Friday, November 22, 2013

Nothing But Blood, Sweat, and Tears #adversity #advice

In my daily life, I function in a social work capacity for the state. More specifically, my job entails working with nursing homes, assisted living facilities, ICF/IID (intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities), and various federal, state, and local resource programs to help transition adults with physical and mental disabilities out of nursing homes and back into the community when appropriate.

Every day for the next fifteen to twenty years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65. The healthcare field knew this was coming, but unfortunately, we didn't necessarily plan for it as well as we should have. This lack of foresight has created a situation in which resource programs simply can't sustain as they are now. There aren't enough nursing homes in the nation to care for these individuals and the funding needed to pay for their care simply doesn't exist.

So, I get called in to assess individuals to determine if they are capable of returning to the community and/or if they even want to return to the community. From there, my job entails locating the resources they need to assist in this transition. I deal with everything from home health to housing to transportation and so on and so forth. It's intensive, time consuming, and equal parts rewarding and frustrating.

I love my job. I meet so many interesting people. I get to play an active role in improving the quality of life for these individuals.

State and federal insurance programs can services 3 people in the community for every 1 person in a nursing home. This means that for every one person not in a nursing home, we can help get services to 3 in the community. From a government perspective, that's a huge deal, especially when 10,000 new people every day are reaching retirement age! On a more individual level, that's an even bigger deal. Very few people actually want to go into the nursing home. If they had a way to stay at home without feeling like a burden on the family, most would choose that option.

That's where I come in. I help locate and acquire everything an individual might need to make that option a viable possibility whether it's home health, special equipment, affordable housing, or something else altogether.

Many of the individuals I see are young. Some are five and ten years younger than I am. At twenty-nine, I cannot even imagine living in a nursing home for years at a time! Others are only a handful of years older than me, and have been in the nursing home, sometimes for ten, fifteen years. Can you imagine being forty years old, and having lived most of your adult life in a facility with people four, five, and six times your age?

I certainly can't!

That makes my job incredibly rewarding. But the rules and regulations quickly change as the government rushes to implement guidelines that better serve the needs of individuals… many of whom the healthcare field didn't necessarily realize they'd be dealing with in such great numbers even five or ten years ago.

As a writer, I'm a problem solver. No matter how complex a particular novel may be, I know I can fix it. There's a method to the madness. I go in with a plan. I know that when X happens, I'm going to do Y to resolve the situation. I know that Point A will lead to Point B which will lead to Point C and so on and so forth until my characters come out the other side victorious. They may be battered and bruised, but by God, they'll make it out the other side because I'm a writer, and that's what I do. I make it happen.

So it's always a little frustrating to me when I can't do that in my other job simply because the programs needed don't exist yet, or are overtaxed because not enough of those programs exist. There's this constant battle between wanting to help, and being unable to do so.

It drives me nuts. How can I help someone when what they need isn't available? How can I do my job effectively when what they want me to do simply isn't necessarily possible?

I've been particularly stressed about this the last few weeks as the new healthcare laws are implemented and a greater number people are reaching out for assistance that just hasn't kept up with the demand. Stressed to the point where I had to sit down and really assess if this is what I want to do with my life moving forward.

Not because I don't love my job, but because I don't deal gracefully with obstacles. I don't want to pick my way across the battlefield on tip-toes, praying I don't step on a landmine. I want to plow through it in a tank, music cranked up, and war paint on. I want rules that I give me wriggle room to work without being so vaguely defined that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Or rules that are so constantly in flux, what I'm doing today will change completely tomorrow and I have to go back and start all over again.

I want to solve problems the way I've been taught to do it: by making things happen, rules be damned. But social work of this nature doesn't necessarily work that way. It's more rigid than that. It's more subtle than that. It's more than that.

Which has made me realize that the struggle I've been dealing with isn't necessarily out there, but rather in here. The problem isn't my job: it's how I view my job. It's me and how I relate, the type of person I am. I've been conditioned to do things a certain way, and I've been so focused on the fact that the way I've been taught doesn't work here, that I've missed the fact that I've been given an opportunity to learn a new way.

So maybe the real source of my stress isn't my job, but rather the fact that I've been fighting the wrong battles, looking at things through the wrong set of glasses. My vision has been too narrow. Instead of embracing the challenge, I've been hung up on why I don't like the challenge.

And what good does that do?

Sure the ever changing rules irritate the ever living shit out of me. But, people don't grow in a stagnant situation anymore than the characters I write grow when they aren't challenged. We have internal and external conflicts the same as our characters. We have to change the way we see things, the same as they do. Sometimes, the road to enlightenment is bumpy and frustrating as hell. Sometimes, we question if we're on the right path.

Sometimes, those questions prove that we are. We're right where we need to be, learning the lessons we need to learn today to meet the challenges we'll face tomorrow.

Oddly enough, despite not being able to see that bigger picture in my daily life, that is more or less the same thing I told my former editor when it came to FALL. She wasn't sold on the direction I'd taken the story. But for these characters, for Ari and Dace, they were right where they needed to be, learning the lessons today that would get them where they need to be later on in the journey. This is the part of their story that had to be told now, so I can tell the part of their story I want to tell later.

We can't skip ahead because skipping ahead would be easier. We can't back down just because we don't like the challenge or situation in front of us. Sometimes, we have to take a deep breath, and deal with what's right in front of us so we can get to that next step. We have to suck it up and redo the work, over and over again if need be, because that's what's going to get us where we want to be.

It may be years before the healthcare field is in a place where my job becomes easier. It may never happen. But right now, today, I have the ability to help us get closer to that point by meeting the challenges as they're thrown at me, by improving the quality of life for Americans one individual at a time. Maybe the services they need aren't there today. Maybe the rules we're bound by don't work today. But leaving the field mid-battle won't get us any closer than it would get Ari and Dace closer to winning their particular war. Sticking it out, fighting through the frustration, and demonstrating the need for change to those who can make those changes is what will get us there.

And that's what I should be focused on. Demonstrating the necessity for more help, for a defined set of rules, for broad reform and change. Maybe, just maybe, apply new rules today, tomorrow, and the next day will give those in charge the data they need to realize that what they want just isn't possible unless they revamp the system from the ground up. Maybe the endless frustrations will be the catalyst that builds a system that is viable and can adequately meet the needs of the rapidly increasing population its meant to serve, the same way that making my characters deal with a specific situation now gives them the tools they need to deal with a different situation later.

And that's what it's all about isn't it? Growth. It isn't going to be fun or simple or any of those things I want it to be, because we don't grow that way. We don't breeze through life, never being challenged, and miraculously become a stronger, braver, better, more capable person. We fight to get there, every step of the way. It's the same for anyone doing a thing worth doing. Because success, triumph and victory are built on blood, sweat, and tears for us just as much for the characters we write.

I'm not even going to lie and say this particular epiphany means the stress is going to melt away. In all likelihood, come Monday morning when I log on to another email from my boss with another rule change… I'll curse and grumble under my breath. I don't know. But I do know I'm more prepared to open that email today than I was a week ago. And that, I think, is a victory in and of itself.



FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

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