Sometimes, things turn on a dime. You end the week sad and poor because you don’t have health insurance, upset because you have just emptied out your bank account and over the course of the weekend you end up with fancy, stunningly affordable health insurance practically out of nowhere, which turns your entire life around. Funny how that can happen.
On Friday, I picked up the mail when I walked through the front door of my building and shuffled through it while I trudged up the stairs, because distracting myself from two flights of stairs is always a good idea. I almost tossed the giant flat envelope into the To Be Shredded pile, because it said “Urgent!” and “Open Immediately!” and I do not like to be told what to do. But I tore it open anyway as I kicked off my shoes, and it took me a minute to figure out what was going on, to realize that it wasn’t a lie or a trick or a scam or some kind of promise that would not be kept or would leave me poorer in the end; no, the company I contract through, for my full-time job, they just offered me honest-to-god health benefits.
Eye, teeth, whole-body and lifestyle kind of insurance, a little bit spendy but less expensive than a visit to the emergency room that is filled with a lot of shots of morphine. Insurance! It is a sign that I am getting old, or responsible, or something I do now know the name of, but which I neither appreciate nor enjoy: the idea of health insurance fills me with so much happiness and such a lot of glee. Being insured–it is a thing of safety and security and confidence. Let’s go skeet shooting, and then dive off a bridge into a frigid river and roller skate our way off a waterfall into shark-infested waters out of which we will water-ski with one leg tied behind our backs! I’m insured, dude, it’s cool. They can fix anything nowadays!
I have a packet, here, with many forms and things to read carefully and nod seriously at. I need to stroke my chin thoughtfully and stare into the middle distance as I consider my options carefully, then I must tick small boxes, in ink, to make final and very important decisions. Once the boxes have been carefully checked and the form is signed neatly and in cursive with my full legal name, I will fold it up neatly, stick it in the return envelope, slap on a stamp and then, with a feeling of weightlessness and cheery, happy-go-lucky giddiness, I will drop it in the mailbox and probably skip away.
Then, it will wing its way to Health Insurance Headquarters, and shortly thereafter, I can have as many weight-loss surgery complications as I like. My entire digestive system can back up and then explode out of my navel in a shower of serious unpleasantness, my entire intestinal track can turn inside-out, my stomach can burst and run out my ears, and it will be fine because I can have as much morphine as I like and still be able to afford groceries. I think that is an important balance to strike, the drugs versus nutrition thing.
When I was in the process of moving out of my full-time office job to move to Utah to freelance instead, I spent a lot of time researching my health care options. I spent a lot of time joining associations and unions and applying for health insurances from small companies and larger companies and companies no one has ever heard of and Bob’s Health Insurance and Tackle, and I got turned down, over and over, in small white unmarked envelopes. Sorry, pre-existing condition. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Okay then, I thought. I remember holding one of those envelopes, one of the last few in a series of so many, and thinking, Okay then. I don’t need insurance. Obviously. And somehow, that became I don’t need insurance.
I felt fine, and healthy. Robust, strong, skinny. Small equals perfect well-being. The idea that anything could ever be wrong with me was absurd. And that held up for a long time–for almost a year, in fact, January through the beginning of December, and then suddenly it turns out that I am as vulnerable as anyone is, that feeling like nothing bad could happen is not proof against anything bad ever actually happening.