’m sure, after I finish this post.

But running is so much bigger than a few experiences or fast performances. Those are not what make you, it is the whole, the total of the experience, which for me is about the outdoors, the environment, the challenge, the people, the learning, the growth, and the healing.

Round Peg, meet Square Hole

My basic philosophy of life is that everyday is an adventure. I was originally born and raised in an environment of mostly Eastern European and Russian Jewish descendants and on the mid-Atlantic east coast of the United States. Which means I naturally tend to point out things in a deprecating way that is intended to be humorous. A lot of people don’t get that type of humor unless they grew up in the northeast U.S. or have spent a lot of time around people who are from there.

So, if you’re not from those parts, don’t think I’m a grumbling negative person, because if I was, I would never have survived as an ultrarunner, or done the things I have done in my life. People from New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia get it. I point shit out in a critical voice, but I’m also seeing the positives and humor in that shit!

People are awesome, but they suck, too. We’re all in this crazy world together and we haven’t done a very good job of supporting each other to navigate this life with less difficulty. We really do make it harder on each other than it needs to be.

Over the years I’ve been called irreverent, immature, insane, idealistic, impossible. Perhaps some of that is all true. Meanwhile I have learned, through the school of hard knocks, not to associate myself with those with bad intentions, those who are mean or self-hating, and people who have ineffectual responses to the world because of their own shortcomings (lack of empathy, lack of self-examination, being in denial, unwillingness to laugh at themselves, or irrational fear of losing something they think they are entitled to) which manifest in stealth or overt attacks on others.

I can fit in some places, but I never fit quite right, and I have no desire to expand into those tightly fitting corners that would restrict my movement. I can never fill all the expectations and I sure as hell don’t want to! There’s always room to move around. I like it that way. I declare myself a round peg in a square hole. I can get out when I need to. It’s better than the other way around-the proverbial square peg getting stuck in a round hole.

In pretty much every aspect of my life, I've never fit squarely in a category, even though I may appear to be, on the surface. Being different, that alone makes you question shit, makes you smarter, and thinking about your survival. And it can be dangerous for the person who is different, physically, mentally, emotionally, and in other ways too- mostly because you appear to be dangerous- a lot of very insecure people get very scared when you start challenging their assumptions.

I refuse to be a drone, or a Stepford person, or a deferential, acquiescent, watered down version of myself just to minimize strife and keep other people happy and undisturbed in their comfortable place, which often serves them poorly as they enable the predators in this world who rely on their deference. It is in the interest of those who want to maintain their power, privilege, status, and wealth to oppress everyone else so they don’t take away even a tiny piece of that power, privilege, status and wealth.

I don’t put up with people who suck the energy and life out of me. I don’t put up with toxic people. I have cut them out of my life. When I encounter them, I no longer pursue interactions or relationships. It’s not worth the suffering. It’s not my responsibility- I am not a charity organization for people with poor social skills. I refuse to coddle or enable.

I derive motivation from the things that piss me off, the things that drive me to persist, be different than the mainstream, and stick to my ways even when occasionally they are so at odds with the way the world works, that they can be painful.

That’s me. Want to know what drives me in running? Fasten your seatbelts and helmets for the long ride, and bring a snack.

What drives me to run?

I love moving forward on my feet. There is something rhythmical, musical, and magical that appeals to my brain and the neurotransmitters that are involved in pleasure. It might be the same phenomenon that results in a dog hanging its head out the window, enjoying the feeling of the air blowing by?

I used to be competitive at times, but not all the time. When I decided to be serious about training, I would put the effort in, but not for every event. I enjoyed running races for fun as much as the ones where I wanted to compete. Part of my inconsistency when I was younger was trying to figure out what was going on with my body, before I knew I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. But even after I got that worked out, I was an occasional competitor. I ran hard when I felt like it.

When I wanted to perform well or had a goal, I viewed the race as a job. I’d go into it with the attitude of, “I have a job to do.” That’s what I would focus on. It usually worked.

Looking back, I realize that I had potential that I never lived up to- when I was running my fastest, I would have been potentially able to compete at a much higher level, but it was not something I worried about at the time- I had other things on my mind, I was in graduate school, starting a career, and it wasn’t an obsession. I think it would have been interesting to see, for example, how many miles I could have run in 24 hours around age 30, when I was at my fastest. But that train has left the station.

Running appeals to me because it helps me get outside, escape, see beautiful places, enjoy solitude, and be either inside or outside of my own head, depending on what I need at the moment. There was a thrill and personal reward in running PRs and even winning races, but it wasn’t what I truly sought from running.

I so didn’t care, that there were many times when I was close to winning a race, but I never bothered to look at the stats or find out how close my competitors were. With a little extra effort I could have improved my standing, sometimes enough to be in first place, but it didn’t cross my mind. I was having too much fun in the moment. At a couple of times, I have driven some of my more competitive friends and crew members crazy from that.

I have often avoided people who like to talk shop- runners who love to obsess about statistics and who are the fastest runners, and who set records, and so on. I just don’t care to fill my mind with that. One of my longtime, best running friends does that all the time and I love her but I just can’t focus on those conversations.

I really don’t care what the fastest runners are doing- what they wear, how they train, what they eat, and over the years, I’ve observed that more often than not, they disappear from the scene as fast as they show up. Intense training leads to quick burnout, injuries, or a fast return to whatever dysfunctional compulsion got them into running in the first place.

The competitive, winner-take-all, first place is everything, traditional (and male, I might say) sporting world view misses out on so much. The depth of experiences and stories of individuals are lost. So much history escapes ever being known. The idolatry disappears everyone else into the mist. That’s why women’s experiences and accomplishments in sport were lost for so many years, and still are shortchanged- because of that worship of the biggest, fastest, richest, winningest, egotisticalest…

As far as my own future in competition, I realize that my days of setting PRs and winning races are largely over. That’s fine. The thing I am struggling with is how to move forward with running ultras when I can no longer put the time and energy into running that I used to. There are too many other things in life that are enjoyable and I’m not willing to make training feel like a full-time job anymore, even for short periods of time.

I don’t have a bucket list of races I want to do. I have done all the ones I wanted to, with one exception- I still want to do a 6 day race, preferably at Across the Years, among friends. I want to do it without destroying my feet, so that I can enjoy the time out there. I know my feet will hurt, but I need to make sure the skin is intact enough for 6 days that I can stay upright on them.

That is the problem I currently need to solve- I need to figure out how to make this work, to get ready for a 6-day without suffering through it, but not spending all my time training. I don’t really need to perform at any level. I can do whatever I want. I can run one mile a day if I want. I just need to fully come to terms with that and find what satisfies me and then I’ll do it. I can tell you right now I ‘m not going to be satisfied with one mile a day. I’m thinking more like 50 or so a day. Not sure if that’s even realistic at this point, but if running 270 miles in 5 days in Death Valley in July was possible, I think 300 miles on the flats might be.

What I’ve learned in the past decade

Over the past 10 years I feel like I have gained a deeper appreciation of my ultra experiences and what they've taught me. When I talk to runners younger than me in races, I hear them struggling with the same thoughts and questions that I have answered for myself over the years. They will find their answers, too. It’s a never-ending cycle of discovery and learning.

Ultrarunning as a sport has changed dramatically since 30 years ago. It’s good that it’s become a more well-known, accepted and recognized sport. More laypeople understand what the term “ultra” means if you use it in casual conversation, we don’t end up having to explain the whole “a marathon is 26 miles and an ultra is anything longer” followed by the shock and awe of the idea landing, quite as often as we used to.

Now there are so many people in the sport, and so many ultras! Still, certain ones remain extremely popular and “lottery” entries have replaced just sending in your application and entry fee. Many of the lotteries are highly secretive and are not true lotteries, allowing a large number of preferred entrants- for various reasons- into the race. Some of the ultra entry fees have gotten expensive, too.

I no longer enjoy the big races. The long-established ultra races seem to have deteriorated into circuses. There is a lot of money, sponsorship, and publicity and other intangibles that go along with these events. These days it feels like you’re at a major urban marathon with a huge race expo and you walk away with a bag full of little plastic trinkets with the race logo emblazoned on them, and all the sponsors.

I see people expecting to be served and given all the comforts, expecting to receive some material return for just existing or being there, the commercialization and materialism of many races and events. Remember Wayne’s World in the 80s, how they mocked corporate sponsors? That look- plastered with logos- has become the norm.

One of the nice things about ultras, even at the big ones, is the social scene around each race, a basic family atmosphere establishes itself and the runners come to rely on each others’ presence to maintain that. Newcomers are welcome, and after a couple of times they work into the fabric of the social network of the race.

When you have conversations with the runners and get to know them, and follow up year after year, it’s so fun. They become part of a family- your Across the Years family, Badwater family, Colorado family, whatever experience it is that you share. Social media has allowed us to stay in touch better when we are not at the events.

I love the personalities- gregarious and friendly, grumpy and curmudgeonly, the stories they share, and the depth of consideration and thought. Some of the best conversations occur on the ultra courses. It’s the shared humanity- you realize that there are other people who think deeply about things. Sometimes you wonder about people in the world- if they are as shallow as they seem. But I’ve hardly ever thought that about ultrarunners.

The physical, mental, planning and anticipatory challenges, the execution of your running plan and experience, and even afterward, make ultrarunning one of those things where you are constantly learning from experience, making mistakes and sometimes repeating them (the lessons will be repeated until they are learned) and mastering certain aspects of running. Old people keep going back to ultras because we forget how much it hurt last time!!! Actually, I think it hurts less in a lot of instances, the older and wiser you get.

Older runners at these races, who continue to challenge themselves, are the most inspirational of all. I don’t care how fast anybody is or what records they set, the most inspirational person at a race is the oldest one.

Some losses, some gains

When I say ultras are a microcosm of the world, the world outdoors is not the same as it was decades ago, when I started backpacking in high school or even in my early years of running trails and ultras. There are a lot more people using the outdoors and a lot more creative recreation opportunities, different types of toys, and a lot of people with a lot of disposable income to buy expensive, sometimes sophisticated, and destructive toys.

It seems that an environmental ethic of some sort has been lost among the newer converts to outdoor recreation- being quiet, having a minimum footprint, leaving the place the way you found it, being self-sufficient, all of those things seem to have slipped away in our rush to technology and comfort.

But we know more about the science of exercise, which is great. It allows us to perform, prepare, and recover better than in the past. A lot of old wisdom still gets passed down from older to newer runners, some of that is priceless.

I find that we’ve lost a reverence for the natural world- we are not protecting it, we are exploiting it more than ever. I am sad about that. It’s hard to go anywhere and not see people and their influence. I have to admit I curse under my breath some days when I’m on a run in my neighborhood on a trail around a lake, and there are other people there. I need some solitude, and I know it’s ridiculous to expect that in midtown, but it bugs me anyway.

The challenge is less, I think, when we do provide so many perks- and people have access to more sophisticated gear, clothing, food and drink, and technology. It all makes it more fun in some ways and enjoyable- I love having my phone that takes great pictures. I love my iPod and the tunes I can listen to. I love having warm clothing that wicks moisture away. I love having running bras that don’t cause me to chafe and bounce. I love that GPS can tell me how many miles, how much vertical, my pace each mile, and more. I don’t always use it, but it’s a nice thing to have when you want it.

I still believe in real food and drink though- some of those supplements, bars, and energy drinks and shit- I don’t understand why people think those are any better for them than real food. Maybe there is some nutritional benefit to some of them, but mostly I think they are a big waste of money. But suckers will buy them because some flash in the pan with a scraggly beard is hawking them.

I really hate those scraggly beards, by the way. They gross me out so bad. I can't wait 'til they are no longer popular. I just think about all the sweat and drool and boogers and leftover food scraps and who knows what else that settles in those birds’ nests.

What’s important now

These days I find myself focusing more on my work, my dogs, my home, my family. Having left the illusory stability of a regular job that was literally killing me, I’ve been trying to find my way back to some sort of balance and a source of income. I work a lot more hours for less money than I did in the hospital but it is much easier on my physical and mental health.

One of the things I’m learning now is that I cannot rely on the healing and recovery abilities of my body the way I used to. That doesn’t mean I can’t run far and long, but it means I have to be smarter about how I train and prepare myself, and what I do afterward.

I have learned that I can get by on my base for quite some time. I don’t have to train nearly as hard or frequently or long as I used to. Now I have a group of women I run with- most of them are not ultrarunners, or maybe have run an ultra or two but that isn’t how they define themselves as runners.

I have learned to give my body and mind a break and to have confidence in my ability to cover the distances instead of having to constantly go out and run far in my training runs. I knew that a long time ago, but now that I’m older, it’s even more important.

I don’t have as many days of running where I feel fresh and able to dig into my reserves. I enjoy it when I feel good, but I don’t get disappointed when I’m not feeling it. The exception was recently when I went on statins for my cholesterol for a year and that screwed up my muscles and nearly destroyed my enjoyment of running. I stopped the statins and it took about 3 months to start feeling decent again.

Don’t take that as medical advice- it isn’t. If you need to be on statins to save your life, take your doctor’s advice. But everything- even medical advice- should be carefully considered and a fully informed, conscious decision made. When in doubt, second, even third opinions from reputable, knowledgeable, licensed, experienced, scientifically-informed sources, should be sought.

Growth through learning and insights from ultrarunners

You can learn something from everyone, I am convinced that there is something to be learned from nearly every person you encounter and nearly every experience. My life would be poorer if I had not met many of the people I have through ultrarunning, good and bad.

I feel I have grown to be more accepting of my own limitations, but also to not stop pushing the envelope to discover what is possible. Not pre-setting any limits on myself, instead, discovering my limits along the way. And of course, there are some limitations that can be overcome through using one’s brain and creative powers to be smarter about it.

Most of my creative endeavors, and anything I’ve accomplished as an adult, has had a component attributable to running. For example, studying for exams in graduate school and nursing school, I could make notes to carry in my pack while running and quiz myself on whatever it was that I needed to learn, then check my answers with the notes. Writing or any creative writing project could be imagined or developed or refined through running. Painting ideas came almost entirely from landscapes I ran through.

Any problem in life that needed to be solved became more doable while running, even if I didn’t focus on it consciously. Something about running loosened the screws- that limit the imagination. It allows the round peg to float freely, unencumbered by the corners of the square hole.

I think above all, ultrarunning has allowed me to be in an ongoing state of healing from the small and large insults and injuries of life. These are things that we all experience along the way and we have to figure out how to move forward and weather them when we feel beaten down, temporarily defeated, or lose hope. Psychological and physical injuries are both painful, but the psychological ones can often be longer lasting and more damaging.

Running allows a place to be real. It allows you to separate yourself from the outside world and deal with yourself. You don’t have to, some people are happily obstinate even though they run a lot of miles. But running allows for that safe space to hear yourself think, feel, experience, and reflect. It offers a safe place for healing from the everyday insults and injuries we experience by being human.

The Eyerolls of Life
I am not an angry girl, but it seems I’ve got everyone fooled, everytime I say something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to my anger and never to their own fear…” Ani deFranco

All runners get asked, “What do you do?” “Don’t you get bored?” “What do you think about while you’re running?”

Here are some things I think about while running, problems I’ve solved for myself, or issues that are in a state of ongoing resolution: a better name for this section might be: Shit I think about while running.

Healthcare and Nursing
I’ve talked a lot about healthcare on this blog, and nursing within a healthcare system that hates nurses, disrespects and undervalues them, and is slowly sucking the life and desire out of them to stay in the profession. When you go into nursing, you aren’t thinking about the dangers to yourself. You’re thinking about helping other people and are willing to sacrifice some of your own comfort in order to do that, for a reasonable amount of compensation. But quickly, you realize that it goes beyond sacrificing comfort. You’re sacrificing reason.

Healthcare is so awful to the people who work in it. It doesn’t allow them to be human. It requires crazy amounts of physically brutal and pathogen-exposed work on insane schedules, divides them into categories by status and overcompensating a few while undercompensating most, it doesn’t allow for natural rest periods or self-care, or worst of all, the ability to maintain or restore mental health when its workers are exposed constantly to the most stressful and vulnerable situations in life- other people’s life or death decisions and consequences or just plain bad luck.

Abuse is rampant at different levels of the industry and across different layers or status levels, as well as peer-to-peer, people are discouraged from caring for their own health when the consequences of not doing that impact the patients they are supposed to be helping. And those who run the industry talk out of both sides of their mouth, saying one thing to the consumer public and another to those who are working for them. In the long run, it amounts to the same thing: those in charge saying fuck you, I don't care, I want you to kill yourself for my benefit. All they want is a bonus. And it is enabled, sustained, and reinforced at every single level.

Among nurses are some of the kindest, most creative, smartest, caring, unselfish, and deeply committed people you’ll ever meet. And truly, more than a few nurses I’ve met are the meanest, nastiest creatures to ever walk the earth who hate themselves and want to make everyone else equally miserable. It comes down to being what they are-people, and nursing tends to attract certain personalities.

People remember how you made them feel, how they felt around you. It’s not my job to heal other people's emotional wounds and social awkwardness, but I don’t have to be a reminder of why they struggle with the world. I don’t have to contribute to their struggle, either. I remember how awful it felt to be around certain people who seemed hell-bent on making your life miserable.

Most of the people I’ve met through running have been extraordinary, truly nice, inspirational people. And then there have been very few assholes, narcissists, mean girls, and people who are just so socially awkward that they simply trip over themselves and get in their own way of being able to fully participate in the joys of this sport. That’s just how life is.

People skills are underrated. Some of the bosses I had in nursing, OMG who thought it was a good idea to put them in charge of anything, I’m not even sure they’d be competent to wipe their own buttholes, and yes, really, I mean that literally and sincerely.

While running is a solitary experience in many ways, if you’re involved in the running community at all, or do group runs, join a club, or enter races or organized events, people are part of it. Sometimes I like people, sometimes I just want to stay completely the hell away from them. Ultrarunning allows for a nice balance.


I don’t even have to get into it here, you know where I stand. I am completely opposed to our current President and everyone associated with him and his criminal enterprise. I just don’t understand how people fell for this con man- what did they think they were getting?

If the birther hoax, pussy grabbing, Russia- if you’re listening, and his history of bankruptcies and affairs and charges of racism against his real estate business were not enough to raise a red flag, perhaps half the population of the country ought to have their eyes and hearing examined at the very least.

Regardless, I am happy about the new Congress and I am thrilled to see some of the new members of Congress like AOC diving in to call out the corruption and good ole rich white boy environment of our government that has existed for so long and has served to siphon all the wealth and resources away from the public, leaving us much worse off as a country. I truly look forward to restoring anti-trust laws, enforcing the RICO Act, and restoring a greater degree of wealth equity.

What this world needs is more B.I.T.C.H. power! Brazen Institutional Terrorists and Corporate Hellraisers. It’s time to disrupt and upend the top-down, winner take-all approach of power going to those with privilege and status and only valuing those with the most, fastest, biggest, whatever.

One of the complaints I hear about from my peers is about older women disappearing: you never hear about older women, once you pass reproductive age, you are no longer considered useful, because women are there for their looks and as sex toys, after a certain age, the only role for them is grandmother. Bullshit. I refuse to buy into that. I will be seen, and I will be heard! What I say to that is, I am not here for your visual gratification, I am not an ornament. And I'm not dead yet.

One of the things about nurses that pisses me off more than anything is their unwillingness to get off their asses and do something about their situation. For example, look no further than the freaking Republican party these days. They are going to silence themselves out of existence by enabling that orange freak. The longer you align yourself with something truly harmful, the more you become one with it. By being silent, nurses are part of the healthcare problem.

You just have to be unwilling to take it anymore. Lose your fear of saying no and stop the bullshit in its tracks, like Nancy Pelosi did with Trump. NO, you are not getting funding for your stupid wall.

I feel so much better about nursing since I got out of those oppressive conditions and got involved in advocacy and speaking out. Now my nursing peers are strong, determined, forceful, outspoken people.

Nurses need to strike, to protest, to sit down in front of the CEO’s office door, better yet, out on the sidewalk outside where they work so the entire public can see what's happening- to organize, advocate, litigate, and raise hell. Just STOP accepting the crappy work conditions. Stop it now. Say, "No, we nurses are not going to settle for heavier workloads, less safety, and more risk!"

No, we aging women will not allow you to make us invisible! No, we will not capitulate to sexism and an attitude of superiority among men! No, I am not going to allow you to catcall me while I’m running by! I am going to do something about it. Watch me. And then I do it.

Releasing what is no longer serving you is important. Healthcare has been driven too long by a paternalistic philosophy of men (doctors) know best, women (nurses) are just handmaidens and enablers. It’s not helping. It’s not useful anymore. It needs to be released. While there have been small improvements in the gender balance, it's not enough.

This bullshit hasn’t served us for a long time, if ever. We have lost the talent and ability and drive and efforts of a major and growing portion of our population by suppressing and oppressing them. And that goes far beyond women: non-white, non-straight, non-Christian...basically, nearly everybody who isn't Mike Pence. (I have a deep-seated hunch that he has a deep-seated secret though.)

Yes, this is what I think about on the run. In between not thinking, looking at scenery, listening to music, singing, dancing, and enjoying.

Moving forward- literally

I have a six day race in the back of my mind for the end of 2020 because it will take me that long to prepare my feet again. Why 6 days? Why not 10 or 30 or 1000 days?

First, beyond 6 days, I don’t have the desire or drive- I just don't want to run any longer right now. Also, I don't have the financial resources (which includes time, because I have to work) to do that. I might have all those things in the future, but I might not ever. And I don’t feel the need to do more. Right now, I enjoy the day after day just waking up and running when I feel like it. I don't have to have lofty, overachieving goals. Ha.

But a 6 day event like ATY that is organized and compact and challenging and comforting enough, that sounds like fun. Plus I know so many people there, and they are people I would choose to be around for days and nights on end.

My goal is simply to be able to spend 6 days moving forward on my feet, for about 50 miles a day, without having any major foot or other physical or biomechanical issues that keep me off my feet for a substantial amount of that time.

I am letting go of that competitive drive and allowing myself to just do, be, enjoy. I have nothing to prove. I’m not doing this to be a badass, simply to reach a state of fulfillment or satisfaction.

Even sitting down to write anymore is not what I often want to do. I spent a year of my life writing a book. Since then, it's been hard for me to write for pleasure, though I feel I'm starting to get my enjoyment back. That’s why I’ve struggled with the blog for a couple of years.

How I want to die

I am glad I am 55, not 25, and don’t have a super long, long time left to be on this planet. I figure if all goes well, barring some freak accident or aggressive illness, I might have another 25-30 years left. I really don’t want to be here much beyond 80 from what I see around me. I won't be afraid to take matters into my own hands if the laws don't change around euthanasia either.

I really don’t want to be here once my body and/or mind are no longer able to maintain my independence. And I sure as hell don’t want to be taken care of by nurses within a healthcare system that is so ugly to the people who work in it.

I don’t want anyone wiping my ass or feeding me. Just toss me outside so I can die of hypothermia under some ponderosa pine trees with needles whooshing in the wind. Or let me shrivel up like a prune from exposure in the heat of Devil’s Cornfield with F-16 fighter jets divebombing over me.

And leave me there. I like turkey vultures, they're my second favorite bird. Crows are my favorite, by the way.

To philosophy until it evolves further

I wonder sometimes if I had been born in a different time if I would be different. Probably not too much, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve managed to do a lot of things in my life on persistence. I don’t watch TV and I don’t have kids.  I don't put on makeup or do my hair, or worry about what to wear 99.99999 percent of the time. That’s all pretty freeing in itself.  I like to feel that if I die tomorrow it’s okay, I am satisfied with what I did while I was here.

But as long as I stick around, I’ll keep disrupting, keep innovating, keep defying, keep raising hell. It’s the only way I know how to be.

For much of my early life, I felt that I was a square peg and all the holes are round. But it’s really just an illusion that the peg is square and the holes are round... dim lighting made it look like there were corners. When you’re round, you have the ability to flex, there are no mandatory corners. There’s room for everything. If the world could just learn that lesson, we would not be as terminally fucked up as we are. We humans really are our own worst enemies. We need to become better friends with each other, especially ourselves.

We need to stop self-limiting our natural intelligence (the cognitive and creative gifts we were all born with- which are unlimited in their potential, vary from person to person, and cannot be measured with any test or tool) and underestimating whatever physical abilities we have, and where they could take us.

In other words, stop worrying so damn much about what other people think.

You can move mountains, or they can move you
- Sherpa John Lacroix

*(remember the tiny asterisk in the first sentence way way back at the beginning?) The actual physical act of running- I should qualify this entire post- sometimes I am not doing what an observer might call running. I might be walking with varying amounts of effort. Usually I walk pretty hard, but not quite as hard as a powerwalk. Moving forward on my feet, whether it’s pure running, broken up with bouts of walking, or just going out for a walk, is running, as far as I’m concerned.