“Of Human Bondage” and its trove of… parenting wisdom?

One reads the classics because

Actually, I won’t presume to know why anyone else reads a classic novel.*

Having long since passed the stage of life wherein, to quote the Indigo Girls song “Closer to Fine:”

…I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

Very much in spite of much of the bureaucratic process we call schooling, but with deep regard for the great investment of time and energy—of inestimable value!—into the bettering of my mind by more than my fair share of gifted teachers, I remain a student, if not a scholar, and a committed autodidact.

For this reason—and because I suffer from an oscillation between stultifying malaise and desperate, yearning agitation when I don’t have a good book at hand, preferably with a few more queued upI read and re-read the classics.

book novel Of Human Bondage coverLast month, I embarked upon the reading of W. Somerset Maugham‘s hefty tome, Of Human Bondage.

The wholly inadequate summary of the novel in the library catalogue says:

“The story of a deformed youth whose handicap causes loneliness.”

I would laugh if such a shallow skimming over of the depth of this story didn’t leave me wanting to sob. It’s almost a caricature of the isolation and lack of understanding that torments Phillip, Of Human Bondage‘s orphaned protagonist, during his youth.

With little interest in literary criticism, let me come directly to what moved me so deeply as I worked my way—slowly, because it deserved thorough attention—through this weighty novel:

Phillip needed a caregiver.

He really could have used a mother. He flailed because being orphaned left him to learn for himself what most of us are taught by even mediocre parents.

He was born with a less than stellar internal compass for interpreting the giving and receiving of any kind of love. He wasn’t what we might call today a “people person.” He was one of those kids who most need explicit help to interpret the social world, and take a full role within it.

Reading Of Human Bondage made the importance of the part I can play in my sons’ lives more unequivocal to me than ever before. I should be mature enough not to doubt it; I remain insecure enough that I do.

I’m grateful that I didn’t read Maugham’s masterpiece as a student.

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Health care system makes me sick: negotiating bureaucracy through a haze of pain

In April, I wrote a post about my doctor’s departure from the American health insurance system.

In short, he now operates his practice as “direct primary medical care.” You sign up for his service, pay a set monthly cost, and come in, call, email, or text when you have a health issue. It’s so simple, and yet the experience feels revolutionary.

Urgent need? He’ll respond to your text right away.

Wondering if a symptoms requires an office visit (and time off work, fighting traffic across town, etc.)? You can spend as much time as you need explaining your concerns on the phone. There’s no push to make every question an office visit, unlike with providers who are only reimbursed by insurance for in person consultations that correspond to specific codes.

There’s also no bureaucracy, and no paperwork. Unless you have labs, there’s no need to take out your wallet. Remember, you’ve paid up front for whatever care you need. You pay cash for lab work done in the office, but, without insurance markups, these costs are reasonable—perhaps a few dollars.

I almost forget how wasteful, time consuming, and inefficient it is to get care elsewhere. I forget, that is, until I’m not feeling well, and I visit a specialist’s office or a local hospital. That’s what I did the other day, and it all came rushing back to me. Continue reading