These things are related

  1. I found a new dentist last week, so had to go in 10 minutes before my appointment to fill out paperwork. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the dentist, so I don’t remember if I’ve ever read through the agreements I’ve signed before, but I did this time. The first signature page asked to verify that I had received a 4 page document of Dental Facts and the second signature page stated that I had been give my HIPAA rights and I hadn’t been given either. I had to take a minute to push through my tendency toward the self-doubt that instantly tells me that I must, in some way, be mistaken. This type of self-doubt is logical for anyone who has experience with the process of: checking for something, not seeing it, telling someone in charge that you’ve been shorted, getting the “Oh sweetheart, it’s right here” response, finally seeing it–it was right there, wondering how you could have missed it, feeling the withering embarrassment of thinking you were alerting someone else of their error, when what you were really doing was unnecessarily calling attention to your own. Maybe they were considering my personal info the “dental facts”? I was considering every possible error I could be making. Since numbers don’t lie I counted the pages and when there were three, the self-doubt stopped and I prepared my carefully-modulated voice to sound neither apologetic nor condescending and approached the desk, “Hi, I didn’t get the documents that I’m supposed to sign for.” She got very flustered, as though she’d never been asked for them before. She was like Oh my goodness! Hmm, where are they? Did I not give them to you? Okay, I will find them. Am I having a Monday on a Thursday or WHAT? Ha ha! Oh gosh, I should just have them laminated. Let me just get those for you right now, hold on. Then she looked around at the walls and the ground, the way you do when you’re not really looking for where something is because you know you never had it in the first place. She rolled over to her computer and clicked around a lot, then things started printing. She first gave me the four-page document about ingredients in fillings and as I read through it, skeptical, she handed me what was supposed to be my HIPAA rights but was really a single piece of still-warm paper with a url at the top and bottom, an off centered rectangle of bullet points for health care providers, and a list of links underneath it. It was a blurb from a website for health service organizations with information about what they needed to do to make sure their clients were informed about their rights in order to be legally defensible. I wondered if I had bothered her enough, maybe I should just let it go, but I pushed through that self-doubt and in the balanced tone I’ve taught myself I said, “This isn’t for me. These are facts for health care providers to be clear on what they should hand out.” She was double flustered Oh ha ha ha! Wow, you’re good for me! Okay let me see. Oh yeah, okay. Hmm. Okay, you need your rights. Then the dentist called me in and she sorted it out.
  2. I received a call at work from our district office asking me to pass along a message about a change in an employee’s schedule that was unethical and against contract. I knew it right away and I said so and the response I got from the woman, a powerful employee hired to organize other employee’s schedules said, “I know it’s wrong, but what am I going to do? I just do what HR tells me to do.” This struck me. I passed along the message with the caveat that if she pushed back, she’d have the contract on her side. A year ago I wouldn’t have known to say that because it took me 10 years in the same profession to read my contract for the very first time.

It’s too common to read the news and throw up my hands because of how small and helpless I feel, but I’m not any smaller or more helpless than anyone else is. These seemingly small interactions in my career or business matters can be used to teach myself to pause and decide if what is happening is okay, and to ask questions. If something doesn’t feel right, I’m going to say something right away. Learning how to say “Hey, I’m going to look into whether or not this is right” is training myself to speak up about more important things later. Thing is, people will get away with whatever they can, and not always because they are bad people with bad intentions, but because people are inundated with responsibilities, so they cut corners.

I don’t have control over very much, but if I can’t muster up the strength to tell the dentist I’m missing the correct paperwork, would I even be able to handle a real challenge if it were presented to me? If I can’t say, during a fishy business transaction, “I’m going to look into whether or not this is right” am I even allowed to be mad at all the faceless people allowing all the huge injustices of the world to keep happening? Everything matters. It’s all important and small things grow into big things. I’m gaining the foresight to know that it’s all a really big deal.