Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Radio twiddling, mental health, the Haitian woman, & Bruce Longstreet

Cabbie radio dial twiddler on way back from clinic. Right wing crap when I got in the taxi.  He twiddled,  Let's Hang On by the Four Seasons came on, I started grooving to that,  Halfway through he twiddled to the news station.

My shrink is not a therapist. He has a young MSW assistant who likes to get conversations going in the waiting room.  If there's other clients present,  I don't tell her much.   How are you, Robert?   My best friend died last week.  That chat was not happening today. Three others there, I wasn't bringing them into it.  It's no group.   But I try to bring any emotionally fraught situations to the shrink, if they're happening about the time of our bimonthly appts.  I also want to convince him I'm handling it.  I have about five minutes to do this.  My best friend died. He was in California. I wasn't his only best friend.  I haven't been sleeping well the past few nights, it's starting to catch up. I'm not really grieving yet,  I will, I can handle it.

We went through the death of my first girlfriend in February, but that was a whole other thing. I hadn't seen her in decades.  I had to reach back & make a claim on the two years I had with her, & what it meant to me & maybe to her.  It was on the whole a nice project for a poet.  I enjoyed revisiting young love.  Let it glow.  It doesn't require  realism, only a carefulness regarding nostalgia.  This is different. I feel a vacuum.

The shrink poked around a bit.  Known me a long time, He seemed to think I was o.k. I wasn't ducking it.

Oh yeah, here's something I noticed & noted in part because it was the kind of thing Bruce Longstreet noticed.  An older Haitian woman, immigrant, was in the waiting room. She was talking about her new job as a home health aid.  She worked 34 hours per week, averaging  two hours each for her clients.  She makes $9 an hour. She needs a car for the job.  The 34 hours are spread across more than 40 hours. She doesn't  receive health insurance from the job. She's receiving  Medicare & SSD.  SSD permits a certain amount of additional income in occupations not impacted by one's disability, &  encourages these jobs to eventually  become a path out of SSD. However, if she were on Medicaid or a Medicaid HMO, the additional income would disqualify her from Supplementary Security Income & she would lose Medicaid. Sometimes SSI pays only a couple of dollars but is crucial  for the Medicaid. This woman liked her new work.  Also, the additional income affects her Section 8 housing & Food Stamps, if she is receiving those.  All additional income must be reported for those services. She'll pay higher rent & receive a smaller allotment of food stamps.   In reality, it might be very difficult for her to use her new income to raise herself up.  She says she will need a more reliable car "in a year." It's very positive in the  mental game to think that far ahead.

Bruce & I were very tight for about six years. I came to think of him as my best friend.  I thought of him as my best friend until he died. Yet, I was aware Bruce was likely a best friend to a number of people.  Jim C, certainly, since high school. I trust Jim every bit as much as I trusted Bruce. I didn't hang out with Jim as much. That they were best friends  endorsed the both of them to me.  There were others. three or four people, college friends of his who had scattered to other places. Bruce & I were dissimilar people with similar backgrounds. White, middle class, not affluent.  He also may have had two brothers & a sister. Bruce had a much better relationship with his father.  Jim & I struggled with our strong, admirable  dads. Jim's  father, fortunately,  lived a lot longer than mine.  My parents divorced when I was a teenager. Bruce's & Jim's parents stayed married.  Jim & I were accustomed to being in relationships with women.  Bruce was stuck on unrequited love all the time I knew him in Jersey. He did better in other states.

All three of us had what philosopher Alan Watts called, "The irreducible element of rascality."

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