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Don’t Ask

The Daily Post prompted bloggers today with this question:  What question do you hate to be asked? Why?

I debated whether of not to attempt to answer this prompt in a blog entry, not because I couldn’t come up with an answer, but rather because the answer was all too evident.  I’m not one that likes to share feelings–I blog for the world to see, but it is an amusing pastime that does not require me to share anything of the real me.

howami

I hate it when anyone asks me, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”

Because inevitably, I must lie.

No one really wants to hear the real answer, or any explanation thereof.  It’s just part of the rapport between human beings attempting to be friendly.  Some of the people who ask me this might actually care.  But I seriously doubt they want to know the answer.

As a physician, I have to ask patient’s how they are doing, at least in the context of their eyes and vision.  But I don’t really need to know most of the rest of their problems or pains despite the fact that many are overly willing to share that unnecessary information with me.

So I throw out the ever popular, “Fine” and try to move on quickly.  Sometimes, I might just try to ignore the question, as if I hadn’t heard it, but I fear this often comes across as being rude.

Sometimes, I attempt to be a little more truthful.  I might answer, “I’m still alive.”  And if I’m in a particularly playful mood, I might add, “but the bastards are nipping at my heels.”

Or another popular response of mine is, “I’m hanging in there.”  And then I add, “the trick is not to get hung.”

I have no logical reason not to be fine.  Or good.  Or even great.  I make a lot of money.  I have my health.  I remove cataracts and give people the gift of sight, a talent not everyone has.  I have three children who are all healthy.  I have faith in God, and that someday, somehow, He will help me find what I am looking for.  Or comfort me that what I want was never meant to be.

Yet, I cannot bring myself to admit that “I’m good.”

I don’t feel good.  And I am ashamed to feel that way.  My problems all seem so first world.

Traffic irritates me.  If I carried a weapon in my car, I would probably average killing 6 people per day, at least the days I’m feeling “fine.”  Be the last time you pull out in front of me and go slow, though.

While I truly enjoy operating on patients and giving them back their sight, I no longer enjoy all the other bullshit that I am forced by my government to put up with on a daily basis.  I cannot simply treat my patients; I have to treat their computerized record as well.  I have to justify my existence through a process called “meaningful use,” whereby the federal government uses the data entered into the medical record to generate numerators and denominators, and in order to get paid, I must generate certain numerical ratios.  Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but it makes the practice of medicine miserable and adds not one iota of benefit to actual patient care.

The government has intruded on nearly every aspect of how I care for a person, even down to the point of dictating how, when and where I “mark” the correct eye to be operated on for a patient having eye surgery.  We do “time outs” in the OR which are superfluous and unnecessary.  Insurance companies often dictate what medications I can prescribe–oh, I am free to prescribe anything, but they will only pay for certain things.  I have encountered very few patients who are financially well off enough to override their insurance and pay out of pocket instead of accepting what is covered.

They indirectly control how I keep up to date with continuing medical education.  Everything is regulated and has to be documented.  And while I understand the need to do these things, the amount of paperwork involved rises exponentially with each recertification period.  The governing board of ophthalmology keeps changing the requirements on me as well.  Now I have to travel to another city to sit for an exam.  The exam costs thousands of dollars, and that does not include the travel expenses or the income I lose from not being in my office.  I didn’t have to do that the last time I recertified, but I must now do as they say.

So I work in a job I no longer care much for, other than the warm fuzzy feeling of giving sight, in order to pay bills and taxes I don’t want to pay.  I don’t like how the government spends my money, and no one I elect can change that.  Of course, the last person I voted for that I really wanted to elect was Ronald Reagan.  The rest of my choices since then have come down to the lesser of two evils, and I vote not for who I want, but against who I don’t want.

I should be happy.  Despite the traffic and meaningful use, I make a lot of money.  But I drive the second oldest vehicle out of five (next to my son’s truck which was actually my dad’s before he passed away and I didn’t have to pay for other than the current insurance.)  I have no air conditioning in the summer.  This is a choice–the estimate to fix the unit was $1600 which is nearly three times what I get paid to remove a cataract and give someone the gift of sight.  Seems over-priced and despite global warming, the summer’s aren’t that hot anymore.  Again, I suffer not from hunger, malnutrition or cancer or ebola, or anything truly awful–only first world problems.  Maybe I suffer from being cheap.  But I generally like my jeep and it gets me from here to there.  My phone is a dumb phone–I have to press numbers to text and I cannot access the Internet.  Yet my household cell phone bill is $260 per month.  Don’t cry for me, Argentina.  I’m just ranting now for no reason.  I can still make phone calls without a problem.

I hate when my electric toothbrush battery dies in the middle of brushing my teeth.

I think perhaps I don’t know what would make me happy, and therein is the real problem.

Running make me happy.  But what am I running from?

I like it when my sports teams win, but I am depressed and angry when they lose.

I like it when people like my posts or follow my blog.  I feel liked.  And wanted.  Strange. I don’t know why.

If someone offered me half a million dollars a year to blog, I think I could be happy.

I think winning the lottery would make me happy.  Probably not.

I like making people laugh; but I fear I am becoming Robin Williams.  With all the insurance I pay, I am still worth more dead than alive, but not if I commit suicide.

I am not suicidal.  Perhaps depressed, but more frustrated and angry.  (Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.  This all leads to the Dark Side if you believe Yoda.)  I don’t want any medications or counselling. Counselling has failed me already in other aspects of my life.  An exorcism might help.  I want the government to leave me alone and let me do my job the way I was trained.  I just want people to stop asking me how I am!

I can be in a roomful of one hundred people, and feel as isolated as if I were on a deserted island.  At least the weather would probably be better on said island.  I hate the winter, the cold and the snow.  It has been snowing here all day today.  I hate to shovel it.  I hate to drive in it.

I am not fine.

So please do not ask how I am.

I really don’t want to answer.  I really don’t know the answer.

But I know I’ve got snow to shovel.

All About That Pace

The Daily Prompt asks, what is you ideal Saturday morning?

Saturday has always been a special day.  In childhood, it was the day of NO SCHOOL and NO CHURCH.  It was about sleeping in, although that is much more important to me today than it was back then.  It was about watching cartoons on TV, because, quite frankly, in 1970, we did not have cartoon network, Nickelodeon and Disney channel.  (We had NBC, CBS and ABC and we were damned glad to have them on a fourteen inch screen and despite the fact we had to get up and walk across the room to change the TV to one of the other channels!)  There was a timelessness to Saturday mornings that was more sacred than Sunday morning in a pew.

The cartoons we watched were simpler.  Bugs Bunny.  Tom and Jerry.  The Road Runner.  There was a clear plot line.  Elmer Fudd went after Bugs Bunny.  Bugs always thwarted him.  Ditto Tom after Jerry, Sylvester after Tweety, and Wile E. Coyote after the roadrunner.  Beep.  beep.

You'd want to kill your hairdresser too!

You’d want to kill your hairdresser too!

Today’s cartoons are different.  Now don’t get me wrong–I like Spongebob.  I have watched Fairly Oddparents, but it is not my favorite. Jimmy Neutron is okay.  Ed, Edd and Eddie?  I scratch my head.  Where’s the plot?  Who is good?  Who is evil?  Who is Fog horn leghorn and who is the chicken hawk here?  It is not so easy to determine.  Even Mr. Krabbs has his good moments.  Today’s cartoons are more like Seinfeld, a show about nothing.  Cartoons about NOTHING.  The only goal of these characters appears to be to generate laughs, usually in the form of annoying others.  There are some newer cartoons out there (what exactly is robot chicken?) but I cannot comment on those.  Since my youngest kid is now 17, I don’t watch cartoons as much as I used to.

But my ideal Saturday morning is still all about the pace.  (It’s all about that pace, bout that pace, no trouble.)

I get up when I get up.  Not when someone else or some alarm clock tells me to.  I drink coffee.  Always have to have the coffee.  I usually run.  I run most days, but Saturday is that ONE day when I can choose when to run, where to run, how far to run and the time it takes has nothing to do with it.  I don’t have to be to work at a certain time.  I don’t have to be back to get ready for church, or wait until after church if I didn’t get up in time.  (A few times a year I might have to be ready to head out for a noon Penn State football game, but I love PSU football so that time commitment is not onerous.)

Even our calendars–which traditionally start the week with Sunday being the first day of the week)–confirm this:  Saturday is the last day of the week.  The seventh day of the week.  The day of rest.

Add coffee and a run, maybe a little blogging, and Saturday is still perfect.

Au Naturel Obsession

I don’t normal take those on-line quizzes . . . You know the ones I’m talking about.

What Disney character are you most like?

What Rock and Roll Band are you most like?

Which Harry Potter character are you?

Which superhero are you?

What Olympian God/Goddess are you most like?

What animal are you?

What color are you?

Seriously?  What color am I?  Do I not have a mirror?

But if you have ever ventured into the vast wasteland of Facebook, these quizzes are rampant.  But for some reason, one of them caught my eye recently.  Maybe it was because of this eye image that accompanied the advertisement:

EyeQuiz

What is your subconscious obsessed with?

I thought I already knew the answer to this one.  SEX.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I think about it nearly all the time.  I don’t know why.  I’ve always assumed that this was normal.  And the people who are not obsessed with it–they are what we call liars.  So I was ready to test this scientific assessment to see if it came up with the correct answer.

So I clicked on a series of pictures they displayed before me–and I tried to be as honest as possible since none of them really reminded me of sex anyway–even those inkblots don’t look like anything to me except evidence that your pen is leaking and you need a new pen–and the end result was that my subconscious is apparently obsessed with . . .

NATURE.

 

Nature

Whoa.

The only time I really commune with nature is when I run–and I do love to run outside, braving the worst of elements to avoid the dreadmill or elliptical.  We do have two dogs, but getting the dogs was not my idea.  In fact, I went on record saying I didn’t want even one dog, let alone two.  I put my foot down–right into a pile of puppy poop.  It’s not that I don’t like my dogs–I do.  But I am not obsessed with them.  I hate cats.  I loathe cats.  Truth be told, I am deathly allergic to cats and have almost ended up in the hospital unable to breathe thanks to these itchy, scratchy, wheezy little varmints.  The only good cat is a dead one, and sometimes I have to back over them nine times to make sure I get all their lives.

I do like cows.  Hamburgers and steaks are my favorite.  And pigs.  I love me some bacon.  So maybe I am an animal person after all.

Camping?  Please.  If there isn’t indoor plumbing, heat and a/c, and a bed to sleep on, I’ll pass.  If there’s cable TV, I’m there.  No Wifi?  No thank you.

Hiking?  Is that running up hill at a slow pace?  OK, maybe.

Makes me think about nature while doing grocery shopping, cooking . . . okay let’s just stop right there.  I don’t grocery shop and I do not cook.  I have trouble making grilled cheese sandwiches.

Where did I go wrong?  How could I be obsessing about nature, when I’m so busy obsessing about sex?

Then it hit me.  My obsession with sex was conscious.  Subconsciously, I might be obsessing about nature.  Maybe having sex outdoors, getting au naturel, or something like that.

What color am I?  Maybe I should take that test too. . . .could be any one of fifty shades of grey.

The Blue Balloon

Last Wednesday, one of the guys I bowl with was talking about a 1956 short film called The Red Balloon.  Why?  Because this is what we do when we bowl.  We discuss politics, weather, work, baseball, hockey, Penn State football, films and anything else to pass the time between frames.  He happened to stumble upon this film while watching TCM.  The film won an Oscar back in the day, but featured no dialogue.  It was a French film (Le Ballon Rouge) but somebody must have forgotten the subtitles.  Basically, there was a red balloon that followed this kid around.  And there was another balloon–a blue balloon that followed the red balloon around, as these balloons seemed to have minds of their own, although they could not talk.

Well, I’m sure you are fascinated by this.

But the next day, as I was leaving my office, there was a BLUE BALLOON stuck in a winter dead tree.

blueballoon2

Coincidence?  I think not.

But what does it mean?  We’ll have to discuss that between frames next week.

Running to the Music

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if there was a background score of music playing, like in the movies?

This blog is alive, with the sound of music

This blog is alive, with the sound of music

Just as something bad is about to happen–you would know it!  The music would get low and foreboding.  People would just break out into song, instead of honking their horns or trying to hit you with a shopping cart.

(To the music of Memory from Cats)

Left lane,

Is for cars that are passing,

And for making a left turn,

Not for ambling along.

I remember

A time driver’s knew what etiquette was

Leave the left lane, flow again.

But alas, our lives are not scored musically.  Except when I run.

I almost always run with music; the exceptions being when I am running with someone else and it would be just rude to shut them out and ignore them, and when my iPod battery dies.  Don’t you just hate that!

This past week, the temperatures here in central Pennsylvania (which stands for Penn’s frozen woods) have been in the single digits in the morning when I usually run, with wind chills often below zero.

And there I am, running across snow and ice as Glenn Frey’s The Heat is On plays in my ear.  The director of this score has a sense of humor.

Today, though, Queen Elsa sang Let It Go . . . . and I ran on because the cold never really bothered me anyway.

frozencold

Yes, I have an eclectic mix of music for running.  A lot of the music is from the 80’s, but includes TV Themes songs such as The Odd Couple, Friends, Lost in Space, and Gilligan’s Island (you never know when a run might end up being a three hour tour!), show tunes (such as Phantom of the Opera descending into the labyrinth), and more recent music such as my lady Katy Perry.

Also on my run this morning, Star Wars by Meco came on, and all of a sudden, I was no longer running in Pennsylvania, but on the Ice Planet of Hoth, on the muscular legs of a tauntaun.  (Hey!  the only muscles I have are in my legs, my mouth and the fingers that type.  The rest of me is more like C3PO or a poorly drawn stick figure.)

I like music with a beat–it keeps you going when you are are putting one foot in front of the other.  But the beat and the bass (it’s NOT all about that bass and I do not have that song in the playlist!) should not be overpowering (think heavy metal and head banging music.)  The beat should complement the melody; not try to kill it in a bloody battle.

Some of the tunes remind me of my childhood, such as the TV themes.  They may not make me run faster, but somehow they make me feel younger.  And yes, I have We are Young by Fun.  Sometimes, I pick songs just because I like them, not necessarily because they have a strong beat or make me feel younger.  Some of the songs on my iPod were sung by girls I had crushes on back in the day–Debbie Gibson, Susanna Hoffs, Debbie Harry, and Belinda Carlisle.  Yeah, who am I kidding–I still have those crushes and that’s why Katy Perry is on the playlist now.

My favorite songs to run to:  Major Tom , Believe, I Will Survive, Lawyers in Love, Bad Romance, The Theme from Gremlins, the original Hawaii 5-0 theme, and Wizards in Winter (by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.)

I know there are some other runners out there.  What’s on your playlist?????

Parodictorian

They say you learn something new everyday.

Today I learned that Weird Al Yankovic was the valedictorian of his senior high school graduating class.  It was like finding out that the pyramids were actually a mistake!

I hope our insurance covers this!

I hope our insurance covers this!

But this begs the question, then . . .

Did he take someone else’s valedictorian speech and change the words???

WeirdAl

Like a virgin, valedicting for the very first time!

 

Ice Runners

I should host my own cable show . . . Ice Road Runners (Ice Road Truckers)  . . . or maybe Man vs. Nature (Man vs. Food or Man vs. Wild.)

The need to run in the cold weather is the summation of three primary vector forces coming together as one.  First, I love to run.  Second, I hate the dreadmill or running indoors.  And third, I live in central Pennsylvania, not far from the home of Punxsutawney Phil.

I foresee more winter . . .and snow FOREVER!

I foresee more winter . . .and snow FOREVER!

One might also argue that a little bit of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or run-of-the-mill insanity plays a role here, but I’m not sure why people think those things about me.

Running in the winter presents a number of new challenges that our running brethren in Florida, Arizona and Texas do not need to worry about.

Perhaps first and foremost is the issue of traction.  Running shoes meeting ice do not generally end in good results.  There is no way to throw it into four wheel drive when you are only ever running on two wheels.  And while the snow may look soft and fluffy, the ground beneath it is HARD.  I have tried several traction devices over the years, one from North Face that you slip on–but they kept coming off!) and I tried screwing sheet metal screws into the bottom of an old pair of running shoes . . .

screwshoes

The problem with the latter, is that under most running conditions, I am not always on snow or ice.  The removable cleats are better for running where you might go from road, to trail, to sidewalk and back to road at irregular intervals, with varying levels of ice, snow or no precipitation.  Also, I always felt like I could feel the ends of the screws coming up at my feet–it might have been in my head, but I just didn’t like it.

My favorite to date is Kahtoola NANOspikes, which are removable, but seem to stay on my shoes better than the other product.  I recommend these for the runner who must traverse icy conditions.  I think I could jog laps on a skating rink with these on!

Four-wheel drive for your feet!

Four-wheel drive for your feet!

But in addition to traction, there is another issue of equal or greater importance . . . the temperature.  It’s cold in winter.  When I got up this morning, it was -2 degrees F.  The wind was howling with chills estimated at -15 to -22 deg F .  It was actually about 5 degrees at noon when I headed out, but the wind chill was still subzero.

The key to dressing in winter is LAYERS.  I start with a Nike DriFit tank, followed by a Nike DriFit long sleeve.  These are wicking shirts that allow moisture to wick away from your skin.  The only thing worse than being cold is being cold AND WET.  And even at zero degrees, if you are running, you will SWEAT.  In fact, you will generate enough heat that you should dress as if the ambient temperature is about 20 degrees warmer than it really is.  You should feel cold when you start, because you will warm-up as your muscles generate heat.

I next add an UnderArmour cold gear shirt which is heavier than the first two layers, but also wicking.  And on top, I use either a Nike jacket or the pullover (a Pittsburgh Penguin pullover made by Antigua) you see in the following series . . .

Layers!  Not just for cake anymore!

Layers! Not just for cake anymore!

Fortunately for you, there was no room for the final image in this running game of strip poker which I seemed to keep losing.  At 5 degrees with subzero wind chills, I also wore three pair of gloves, a UA balaclava and a warm running hat also made by UA.  There are different styles of balaclavas and this type can be pulled up over one’s mouth, but I am a mouth breather when I run, and I find it gets too wet and icy if I cover my mouth.  Some people opt for a ski mask with eye holes, but it makes me feel like I am a bank robber running away from the scene of a crime if I wear something like that!

Layering also gives one the option of removing layers if the temperature rises or you simply overestimated how cold it would be.  I actually felt warm at times (sun was out, and when the wind wasn’t blowing in my face!)   My left eyelid froze to my cornea, but I microwaved some artificial tears when I got home and melted that baby off in no time!  Please do not try this at home–I am a trained eye professional!  (Ok, my cornea wasn’t really frozen–I made all that up, and please do not put hot drops in your eyes and never microwave your eyedrops!)

I do not wear any special socks, and in fact, I prefer thin wicking socks.  I wore my regular socks and my feet were not cold, but that is me.  If you suffer with cold feet, there are thermal socks you can invest in.

There is a certain satisfaction in overcoming the elements, like a mountain climber beating Everest or a rock climber successfully ascending (insert a challenging rock climbing mountain here.)  I would much rather be running in Phoenix at 120 dry degrees, but that was not an option this morning.

And my nose will thaw out by spring.  Which should come sometime in the next six months.  I hope.

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