Instructions Never Included This Emotional Life - PBS

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Resilience / Blog

   Craig Boyd Garner

Craig Boyd Garner's Bio

Craig is an attorney and health care consultant, specializing in issues surrounding modern American health care.

Instructions Never Included


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“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”  -- André Gide, French author.

I have decided at last to forgo my search for instructions. Though it was nearly a decade ago that I first hoped to uncover an operational manual at work during my first tenuous days in an unfamiliar hospital environment, such guidance always escaped my discovery. Seven months ago a new job of sorts presented itself to my wife and me, and not surprisingly, this owner’s manual also turned up missing. The resultant experiences brought about by new fatherhood have only served to reinforce my decision to trust my instincts from this point forward, as while there is an abundance of literature that purports to bridge such gaps in both professional and personal knowledge, I have yet to encounter any crisis brimming with patience, be it related to emergency department protocol or an unexpected and unexplainable late night tantrum.

In my professional role as health care attorney and consultant, I have come to grips with the fact that the federal government may not publish an “executive summary” covering all 2,700 pages of last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, more commonly referred to as health care reform) anytime soon.  Likewise, I do not expect to find an easy way to process the thousands of pages of topical regulatory addendums designed to supplement and clarify this landmark legislation for health care. Even so, as time allows President Obama’s fledgling program to mature, these once treacherous waters are becoming less disconcerting and have started to resemble instead a neighborhood pool that stays warm all year round. Passing months have a way of making any initially frightening scenario seem manageable.  The trick lies in allowing those first few months to pass with grace.

Let’s face it, we all enjoy a good challenge from time to time. A decade ago, when I was first introduced to the unexpected in the workplace, I never considered retreat as a viable option. Instead, I pushed forward with makeshift guidelines assembled largely by certain individuals with whom I later came to establish formidable bonds and lifelong connections. Last February, I had no inkling of my state of naivety when we took our first steps from the hospital as a family of three. A few short months later, I make it a point not to dwell upon how much I still need to learn, and instead I find joy in the many opportunities I have for improvement.

When it comes to my professional career and our nation’s health care system, I do not take lightly the absence of precedent concerning PPACA and its far-reaching implications for our country. In this particular context, I am mindful of the need to navigate with precision through a constantly shifting terrain. At the same time, I try to focus my attention on the specifics of this epic and fundamental reorganization of health care taking place in the United States today, rather than losing myself in the political ramifications or partisan rhetoric with which reform of any kind tends to be joined at the hip. And yet, it is with a sense of wonder that I beam with pride while watching an infant not much younger than the aforementioned legislation spend twenty minutes trying to master Newton’s first law of physics and break his wobbly-legged inertia, ready to celebrate as a team even if the end result is just a few inches of motion in a randomly selected direction.

A simple truth for me is that in life there are often no instructions to be found, and perhaps this notion alone provides sufficient understanding to address nearly any task at hand. To be sure, we would be remiss not to search for an accurate and appropriate map to guide us in matters relating to either hearth or health, for few find comfort in the assumption that such guidance is not forthcoming. Instead, we should spend more time being mindful of how uncertain times can affect the people around us, which in turn sheds light on the ways in which we can contribute toward a solution.

With this in mind, my personal and professional worlds collide yet again as I offer concurrent instruction in the mystic arts of crawling as well as how best to navigate through the newly constructed labyrinth known as health care reform. In each instance, the stakes are both powerful and personal, and I watch closely as the frustration builds for all involved. While I may not know how either story will unfold, I am more confident in my son’s success, especially since I have a strong suspicion he will not be satisfied until he accomplishes a certain degree of mobility that is presently all too imaginable but not yet feasible. I hope that our nation’s approach to health care reform shares some commonality with the perseverance I see in my newborn, especially since we will all be forced to accept some risk and exercise a certain degree of faith before we learn how the story of PPACA is to end.  For my part, I am grateful to be ensconced in the middle of both, and I can only hope that my expectations for the future of health care will be as gratifying as the role I now play in assisting my son as he takes his first steps on his way to self-sufficiency.