Monday, January 11, 2010

The Challenge of 2010: Don't Freak Out

I am an expert at panicking. Give me a headline that reads "Schwarzenegger to call for deep spending cuts", and I feel my heart rate jump. Then I hyperventilate when I read the article: The governor will call for $8 billion in aid from Washington. If the funds don't come through, he will propose the wholesale elimination of CalWorks, the state's main welfare program, as well as a program that provides in-home care to the elderly and disabled.

Last year, the California budget crisis was so bad it seemed like every single program to protect people with disabilities was being decimated. There were demonstrations and lawsuits to fight for the services that keep the elderly and disabled safely in their own homes, and with adequate medical care. School budgets were cut so badly thousands of teachers were laid off across the State. All of the supports my child needs to grow and thrive were threatened. By the end of the fiscal year I lost dental care, but she still had hearing aids, so I didn't mind. As long as she's cared for, who needs teeth?

Here we are again. It's a new year and the shouts of "fiscal crisis" are echoing through the State capitol, making every person with a disability and every person who loves them start preparing for battle. The weakest are already being thrown to the wolves. And from what I've been reading, it appears that the budget cuts are going to be even worse than last year's.

But I will not freak out. Last year I spent five months panicking, waiting for the ax to fall and the State to take my child's medical care away. What good did it do? The cuts came, we survived, and all I got for my efforts was an ulcer. Does freaking out really help anything?

I'm not saying we should bury our heads under our covers and just hope for the best. Far from it. Write letters, protest, shout and scream, but do not panic. Keep your head on straight, plan for the worst, and fight for the best.


We already know how terrible I am at keeping my head on straight. Just look how I reacted thinking about school. I was on the edge of a mental breakdown before the news started reporting on the California budget crisis. Now it's all I can do not to burst into tears and run around the house yelling "fire!"

That's what I did last year. This year, I won't give in. I am determined to control my fear. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but it seems the age-old mantra of one day at a time is a good place to start. I've been practicing mindfulness for several years now, so I understand it conceptually, and have even had some (brief) success at staying in the moment, especially around my daughter's disability. Focusing on today helps me focus on my child, rather than on her problems. Now it's time to take it to the next level.

The budget crisis frightens me because it feels like my child is under attack. She is a "burden on California," a burden the State can't afford anymore. So they want to cut her, and the thousands of people like her, in the hope that maybe she'll just go away and stop draining money from the rest of us. It infuriates me how easily the "weak" are tossed aside to fend for themselves while the "strong" circle their wagons to protect their own needs.

I'm sure the situation isn't that simplistic, but as the parent of a child with disabilities who depends on all those services they want to do away with, that's exactly how it feels.

I will not freak out this year. I will stay clear headed and informed. I will not give in to fear which only weakens me. I will navigate this year of hard work and uncertainty with clear purpose and calm. I am that strong.

At the very least, I will get through each day without screaming at the radio every time they interview that mutha-f... I mean our governer.

Or maybe doing that will make me feel better?


Katy said...

This is really interesting to me because I've seen families in California that seem to get TONS of services--stuff like Physical Therapy every day. Why is it that people have knee-jerk reactions and just CUT EVERYTHING! rather than work towards balanced efforts to makes cuts across the board?

Elizabeth said...

I'm with you. I really wish they could just remove benefits for the disabled and the elderly from the budget completely. Have you ever watched the NPR special about health care for the disabled in Switzerland? It's amazing -- except there, of course, they don't call it socialism. They call it civilized. Given that my husband is Swiss, we might just have to up and move one day...